When a child moves into a foster family, they experience a huge change: They suddenly have to adapt to a brand-new environment and practices, and trust new and strange adults. It is no surprise that a child is frightened, withdrawn or hyperactive in a new situation. Theraplay interaction therapy was previously used in Children’s Villages to aid adaptation that builds safe interaction between the child and the adult caring for them.
Trust is built through play, touch and praise
A child, an adult taking care of the child and a Theraplay therapist take part in the Theraplay therapy. Hillevi Westman, Theraplay Therapist at the SOS Children’s Village, says that the task of adults in Theraplay appointments is to provide the child only with good experiences: undivided attention and love, experiences of success and wonderful sensory experiences.
“When a child is surrounded by safety and care, they can let go of feelings of shame and distrust,” Westman says.
The Theraplay Therapist plans appointments around play according to the needs of each child.
“If the child finds it difficult to express negative emotions, you can encourage them to shout with anger. If they have a hard time controlling their impulses, we can blow bubbles and burst them only when an adult gives them permission,” Westman says, offering some examples.
A bowl of chocolate plays an important role in the therapy
An essential part of therapy are indulgent culinary experiences. That’s where Fazer milk chocolate came in. Fazer has supported the SOS Children’s Village since the 1960s, and for several years, one form of collaboration was donating chocolate for Theraplay.
“We always had a bowl of chocolate in the therapy room. Often at the end of the session, the child was allowed to regress to a level where they would almost be taken care of like a baby. As the child was stroked and they were given an appreciative look and heard a gentle voice, they would get a tasty chocolate treat. It was sweet as mother’s milk: sugary and soft, and it melted in the mouth,” explains Westman. Occasionally we would organise a sweet-eating contest – which the child won, of course. This can help a reserved child break out of their shell.