Sensory Integration and Mental Health: Building a Therapeutic Relationship using Theraplay



A conversation with Andrea Bushala, MSW, LCSW, RPT
moderated by Erin Flynn, MS, OTR/L

recorded Sept, 2022

Description: Theraplay is an evidenced-based model that is grounded in attachment theory. It targets the lower levels of brain functioning and the early moments of parent-child interactions. Its goal is to create moments of connection and meeting through primary intersubjective experiences. Intersubjective experiences are the way we come to understand and engage with others through imitation and mirroring between infant and parent. Theraplay aims to recreate/create moments like these that may have been missed in early childhood due to developmental trauma. Through case-study examples, Andrea Bushala, Theraplay instructor will join us to discuss ways occupational therapy practitioners can use Theraplay’s dimensions of Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge to meet our client’s needs and address challenging behaviors.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the 2022 LiveTalk Series participants will be able to:

  1. Identify how to increase mental health knowledge for occupational therapy professionals across settings
  2. Recognize relationship and developmental based mental health models that compliment Sensory Integration intervention
  3. Select intervention modalities and models that support mental health while utilizing Sensory Integration principles

By the end of this discussion, part 6 of 10 in the 2022 LiveTalk Series,  participants will be able to:

  1. Understand the history and theories behind Theraplay
  2. Identify the four dimensions of Theraplay
  3. Identify who may benefit from the application of the Theraplay model

About the Speaker: Andrea Bushala, MSW, LCSW, RPT, has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Miami University with an emphasis in child development. She obtained her Master of Social Work degree from Loyola University Chicago with a dual specialization in School Social Work and Children and Families. Andrea previously worked at a community mental health clinic focusing on children and young adults experiencing anxiety and depression. Additionally, she has experience in the public school system providing individual and group therapy for children ages 4-6. In her clinical work, Andrea uses a strength-based perspective, incorporating the learnings of trauma, brain development and attachment theory in her work. In addition to Theraplay, Andrea is trained in Dyadic Developmental Psychology, narrative work and art therapy techniques. Andrea is a Certified Theraplay Practitioner, Group Theraplay Trainer and Supervisor-in-Training.

Disclosure: Ms. Bushala has no financial relationships to disclose.

Course Level: Introductory

Audience: OT/ OTA, PT /PTA, SLP, psychologists, educators, parents

AOTA Areas: Occupational Therapy Service Delivery: Evaluation, Intervention and Outcomes. Foundational Knowledge: Social Determinants of Health

Contact Hours: This conversation is worth 1 contact hour or 0.1 AOTA CEUs. The full series has been approved for 10 contact hours or 1.0 AOTA CEUs.

Completion Requirements: To receive contact hours for this course you must listen to the discussion in its entirety and complete the accompanying assessment.

ADA/Section 504: If you require special accommodations, please contact the SPIRAL Foundation at

Continuing Education: Occupational Therapy Practitioners/ Occupational Therapy Assistants: Foundation is an Approved Provider of Continuing Education for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants by the American Occupational Therapy Association. The assignment of AOTA CEUs does not imply endorsement of specific course content, products, or clinical procedures by AOTA.


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