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Filial Coaching

Filial coaching is a play-based intervention for parents and carers who are having difficulties in their relationship with the children they look after. As part of this process, the therapist will observe and guide the client in using play to establish a more positive connection with the child.

Though this course is provided primarily as a short-term solution, its long-term benefit is to empower the parent with techniques that will, in effect, enable them to conduct their own non-directive therapy-informed play sessions with the child to resolve conflicts and help teach them key emotional regulation skills.

This process utilises an attachment-focused approach and a series of directive sessions that are supportive and guiding, rather than challenging in format. By bringing the focus of the relationship back to the parent and affording them primary agency in the care relationship, they become the agent for change in this scenario, equipped with a set of skills that can be applied in the home setting and throughout the child’s further life.

As part of a typical course of filial coaching, the programme would be conducted over a series of approximately 12-20 sessions in the following procedure;

First, there will be an assessment of parent on their own. This involves the initial 2 sessions in which the filial coach will gain an understanding of background context and identify the existing issues present in the relationship.

The third session takes the form of a 20-minute play observation with the parent and child to gain a further sense of the dynamic between them.

This is followed by another 2 or 3 sessions with the parent to provide feedback from the observation and impart the first of four key skills. The filial coach will then introduce a plan for the parent to practice using this skill with the child in 5 10-minute play sessions outside of the counselling environment.

Following this, there is a second observation session, in which the filial coach will assess how well the skill has been internalised and applied to the play relationship. At this point. a new skill is imparted. This process repeats until all 4 skills have been learned and practised.

It is possible that the initial assessment may reveal the need to conduct a preparatory 10 sessions of play therapy with the child before filial coaching can begin. This is to ensure that they are appropriately grounded and ready to engage with the process.

Tanya Lyons Child and Adolescent Therapist

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