Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT)
About This Program
Target Population: Young sexually abused children who may be victims of other forms of trauma as well, including physical abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, placement in foster care, etc.
For children/adolescents ages: 5 – 17
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 5 – 17
Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) is a program that utilizes a combination of directive and nondirective approaches in order to advance structured, goal-oriented therapy for abused children and their families. TFIPT attends to the developmental needs of young children, incorporates the scientific and practice literature, as well as evidence-based practices currently available, and promotes resolution of traumatic events by direct or indirect processing of traumatic incidents. This model includes a focused interest in facilitating, encouraging, and allowing nondirective play therapy which often leads to children’s discovery and utilization of post-traumatic play, a unique form of play which is a spontaneous occurrence with young children who experience psychic trauma. Post-traumatic play appears to be a child’s natural way to introduce gradual exposure, narrative formation, and trauma processing. Incorporating the curative factors of expressive therapy techniques (e.g., play, art, and sand therapy techniques) as valuable therapy components in and of themselves, rather than as a way to primarily engage or teach children or advance other goals, is also a distinctive feature of this approach.
The goals of Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) are:
- Conduct a comprehensive assessment of child’s phenomenological experience of trauma and trauma impact
- Identify trauma-related symptoms, if any
- Help child explore and express thoughts and feelings associated with children’s abuse
- Increase coping strategies and self-regulation to restore pre-abuse functioning
- Ensure child’s access to internal and external resources
- Enhance child’s self-esteem and sense of competence
The essential components of Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) include:
- A structured 12-week approach based on the three phases of treatment developed by Judith Herman: 1) The establishment of safety; 2) A direct focus on traumatic material and processing; and 3) Social reconnection and orientation to future.
- A specific beginning and ending includes children’s use of an affective identification and scaling worksheet in which they identify their feelings (as they enter and leave therapy) and the intensity of that feeling.
- A specific beginning and ending also includes the use of a structured mindfulness breathing exercise after and before affective identification and scaling when the session starts and ends.
- A period of nondirective play therapy is allowed in each treatment session and the session is provided in a play therapy office that is stocked with the basic tools of a trained play therapist.
- The clinician assesses for the potential use of post-trauma play, documents play themes, and generally allows and encourages the child to use play as a form of gradual exposure to traumatic events.
- The clinician ensures that literal (toy) symbols of specific aspects of the child’s trauma may be available in the play therapy office.
- Four or five play-based techniques are used both as therapeutic experiences as well as to inform an assessment of the child’s overall functioning, his or her perceptions of the environment and important relationships, affective expression and communication styles (including verbal and nonverbal methods).
- During the middle phase of treatment, clinicians may utilize more directive methods to direct children’s attention to traumatic incidents.
- Clinicians assist children in creating trauma narratives that can be completed in verbal or nonverbal ways.
- Clinicians provide children with psychoeducation to correct negative thoughts, to encourage affective expression, and to identify adults who can provide assistance, support, and nurturance to children.
- Termination sessions encourage the development of optimism by providing children with opportunities to say meaningful goodbyes and to view their lives in a more balanced way (that is, a life that has included both positive and negative events).
- Clinicians also teach children about how their brains work in order to support them making good choices and feeling more in control.
- Relaxation techniques are also taught throughout to encourage children to learn how to calm themselves. Children are given the opportunity to use “bio-dots” (similar to mood rings) to actually see the changes that can occur in their bodies as they control their breathing and relax their muscles.
- Parents receive coaching as needed during the intake session and throughout the therapy process.
- Parents are informed about TFIPT and are shown a manual that includes the lessons their children will receive.
- Parents have ample opportunity to ask questions, receive specific psychoeducational materials, and request additional services.
- Parents may participate in nonoffending parent groups or may be referred for individual treatment.
- Parents check in with children’s therapists on an as-needed basis and clinicians keep them informed of children’s progress.
Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:
- Range of internatlizing or externalizing behaviors as measured by psychological instruments (e.g., fear and anxiety, aggression, and sexual acting out)
Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Parent of a child who has been sexually abused
Weekly one-hour session
Three - six months
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Outpatient Clinic
- Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) includes a homework component:
Children are asked to teach their parents a variety of play-based strategies (such as relaxation, mindful breathing, affective scaling, etc.)
Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT) has materials available in a language other than English:
For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
- Play therapy offices
- One-way mirror
- VCR with monitor
- Overhead projectors
- Break out rooms
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
- Licensed mental health professionals or trainees working under licensed professionals
- At least three years experience of direct work with abused children and their families
- Basic training in child trauma and sexual abuse (at least five days)
- Basic training in expressive therapy (at least five days)
- Basic training in this specific model (at least two days)
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.
- Eliana Gil, PhD
phone: (202) 257-2783
Training is obtained:
Training provided through a small training program called Starbright Training Institute.
Number of days/hours:
Training is usually best provided in three days. Introductory trainings can be day-long.
There currently are additional qualified resources for training:
- Myriam Goldin
- Dr. Jennifer Shaw
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy (TFIPT).
Gil, E. (2006). Helping abused and traumatized children: Integrating directive and nondirective approaches. New York: Guilford Press.
Gil, E. (2012). Trauma-Focused Integrated Play Therapy. In P. G.Brown (Ed.), Handbook of Child Sexual Abuse: Identification, Assessment, and Treatment, pp. 251-178. NY: Wiley & Sons.
Gil, E. (2017). Post-traumatic play: What clinicians should know. NY: Guilford Press.
- Eliana Gil
- Agency/Affiliation: Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, PLLC
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (202) 257-2783
- Fax: (703) 205-0491
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2015
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2016
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2006