Free Play Therapy Classes for Parents

By Lara Wade

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2010) – Now more than ever with the tensions of every-day life, it’s important to create positive parent-child relationships. The benefits to parents are decreases in children’s behavior problems as well as parenting stress, and increased opportunities to share fun, productive times and activities with their children. Easier said than done, but parents can learn how to get these results with the help of experienced experts. The University of South Florida is offering this expertise for free in “Parent-Child Relationship Therapy Parenting” classes, also known as filial therapy, for parents of children ages three to 10 years. 

Parents will learn how to employ play therapy with their own children at home. A trained therapist teaches adults how to use various procedures and toys to develop safe relationships for children to fully express and explore their feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors through their natural medium of communication, namely play. Actually, play therapy is to children what talk counseling is to adults.


The goals of learning play therapy methods are to help parents:


·         Create a closer relationship with their child

·         Increase understanding of their child’s inner world through play

·         Facilitate their child’s self-control, responsibility and creativity

·         Decrease parenting stress and increase fun, playful times


Jennifer Baggerly, an associate professor in the Counselor Education program at USF, who supervises the program said, “In a world where people communicate primarily through technology, face to face interaction between parent and child is even more important. Play therapy sessions help parents connect with their children on a deep meaningful emotional level so their children can develop a healthy emotional life.”  


Participants who sign up will be asked to attend 10 consecutive weekly classes which will be held every Thursday from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. starting Feb. 4 and running through April 15. Beginning the third week of classes, parents will conduct a weekly 30-minute play session with children at home or at USF. More than 15 individuals have registered for the class, which has been offered for about four years and has assisted approximately 50 parents since its inception. 

Baggerly is a licensed mental health counselor supervisor and a registered play therapist supervisor. She has a doctorate in counselor education with a specialization in play therapy and has researched the effects of play therapy on the behavior and mental health of children who are homeless. Baggerly has also explored the impact of trauma intervention on professional response and the impact of hurricanes on children’s academic progress. Baggerly traveled to Sri Lanka after the 2005 tsunami and has counseled children following the major Florida hurricanes over the past several years. She has worked with children who are homeless and receiving services and assistance at Metropolitan Ministries.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.