How is a child referred for this service?

The service can be accessed by a referral from our Supervising Social Workers, following on from any discussions about the potential need of this level of support.

How is Theraplay® Based support delivered?

We offer 3 possibilities to our Theraplay® service. These are Advice, Distance Support, and Direct Sessions.


We are pleased to be able to offer advice at any time to Foster Carers from our Team.

Distance Support

Alternatively, when required, we can assess and offer a programme of specific activities and support for each placement. We offer this as standard for all new placements.

Direct Sessions

If a child would be better supported by direct sessions, a 26-week intervention programme, following on from an assessment, can take place.

What do the sessions look like?

In a weekly 30-minute session the Theraplay® worker encourages nurturing, structured contact with the child which the foster carer subsequently learns to take over. This provides the mutual opportunity to trust and value each other and for the child to start integrating closed off areas of their social understanding.

Working within the four Theraplay® dimensions of Structure, Engagement, Nurture and Challenge activities are geared to the child's attachment and sensory needs in a manner that it is reparative and healing. The primary goal for the child is to create a sense that adults are safe and dependable, which in turn allows them to better regulate and deal with situations.

Theraplay® based practice guides the child to become more receptive to verbal and non-verbal communication and, more importantly, affords them the possibility of acquiring the skills to control their emotions and learning more efficiently.

The play-based therapy sessions are intended to be an intensive, relatively short-term trauma informed approach, carried out on a weekly basis. Each activity is surrounded in playfulness and fun, some are geared towards eye contact, some are regulating, others are soothing. These activities initially appear quite straightforward and simple, however their impact over time can be very powerful.

What happens in Theraplay sessions is often a source of anxiety for foster carers. Let’s face it for some the name ‘Theraplay’ conjures up notions of analysis and scrutiny, treatment and disorder, and whilst there is a serious aim to the sessions i.e. to assist our young people in their ability to make, understand and be soothed by relationships. The execution of this is something far less intimidating and definitely enjoyable.

In our Theraplay based sessions we use play-based activities to build the young person’s capacity to socially engage. Why? Because play is a less intimidating event and invites us more readily into a relationship; it requires us to connect and feel safe with the other person. This is often a difficult and challenging process for the children we care for; their references of relationships are often impoverished. They have already experienced separation and loss, possibly fear, and hurt so engaging can be daunting, especially if you don’t have the blueprint of what a safe bond looks like.

In our sessions we focus on the young person’s receptiveness to eye contact, rhythm and touch and create games that uses all their senses. We modulate the intensity of activity through different games, noticing how they are coping and accepting when they can’t. We gently structure throughout but mindful that the word ‘no’ is often a trigger and allow them to start referencing their feelings being careful not induce feelings of shame.

For the workers sessions are both enjoyable and exhausting; constantly adapting to the arousal state of the child, keeping them interested and regulated, and carers involved. From this we share with carers our learning of the child, their capacity to cope, their difficulties in social engagement, their triggers. For our foster carers the sessions often allow them to experience the young person uninhibited, more receptive to their efforts and the opportunity to learn from what we are uncovering. Less analysis and scrutiny more fun, healing and illuminating.

What are the potential outcomes?

The goal is creating a better connected relationship. The sessions and practises provide an opportunity to better a child’s social understanding and for their carer to best support them with this.

A trained Theraplay® worker facilitates all sessions and will give practical advice after each session to best help continue the use of these practices in order to reach their goal.

image of young person's hand in adult's hand