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Theraplay is a therapeutic approach that uses elements of play therapy and that has intention of helping parents and children build better attachment relationships through attachment-based play. It was developed in 1967 in Chicago by Ann M. Jernberg.

History of Theraplay

Ann Jernberg, Ph.D., became 1967 the Director of Psychological Services for the new Chicago Head Start program with one of her assistants Phyllis Booth. She and her team were asked to identify children in need of psychological services and refer them to existing treatment centers. However, there were very few resources for children's mental health at the time, and the existing ones could not possibly handle the hundreds of children identified as needing help. From that starting point Ann Jernberg started to create her own program that would treat children at the Head Start centers, rather than at outlying clinics, and could use paraprofessionals supervised by mental health professionals to do the actual work. The result was a model based on healthy parent-infant attachment and interaction that borrowed elements from the work of Austin Des Lauriers and Viola Brody. Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby, is the theory basis for Theraplay.

See also


  • The Theraplay® Institute [1]
  • Jernberg, A.M., & Booth, P. B. (1999). Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships Through Attachment-Based Play. San Francisco: Wiley. ISBN 0787943029.
  • research [2]

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