Communication and Connection: Filial erapy With Families of Children With ASD
Filial therapy (FT) was the brainchild of Drs. Bernard and Louise Guerney in the late 1950s, and they developed it and the subsequent Relationship Enhancement approach to family therapy throughout their careers. FT is a theoretically integrative psychoeducational model of therapy in which parents serve as the primary change agents for their children. In essence, it is a form of family therapy that uses play therapy methods to enhance parent-child relationships and to resolve a wide range of child and family problems. During FT, therapists teach and supervise parents as they conduct nondirective play sessions with their own children. Parents learn a set of skills that include structuring, empathic attunement, child-centered imaginary play, and limit setting, through which they o®er their children a safe and accepting environment with opportunities for the expression of feelings, communication, and resolution of social, emotional, and behavioral problems. With the therapist’s guidance, parents also learn to attend to the meanings that play has for their children. e deeper understanding that ensues o©en shi©s parents’ negative attitudes and beliefs about their children, helps parents cooperate more e®ectively with each other, reduces parental stress and frustration, and motivates parents to change some of their own behaviors to create better family relationships.