2000 in HUNGARY
& Outer Peace”
PLAY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
by Zack Boukydis
A NEW PROGRAM
For the past twenty-five years I have been developing an approach to
parent-infant psychotherapy called Focusing-Oriented Parent-Infant Play and
Psychotherapy. There is a need to expand training and evaluation of this
approach so that it is more accessible to a variety of health, and mental health
professionals who work with parents and infants; and to make workshops available
to parents. I am seeking funding to make this expansion possible.
WHAT IS PARENT-INFANT PLAY AND
Parent-infant play and psychotherapy involves the parent-infant dyad
and problems that arise in the relationship and interaction between parent and
infant. The work involves intervention with the dyad to improve the
attachment relationship between parent and infant; redefine parental
misperceptions of infant behavior; articulate parental understanding and
response to differences in infant temperamental or emotional style; discover and
change influences from the parent’s own history of being parented; and improve
parental competence and self esteem. Effective and helpful therapeutic
work in infancy prevents chronic dysfunctional patterns in the later
parent-child relationship. Thus, much of the work in parent-infant
psychotherapy has a clear focus in preventing later mental health disturbance.
Typical referrals for parent-infant psychotherapy include:
- parents of infants in Special Care nurseries who have difficulties in
feeling attached to their infant
- parents who over stimulate high-risk substance exposed infants who are
highly sensitive to sensory input
- mothers who have post-partum depression and have difficulty interacting
with their infant
- parents who are having difficulty handling infants with cry, sleep, or
- parents who are threatened and reactive to their infants newly-emerging
- parents with inappropriate developmental expectations for their infant
- parents who have suffered prior losses and are having difficulty feeling
attached to their infant.
WHAT IS THE FOCUSING-ORIENTED
The Focusing-Oriented approach is based on twenty-five years of
clinical work and consultation on the parent-infant relationship, and extensive
research on parent-infant interaction and the meaning system which develops
between parents and infants. The approach is based on a model of empathic
relations between parents and infants (Boukydis, 1982) which includes parents’
direct reference to their “felt sense” or bodily felt intuition in
interactions with their infants; recovering the capacity to use bodily felt
meaning in the relationship; and the importance of preverbal sensory and
emotional communication between infant and parent. A whole method of practice
for the Focusing-Oriented approach has been developed (Boukydis, 1990).
The Focusing-Oriented approach involves consultation with parents &
infants based on:
|Focusing and intuition:|
helping parents to attend to, recover and work from the level of bodily
felt meaning of what is happening with their baby
|Self knowledge and empathy:|
teaching parents to attend to their own feeling process, and
distinguish between their own feelings and the states of their infant
sensitivity to infant behavioral cues
|Attention to preverbal phenomena:|
sensitivity to energy states in the infant and in the interaction
Other methods of parent-infant psychotherapy are made more effective when the
philosophy and methods of the Focusing-Oriented approach are integrated with
existing ways of working.
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?
- Contact Zack Boukydis, information on last page, about your interest and
- Consider people, foundations, corporate giving, agencies- which may be
appropriate for helping to fund the next phase of development of this
- Consider hosting a parent focused, or professional focused workshop or
This is a general request for funding, outlining several different
areas for development of the Focusing-Oriented approach. Separate proposals will
be developed for each of these areas.
Funding will cover the following areas:
- 1. Mental/Health Professionals.
Funding is needed to organize the next phase of a training program
for mental health professionals based on the Focusing-Oriented approach for
working with parents and infants. We have already trained a number of
health, and mental health professionals in this approach.
The next phase of training will include:
- a one year training program
- three day intensive workshops
- an annual summer training institute.
The training program will be for health and mental health professionals
who are working with parents and infants in clinical settings.
- Parents and Caregivers.
We currently have two workshops for parents alone: Exploring
Infancy Experientially and Focusing and the Inner Infant; and one for
parents and infants together: Empathy with Your Baby. Funding is
required for administrative costs to advertise and organize these workshops,
and to develop a training manual, instructional videos and c.d.’s for
In the future, two new programs;
- a peer counseling based support program for parents and
- a prenatal prevention and support program will be developed.
The peer program will involve training peer counselors who will support
new parents and an ongoing group which will teach new skills to reinforce
parents understanding of their infant. This training program is based
on my book: Support for Parents and Infants: A Manual for
Parenting Organizations and Professionals (Boukydis, 1987).
The prenatal Pre-Parenting Program has been developed to prevent child
abuse in at-risk populations by teaching a parenting program to parents in
the prenatal period. The Pre-Parenting Program will consist of a
number of key components identified by experts and by research as the
essential influences required to reduce reactivity to infant crying, develop
control over extreme feelings, and build competence in parenting.
The key components are:
- Biostress Reduction - biofeedback induced systematic control of the
stress response to infant crying;
- Self Control - learning to manage anxiety, anger and depression in
frequently occurring parenting situations;
- Keys to Infant Behavior and Development - learning infant state
control and soothing techniques
- Models of Optimal Parenting - identifying parents and actual parenting
behavior which constitute optimal parenting;
- Parenting Practice - home visits to homes with infants with guided
practice in handling, feeding, management of crying;
- Building Supports - identifying important supports for parenting in
the family, community, and health care, environment;
- Parenting Mentorship - veteran parents trained to be mentors to new
- Training Materials.
Funding will also be used to develop a manual and videotapes for
teaching professionals in the training program; and to expand the workshops
with parents so that there is an audiovisual component to the workshops, and
a follow-through practice, and self-teaching component after each workshop
There is a need for different types of research:
- Efficacy Research.
We have done research to identify critical events in
Focusing-Oriented Parent-Infant Psychotherapy using videotapes of
consultation sessions. A programmatic research program concurrent with
ongoing clinical services will be designed to examine: the effectiveness of
this method for intervening on, and changing the parent-infant relationship
with different populations of parents and infants; the use of this method to
prevent future parent-child difficulties (enhance the attachment
relationship; aid parental redefinition of infant behavior, enrich parental
understanding of infant emotional development and infant temperament);
prevention of psychopathology and dysfunctional parent-child relationship
- Program Evaluation.
New programs such as the peer counseling support program, and the
prenatal Pre-Parent program will have ongoing evaluation components in order
to determine what components are effective for different populations of
C. Organizational Development.
The next phases of organizational development involve:
Funding is needed to develop a network of professionals trained in the
Focusing-Oriented approach and to develop a web-site for outlining new
methods, presenting research, offering feedback, and so on.
- Comprehensive Training.
Organizational development will include developing systematic training and
continuing education courses for professionals, and workshop series for
parents and infants which can be implemented in different clinical and
Specific goals and methods for each of these areas based on ongoing clinical
and training experience are available on request.
Zack Boukydis, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior,
Brown University School of Medicine
Infant Development Center, Women & Infants Hospital,
101 Dudley St. Providence RI 02906
Tel: (401)453-7690; extension 101; Fax (401) 453-7639
INT. FOCUSING INSTITUTE
FOCUS at BIRTH
A. van HOLST