Fiona Couchman – Play Therapist/Attachment Specialist

Fiona Couchman

My Background

I am a play therapist specializing in trauma and attachment difficulties. I am registered and accredited by the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and in South Africa I have joined the professional register of the CCSA. 

After obtaining my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree, I completed a post-graduate qualification in Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy and an MA in Play Therapy (UK).  I have spent the last 10 years working in a range of environments, including schools, private practice, hospitals, and children’s residential homes. Most recently I worked for the UK National Health Service (NHS) in a highly specialist multidisciplinary 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

I am passionate about helping children to develop healthy loving attachment relationships, and to feel good about themselves, as well as helping parents with the challenges of parenting.  I have trained extensively in attachment and developmental trauma to help parents, carers, and schools understand the impact of attachment difficulties and/or trauma on all levels of a child’s development. I support them with practical advice and tools to help the child to regulate their emotions, to engage with others intersubjectively, and to develop their executive functioning, which are the skills that underlie learning and problem-solving. 

I have a special interest in sensory attachment interventions, play therapy with a sensory focus to decrease emotional reactivity in the children. In addition to this, I have a special interest in working with adopted children and their families. 

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 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,  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. DDP is very effective in helping adopted children, and children looked after by family guardians.

 

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.

 

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, sensory, neurological and psychological development, and gives them the enhanced parenting skills to match the emotional and behavioural needs of the child.