Play Therapy in Abuse Case

I had a chance to interview a 6-year-old girl who had been known in her class as a stealer of her friends’ belongings. She came to the clinic with her father and -as usual- he gave the opening words of her daughter conditions. He said that there were numbers of complains that came from her teacher and classmates regarding her stealing acts.

At first, she looked fine – just as any other 6-year-old girl. She talked about her friends at school and her behaviours on ‘taking things’ from her friends. She said that when she found money in her friend’s desk, she would take that and buy some snacks to be shared in the class during recess. She also said that she did not have close friends because she was labeled as a bad girl.

According to her father, she loved to take small items, such as: pencils, rosary, erasers, and many others. When she got home, she put those items into separate bags, so her parents won’t be able to search it one by one.

Imagination in Play Therapy
Imagination used in Play Therapy

On the first meeting, we (my counsellor and I – the assistant) did not find any informations regarding her family life. On the second session, we tried to do play therapy using toy animals. We asked her to arrange a scenario about the animals in the jungle. The position, the activities and the talks. Amazingly, we discovered that there were numbers of abuse in her home life. it turned out that her father was an abuser and her mother was the victim. She saw it by herself when her mother cried on the second floor when her father beat her mother with belt or stick.

This little girl told a story about numbers of arguments and quarrels in her house. She was so afraid with blood, because she will associate that with her mother’s wounds! In her imaginary play, she told a story about a dog (represent her mother) who always had a fight with a lion (represent her father). They always had fights everyday and mostly about food (we believe it was arguments or shouting – more into satisfying the oral fixation). She represented herself as a rabbit – soft and underpowered.

To solve this problem, we managed to have a family therapy with the whole family member. It turned out that her mother was a second wife. Her father divorced with his first wife because she was hardly beaten by him. So, the history of abuse has been revealed from a little girl imagination.

I never imagined that play therapy would have that great impact in sessions, but it turned out to be one good tool to release the pain, anger, fear and problems in young children. It can open the doors into something deeper than what we see in the appearances.

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