Holding Systems: Supporting Parents and Caregivers in Play Therapy

Working with parents and family systems is one of the most difficult tasks in play therapy.

In addition to focusing on individual symptoms, treatment planning, and doing the actual work of play therapy, you are also often juggling parent 
 expectations that miiiight not be exactly in line with reality.  You're all to familiar with parents expecting quick fixes, thinking that therapy is for dropping their child off to do the work solo, or that coming to therapy is something you do when it is convenient or in crisis rather than a consistent commitment.  

And all these expectations can come with pressure - for a child to progress through therapy faster, to make certain symptoms go away, or to achieve a goal. You are fielding questions like "why haven't the tantrums stopped yet", "will she ever sleep in her own bed" and  "is play therapy really effective?  Shouldn't he be talking about this?"

Unfortunately (although you wish you did really have a magic wand) complex mental health difficulties that have been present for years don’t go away in 4 sessions, children rarely change in isolation without the participation of parents and caregivers, and consistent therapy is necessary for change.  And as much as you know this, this disconnect can leave parents feeling disappointed and discouraged, leading to difficulty with engagement, hopelessness, or therapy attrition.  

And as a therapist you are left between a rock and a hard place with feelings of being overwhelmed, discouraged, and out of ideas.  Long story short - you feel stuck.   

Then there are many other complex layers or roadblocks in working with family systems.  You feel stuck when parents struggle to follow through with recommendations, want to control what their child talks about (or plays about), or are actually engaging in behaviors that sustain the problem.  Then, when you add in attachment, parenting styles, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and a parent’s own history and mental health it can feel pretty overwhelming

In trying to hold all of these things while balancing your relationship with the child, it’s easy to get stuck and not know how to make a roadmap forward.  Your not sure what skills to try first, and with all the parenting programs, advice and opinions out there (sometimes that are in complete opposition) you're not even sure what is effective anymore.  

For some therapist, the overwhelm makes them question whether they want to continue working with kids at all. 

But what if it didn't have to be like that? 

Now imagine this… 

  • You feel confident in your ability to balance your play therapy sessions with supporting parent concerns and building parenting skills that actually work.
  • You know exactly what to say to parents to explain play therapy in a way that sets realistic expectations and increases engagement and buy in.
  • You have a clear understanding of how attachment styletrauma, and adverse childhood experiences can impact the presenting problem, and how to set effective goals to move families forward. 
  • You have the skills to build parent and caregiver rapport and know specific play therapy techniques to explore family dynamics. 
  • You have a large toolbox of parenting skills and strategies to teach parents to help support their child, including skills for co-regulation
  • You know when to invite parents into the playroom and specific activities and play therapy interventions to use.
  • You have tons of ideas and techniques to try when you run into the most common stumbling points or roadblocks with family systems.

And all of this with tons of parenting skills, handouts, downloads, and specific steps to troubleshoot stuck points! 

Effectively involving parents in their child’s therapy leads to significantly better therapeutic outcomes. This is why it is not only important to involve parents and caregivers in Play Therapy, but essential. Parents and caregivers are the most important people in a child’s life, so involving parents in the play therapy process makes sense! AND when you as the therapist have the confidence, competence, and skills to effectively work with family systems, you feel better about how you show up as a therapist, and your clients make greater gains too! 

Inside the course Holding Systems: Supporting Parents and Caregivers in Play Therapy you will find a comprehensive course that supports you in your work with parents. Imagine being able to shift your practice with parents from one of overwhelm and blocks to ease and confidence

And with this shift? Well, it leads to a more effective course of therapy and symptom reduction for your child clients! 

Inside the course you will learn:

  • Why involving parents in the play therapy process is essential.
  • How to effectively engage parents in play therapy from parenting sessions to in the playroom, including 5 strategies for engagement. 
  • The different attachment styles and at least 15 specific interventions and tools for attachment and regulation. 
  • The 10 most important parenting skills and techniques including co-regulation, validation, attachment, and limits and boundaries. 
  • When (and when not) to use behavioral plans and how to use behavioral planning effectively to actually change behaviors. 
  • When to invite parents into the playroom and specific play therapy techniques to increase attachmentco-regulation, and explore family relationships
  • Play Therapy theories that focus on attachment. 
  • How to troubleshoot the 16 most common roadblocks in working with parents and caregivers. 

CE Information:

This course is approved for 8.5 APT Non-Contact hours by Meehan Mental Health Services (APT Approved Provider 19-580).  

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify 15 parent and child interventions to use in play therapy to support attachment and regulation. 
  • List and demonstrate at least 10 parenting skills including co-regulation skills, attachment skills, and skills for limit setting and boundaries. 
  • Demonstrate at least 5 ways to increase the attachment relationship. 
  • Describe the four attachment styles and how attachment impacts the parent-child relationship. 
  • Identify and list Adverse Childhood Experiences and describe how ACES and trauma impacts the parent child relationship. 
  • Demonstrate at least 5 strategies to increase parent engagement. 
  • Demonstrate interventions for the 15 biggest stuck points when working with parents and caregivers. 
  • List at least 10 interventions that are appropriate for the parent consultation or check in. 


Course Format:  Train when it works for you! This course is a pre-recorded online self paced course where the modules are broken up into smaller digestible chunks that can be completed during a client cancellation, on the weekends, early in the morning, late at night - whenever! You can login at your own pace, re-watch content, and have unlimited access to the course. This course is designated "Non-Contact" by the Association for Play Therapy.

Who should attend:  This program is a beginning to intermediate course for any Play Therapist who wants to increase confidence in working with parent and caregiver systems in Play Therapy! 

Cost: $177.00 

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Introduction and Handouts

    • Introduction and Handouts

    • MMHS Holding Systems PowerPoint COLOR COPY

    • MMHS Holding Systems Power Point B+W COPY

    • MMHS Informed Consent Checklist

    • MMHS Choice Theory 5 Needs Handout

    • MMHS Co-Regulation Guide for Parents

    • MMHS 12 Low Cost or Free Family Activities

    • MMHS Family question cards

    • MMHS Behavioral Plan Guide for Clinicians and Parents

    • MMHS 30 Day Gratitude Challenge for Children and Teens

    • Holding Systems Course Disclaimer

  • 2

    Module 1: The Foundation

    • Module 1: The Foundation

  • 3

    Module 2: Attachment

    • Module 2: Attachment

    • Module 4: Trauma

  • 4

    Module 3: Parenting Styles

    • Module 3: Parenting Styles

  • 5

    Module 4: Trauma

    • Module 4: Trauma

  • 6

    Module 5: Therapy Building Bocks

    • Module 5: Therapy Building Blocks

  • 7

    Module 6: Parent Psychoeducation

    • Module 6: Parent Psychoeducation

    • Module 6 Bonus

    • MMHS Explaining CCPT to Parents


  • 8

    Module 7: Parenting Strategies

    • Module 7: Parenting Strategies

    • Module 7 Parenting Resources LINKS

    • Module 7 LINKS

  • 9

    Module 8: Play Therapy Theories

    • Module 8: Play Therapy Theories

    • Module 8: BONUS Parent Co-Regulation Guide

  • 10

    Module 9: Parents in The Playroom

    • Module 9: Parents In The Playroom

    • Module 9 LINKS

  • 11

    Module 10: Troubleshooting

    • Module 10: Troubleshooting

  • 12

    Module 11: Bringing It Together

    • Module 11: Bringing It Together

  • 13


    • MMHS Holding Systems Bibliography

  • 14

    Getting Your APT CEs

    • Getting Your APT CEs