Child-Parent-Relationship (CPR) Training/Filial Therapy: What is it, what are the goals, and how can it help?

Written by: Jacquie Andrews, LPC-Intern

Child-Parent-Relationship (CPR) Training/Filial Therapy: What is it, what are the goals, and how can it help?

What is it? A brief overview

     CPR training is a special 10- session parent-training program to help strengthen the relationship between a parent and a child by using 30- minute playtimes once a week. Play is important to children because it is the most natural way children communicate. Toys are like words for children and play is their language. Adults talk about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Children use toys to explore their experiences and express what they think and how they feel. Therefore, parents are taught to have special structured 30-minute playtimes with their child using a kit of carefully selected toys in their own home. Parents learn how to respond empathetically to their child’s feelings, build their child’s self esteem, help their child learn self control and self responsibility, and set therapeutic limits during these special playtimes.

For 30 minutes each week, the child is the center of the parents’ universe. In this special time, the parent creates an accepting relationship in which a child feels completely safe to express himself through his play- fears, likes, dislikes, wishes, anger, loneliness, joy, or feelings of failure. This is not a typical playtime. It is a special playtime in which the child leads and the parent follows. In this special relationship, there are no:




-requirements (to draw pictures a certain way. Etc.)

-judgments (about the child or his play as being good or bad or right or wrong)

This is a unique approach used by counseling professionals trained in play therapy to train parents to be therapeutic agents with their own children through a format of instruction, demonstration, session feedback, and supervision. Parents are taught basic child-centered play therapy skills including responsive listening, recognizing children’s emotional needs, therapeutic limit setting, building children’s self esteem, and structure.

How can it help my child?

     In the special playtimes, you will build a different kind of relationship with your child, and your child will discover that she is capable, important, understood, and accepted as she is. When children experience a play relationship in which they feel accepted, understood, and cared for, they play out many of their problems and, in the process, release tensions, feelings, and burdens. Your child will then feel better about herself and will be able to discover her own strengths and assume greater self responsibility as she takes charge of play situations.

How your child feels about herself will make a significant difference in her behavior. In the special playtimes where you learn to focus on your child rather than your child’s problem, your child will begin to react differently because how your child behaves, how she thinks, and how she performs in school are directly related to how she feels about herself. When your child feels better about herself, she will behave in more self-enhancing ways rather that self defeating ways.

Goals of Filial Therapy

     Filial Therapy results in many benefits for both parents and children. The main benefit is a strengthened relationship between parent and child. The strengthened parent-child bond results in a healthy family atmosphere, where family members perceive themselves as a valued part of the family. With this new perception of themselves, members are able to access inner resources for more appropriate coping strategies to work through current and future challenges. Goals for children include, but are not limited to, recognizing and constructively expressing feelings, having an avenue for being heard, increasing coping skills, increasing confidence and self-esteem, reducing presenting problems in behaviors, and developing proactive behaviors. Some broad goals for parents include greater understanding of their child’s needs and perceptions. Parents learn to accept and value the uniqueness of their child. Become more tolerant of themselves and their children, and their expectations of parenting become more realistic. Thus, parents’ confidence in their ability to parent and their enjoyment of parenting increases.