Soap bubbles, caressing, a loving look and Karl Fazer Milk Chocolate. These are examples of what goes into Theraplay interactive therapy building trust between a child and an adult.

Moving to a foster family is a tremendous upheaval in a child’s life: suddenly, they have to adapt to a new environment and customs and trust new, totally strange adults. It is not to wonder that a child’s behaviour in such a situation can be frightful, withdrawn or hyperactive.

In SOS Children’s Villages, Theraplay interactive therapy is applied to help adaptation and create safe child-caregiver interaction.

Trust built through play, physical contact and praise

A child, caregiver and Theraplay therapist participate in Theraplay therapy. Hillevi Westman, Theraplay therapist at SOS Children’s Villages, says the purpose of Theraplay therapy is to provide only positive experiences for the child: undivided attention and love, a feeling of success and wonderful sensual perceptions. “When a child is immersed in safety and care, they can let go of feelings of shame and mistrust”, says Westman.

The Theraplay therapist plans each meeting based on play, according to the needs of each child. “If a child finds it difficult to express negative feelings, we can encourage them to shout angrily. If they find it hard to control their impulses, we can blow soap bubbles and not break them until an adult says so”, Westman gives a few examples.

Bowl of chocolates important part of therapy

Wonderful taste sensations are an essential part of the therapy. This is where enter Karl Fazer Milk Chocolate. Fazer has been supporting SOS Children’s Villages since the 1960’s and today, one of the forms of cooperation is donating chocolate for Theraplay.

“We always have a bowl of chocolates in the therapy room. Often, at the end of a session, the child will be nurtured almost like a baby. While the child is being caressed, seeing an appreciating look and hearing a tender voice, they also get a delicious piece of chocolate in their mouth. It is like mother’s milk: sweet, soft and melts in the mouth”, Westman describes.

At times, there will be a sweet eating competition that the child, of course, will win. This may help a withdrawn child to break out of their shell.

Theraplay creates peace, self-confidence and joy

SOS Children’s Villages organise Theraplay in one-week intensive periods or as a series of one-off therapy sessions, depending on the needs of each families. All the customers of SOS Childen’s Villages in Finland can take part in Theraplay.

“After a one-week therapy session, a child can look quite different from before. They will have acquired self-confidence, peace and joy”, says Westman.