Filial Therapy

The purpose of the article, Filial Therapy Into the 21st Century by Louise Guerney, of 2000, was to give an overview on the development and success of the Filial Therapy method of psychotherapy treatment. Therapeutic plays between the mother and the child could correct some child behavioral problems (Guerney, 1976). The genesis of Filial Therapy has not been without challenges. Despite this, it has proved to be an effective method all the same. The communication gap between the child and the mother is closed through play.

The author has taken the reader through the developments of the method and the challenges it has faced all along. For instance when Bernard Guerney, introduced it in the clinical world through his publication in a journal, few professionals could embrace it (Brandy, 2002). Therapeutic play sessions were provided by mothers and fathers for their children who had some relational problems. This approach was based on five arguments that supported why parents and more so the mothers are fundamental in the behavioral development of their children.

To support this the author points out that most of the problems with children are a result of poor parenting which needed to be corrected, parents could communicate more effectively and positively with their children through play than in real life situations (Johnson, 1995). When parents are trained properly, given emotional support and supervised they can stop in their children relationship problems and allow children to perform personal issues, parents felt and worked as co-workers together with the child therapists and that the parent-child relationship is significant and hence the effects are great (Guerney, 1976).

The parent assumed the therapist role through play and the child therapist now performed the role of a trainer, supervisor and supporter. This enabled the therapist to attend to more clients. Filial Therapy was advanced to include the family as through “Conjoint Therapy” method, the parents and children could now receive therapy together. With the support of two psychologists and a community psychiatrist and funding from the NIMH, research was conducted on 71 mothers and their children, and the results were greatly impressive.

Out of those who were sampled, 75% continued with the treatment, 18 children showed great improvement while 51 demonstrated some gain. The treatment took one year. It is evident that those children who go through FT are better and the mother’s acceptance and attitude towards their children changed positively. Several researchers have also conducted their research on different number of children and in different regions and their findings recorded. In 1960s, FT received little acceptance.

This was due to the fact that initially, psychotherapy was viewed as an individual’s business between the client and the therapist with much confidentiality and not a family issue (Guerney et al, 1966). It was also believed that a child’s problems were pathology of the parent hence the parent could not be used to solve these problems. However given knowledge and emotional support, parents could contribute positively to the development of their children (Guerney, 1976). The years of late 1960s and 1970s were used in fine-tuning FT so as to make it more appealing to the clients.

For instance the interaction time was reduced to between five to six months (Rennie et al, 2000). Clients could also be seen in groups and other people were incorporated to offer the service, for instance the teachers. Other players also adopted FT method and practiced it in their regions though with slight modifications. In the 1970s, the use of play therapy and further developments of FT were affected negatively by the behavioral approaches to psychotherapy. Interestingly though, some leaders in behavioral therapy boosted FT when they integrated the parents in their therapy programs for children.

Great components of behavioral approaches are included in FT, as parents learn the skills; they practice them, transfer and generalize, just like reinforcement procedures are done in behavioral therapy (Rennie et al, 2000). In mid-1980s, play therapy received more interest and support with the formation of the Association for Play Therapy and publishing of more books on play therapy. There were also more training opportunities. The failure by behavioral therapies to deliver also favored FT (Brandy, 2009). A number of developments in the 1990s have led to increased usage of FT method.

These includes, mental health workers and social workers prefer working with families than with individuals, family members have the potential to help not only in mental health and social work area but also in ancillary health services, the development of a new model that runs only for ten weeks and applied to different people in different areas have proved very successful with astonishing results on parents and their children, the entry into the profession of the second and third generation practitioners who were former students and their contributions through publishing and workshops, some are even practicing part-time.

Recently trained professionals are identifying and using the strengths to build on them in their approach and acting as coaches to parents who interact directly with the children. The skills approach in correcting behavioral problems has also become acceptable today in solving problem behaviors (Guerney et al, 1999). It is now clear that FT sessions can effectively be short, used in groups or with one person, in private practice, can be used with children with special needs among other variations across the board to achieve successful results (Rennie, & Landreth, 2000).

Parents are to be viewed as potential helpers to their children but not as persons who could be harmful. The varied applications of FT in group size, location settings and sessions period with great results is a clear proof that FT is an effective method of correcting behavioral problems in both adults and children. FT was there, ahead of the times (Craig, et al, 2002). The author has tried to support his argument by also illustrating how several other researchers and psychotherapists have joined in conducting research.

However, the materials and toys of play should be well selected (Johnson, 1995). The article is of great value as it is portrayed in it suggestions, findings and applications. Filial Therapy is the method in correcting behavioral problems in emotionally disturbed children and other needy groups is the method of the day (Landreth, 2002). The parent is one person who constantly interacts with the child right from birth. As the one person who is close to the child and an authority the parent can greatly impact on the child more so when they have a free play.

The presence of the mother in the therapy room acts as a security to the child and hence the child trusts the therapist. The incorporation of teachers in the practice could also bring great results. When the teachers are free with the children, learning becomes enjoyable and the reception is high. Brandy 2002, in his article Filial Therapy gives a detailed analysis of the method on its development, challenges and effectiveness. Thus when properly understood and applied, FT could bring life changing results in a short time.

Reference List Brandy Schumann, (2002). Filial therapy. Available at:http://www. athealth. com/consumer/disorders/filialtherapy. html Glazer, H. R. , Kottman, K. (1994). Filial therapy: Rebuilding the Relationship between Parents and Children of Divorce. Journal of Humanistic Education and Development (33), (1), 4-12. Guerney, B. G. Jr. , Guerney, L. , & Andronico, M. (1999). Filial therapy. In C. Schaefer, (Ed), The therapeutic use of child’s play (pp. 553-566). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Guerney, B . G. Jr (1976). Filial Therapy Used as a Treatment Method for Disturbed Children. Evaluation, 3, 34-35. Guerney, B. G. Jr. (1969). Filial therapy: Description and rationale. In B. G. Jr. Guerney, (Ed), Psycho-therapeutic agents: New roles for nonprofessionals, parents and teachers (pp. 450-460). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Guerney, B. G. Jr. , Guerney, L. , ; Andronico, M. (1966, March). Filial therapy. Yale Scientific Magazine, 40, 6-14, 20. Craig ; Francis Group, (2002).

Family Therapy Beyond Postmodernism, Practice Challenges Theory. Routledge, New York Johnson, L. (1995). Filial therapy: A bridge between individual child therapy and family therapy. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 6(3), 55-70. Rennie, R. ; Landreth, G. (2000). Effects of filial therapy on parent and child behaviors. International Journal of Play Therapy, 9(2), 19-37. Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed. ). New York: Brunner Routledge.

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