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Research & Articles

The following is taken from Dr Kate Renshaw’s PhD research.

“Many problems will be solved in the next few

decades. There will be new learning environments and new means of instruction. One function, however, will always remain with the teacher: to create the emotional climate for learning”.

Ginott, H. G, (1972) Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers, (as cited in Renshaw, 2023a)

50 years on, this quote is still relevant. It has always been about relationships and people first. As a play therapist, we know that yes, toys are the child’s language and we choose the toys and resources very carefully for our clinics / settings etc, but the most important thing in the room is our therapeutic relationship with the child. This is also true for teachers. What are we bringing to the classroom each day, by way of our own expression? our own thoughts, feelings etc. They will all impact the vibe of the classroom


Ginott also wrote back in 1972 from the same publication:

“I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can humiliate or humor [sic], hurt or heal. My response decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized [sic] or dehumanized [sic]”.

Ginott, H. G, (1972) Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers, (as cited in Renshaw, 2023a)

Key TORA Research Findings taken from ‘Certified TORA Facilitator Guidebook for Play Therapists’ By Dr Kate Renshaw 2023

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  • The TORA is an effective primary school based mental health and wellbeing approach.

  • Within education settings, the TORA is distinct in theoretical foundations, design, and delivery.

  • Play and filial therapy knowledge and skills for creating and maintaining optimal relationships can be applied to the student–teacher relationship.

  • It is innovative and effective for teacher’s professional development (PD) to include the learning of new skills through training and classroom observation, with opportunities for reflection and feedback.

  • Teachers shared positive experiences of being trained in the TORA and embedding the TORA into their teaching practice.

  • Student–teacher relationships were positively impacted by the TORA. Overall, close, positive and effective relationships increased and problematic aspects of relationships such as dependency and conflict decreased.

  • Child school engagement was positively influenced by the TORA.

  • Problematic behaviours such as hyperactivity and conduct problems decreased and prosocial behaviours increased indicating that the emotional, social and academic classroom climate was more conducive to learning. Teachers reported overall positive shifts in student engagement.

  • Children’s social, emotional and behavioural characteristics were changed positively by the TORA. Socially, teachers assessed children as increasing in prosocial skills. Children’s internalised emotional difficulties decreased, as did behavioural difficulties including conduct problems, hyperactivity and externalised behavioural difficulties.

  • Teachers were observed recognising and responding to the social, emotional and behavioural needs of the children in their class using the TORA skills. All eight TORA skills were observed in practice. This means that teachers were able to engage with children using relationship enhancement as part of their skill set.

To conclude the thesis, the TORA is a relationally responsive skill set derived from play and filial therapy, which teachers can embed into their everyday teaching practice.

As student–teacher relationships are intertwined with the humanising process, which occurs throughout child development, it is of vital importance that teachers can confidently use relational skills when creating the classroom climate, every day, for all children. TORA

provides teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to optimise their relationships with students, which results in increased child mental health and wellbeing.

The continuing impacts of COVID-19 are evident in the extraordinary mental health and wellbeing needs of students. Fostering a therapeutic milieu in schools has never been more needed than now for

both teachers and their students. A therapeutic school milieu can be created by individual teachers who work together to provide ‘healthy dosing’ moment by moment.


Evaluation of industry viability of the TORA has been completed using two industry program evaluation tools, namely, Beyond Blue’s Be You Programs Directory, and the STEPS Framework (Beyond Blue, 2018). A summary of the TORA is detailed below for each industry tool, with a final summative efficacy statement presented.

The TORA was assessed against the seven categories of the Be You Programs Directory. The key points of importance that were extrapolated from assessing the TORA against the Be You Programs Directory are:


1. The TORA aligns with all five professional learning domains.


2. The TORA is designed for teachers to use in their everyday teaching.

Therefore, the TORA can be integrated within all parts of the Australian

curriculum and National Qualifications Framework (NQF).


3. The TORA is available for use in Australian schools and education settings.


4. The TORA is professional development (PD) for teachers that includes an instructor facilitating the delivery of the training, skill development and the provision of training materials.


5. The TORA is offered in a sequence, which consists of three sequential



6. The TORA targets intended beneficiaries, which include children and



7. Finally, this research project demonstrated sufficient participant numbers and positive impacts on domains of mental health, indicators of wellbeing and SEL outcomes for children.


These key points have articulated how the TORA has met the seven minimum requirements. It is therefore feasible that the TORA be considered for future inclusion in the Be You Programs Directory.


Next, the STEPS Framework examined the TORA across nine domains, which support individual schools to choose a program/approach suited to their school community.


The key points of importance that were deduced from examining the TORA against the STEPS Framework are:


  1. The TORA connects with modern definitions of mental wellbeing used in both health and education.

  2. The TORA has strong underpinning theories.

  3. The research was designed to measure and track child mental health and wellbeing.

  4. The TORA has been implemented by four schools as part of this multi-site research project.

  5. The TORA is a universal, early intervention mental health and wellbeing approach.

  6. Participant teachers agreed that the TORA was viable for use in their school.

  7. The underpinning philosophical perspective of the TORA is Humanistic, which can adapt to fit well with any school’s approach to behaviour, learning and student wellbeing.

  8. Implementation of the TORA was described by teachers as effective and sustainable.

  9. The TORA research project yielded results after one school term of implementation.


Final summary


In summary, conducting a detailed evaluation of the TORA using industry tools has evidenced the TORA as an effective mental health and wellbeing approach that is viable for use within schools. As effectiveness can be viewed as a continuous process rather than a result, this initial evaluation of industry viability marks the beginning of a continual process to periodically reaffirm the TORA’s effectiveness and thus, evidence-based practice (EBP) standard.


The overarching aim of this research study was to develop the TORA and evaluate its efficacy and industry viability. Chapter 9 has evaluated the industry viability of the TORA by reviewing the approach and the results and findings of this PhD research study using two industry tools:

1) the Be You Programs Directory inclusion requirements; and

2) the STEPS Framework.

The TORA was found to be suitable for inclusion in the Be You Programs

Directory and a potential ‘good fit’ for schools as assessed by the STEPS Framework.


Contact Nicole to discuss the services available to your school or workplace

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