Fiona Couchman – Play Therapist/Attachment Specialist

Fiona Couchman

My Background

After obtaining my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in the UK, I completed a post-graduate qualification in Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy and began my MA Psychology studies. During my internship I worked in a hospital setting with both children and adolescents, however although I was passionate about working with young people, I felt I did not have the appropriate skills to work with these age groups. I was later introduced to play therapy in South Africa, and I saw for myself how effective it was as a way to help children with a range of psychological and relationship difficulties. I then switched course and gained my MA in Play Therapy in the UK. Since then I have continued my professional development by constantly updating my knowledge and skills through extensive training and experience.

I am registered and accredited as a Play Therapist by the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). In South Africa I have joined the professional register of the CCSA.

I have spent the last 10 years working in different countries in a range of environments, including schools, private practice, hospitals, children’s residential homes, and most recently, a highly specialist UK Children and Adolescents Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team, working with developmental trauma and attachment difficulties, specifically with adopted children and children in care.

My Interests

My interest in attachment and developmental trauma has led me to become trained in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). My current level of training in both DDP and Theraplay enables me to work therapeutically with parents, carers and children to facilitate trust, security and attachment relationship. In my practice I focus on understanding the impact of early experience on the development of children. I explore ways to support and parent these children so that they can overcome their fear of being parented. In this way children can develop to their full potential, feel safe in relationships and go out into the world able to follow their dreams.

I have a special interest in sensory attachment interventions, play therapy with a sensory focus, and encouraging parents and teachers to use a sensory motor lens to decrease emotional reactivity in the children.

My Services

THERAPEUTIC SKILLS

Play Therapy

Play therapy is an effective way of working with children in which they express themselves through play and toys. As the therapist I provide a safe relationship for the child to fully express and explore their feelings, capture behaviour and experience through play (a child’s natural medium of communication for optimal growth development). Play is helpful in addressing the psychological difficulty underlying many problem behavioural symptoms, such as anxiety, bed-wetting, soiling, telling lies, selective mutism, violent outbursts, anxiety, self-harm, sleeping difficulties, bullying, social difficulties and school refusal.

Filial Therapy

In Filial Therapy I train the parent(s) to conduct child-centred play sessions with their children at home. I provide the parent(s) with the therapeutic skills required to help children address the big feelings underlying the child’s challenging behaviours and poor functioning. Filial Therapy has achieved successful outcomes with many child and family difficulties such as challenging behaviour, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, chronic illness and traumatic events among others.

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

DDP is a form of therapy that uses what is known about developmental trauma to help children and families with their relationships. This process results in the child developing a new understanding of themselves as well as in healing of past trauma; it also increases their sense of safety within current relationships, and thus their attachment security.

Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW)

Indicated for children who are adopted, fostered or in care, Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW) helps the child to make sense of their life story and to address the feelings and beliefs regarding the losses and traumas associated with the major life events in their short lives. TLSW involves the child’s primary carer and is done through art and play. This helps the child to experience that their primary attachment figure – together with the therapist can hear, emotionally hold and validate their often painful and traumatic story.

Theraplay®

Theraplay® is an interactive form of therapy that typically involves one child and their parents/carers. The emphasis is on playing together in a manner that enhances regulation, attachment, self-esteem, and encourages engagement and joy in the family. Regular sessions, as well as practice at home, result in the child’s changed sense of self (I am worthy and lovable) and of relationships (relating to others can be positive and rewarding).

ASSESSMENT SERVICES

Assessment of the parent-child interaction and relationship

It is very useful to have an assessment of the parent-child relationship for the purposes of making recommendations for therapeutic intervention or giving practical parenting strategies. For this I use either the Marshak Interaction Method (MIM), which is an observation of structured child – parent activities based on Theraplay® principles, or other family interaction observations with play activities.

Assessment of individual child attachment patterns

For younger children I use the Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA) using Story Stems, or sand-tray with miniature figures.

ATTACHMENT TRAINING FOR SCHOOLS

Early adverse experiences can impact the child’s development and their capacity to learn in the classroom. Developmental trauma impairs executive functioning (problem- solving) and cognitive functioning. I work with school-based professionals to give them practical tools to support children who have executive functioning difficulties.

PARENTING SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE

Parents, Adoptive parents and Carers

I offer Nurturing Attachments and Foundations for Attachment group programmes which are designed to provide support to parents, adoptive parents, and foster carers of children who are experiencing difficulties. The programmes help parents to understand the impact of loss and trauma on the child’s emotional, neurological and psychological development, and help parents develop their parenting skills to match the emotional and behavioural needs of the child.