Brandon – age 7
Brandon was constantly causing trouble at school. He frequently interrupted class. There was not a single day without a fight on the playground. His academic progress was slow and he was not making enough progress to move smoothly to the next year group without intervention. When his mother, teacher or friends did not do exactly what he wanted them to do, Brandon had terrible tantrums and was aggressive. When Brandon hit another boy on the playground with a sharp stone, he was close to a permanent exclusion.
When Brandon began Play Therapy, he walked into the room and for a week drew pictures of castles.
In the third week, he drew knights who lived in his castles.
In the fourth week of therapy, Brandon moved from drawing to the sand tray. He brought in figures of soldiers and created a castle out wooden boxes.
He continued playing in the sand tray for some weeks. Each time his knights were fighting. Some of them lost, some of them won. There was one knight, who always won in every battle.
Brandon was the oldest child in a family of three boys. The other two siblings were twins who always interrupted Brandon and whatever they did they blamed it on him. Brandon’s mum was busy with the youngest, a baby. She was a single mum and too tired to deal with the boys arguments. Brandon was expected to behave like the oldest boy in the family.
Brandon’s frustration, need for attention and perceived lack of fairness were demonstrated in his aggressive behaviour at school. This behaviour was Brandon’s way of asking for help through seeking attention. He could not explain why he acted like he did when he was asked or told off. Brandon was not cognitively aware of his issues.
Whilst creating battles in his sand tray, Brandon was searching for solutions to his problems at home. The Knight, who always won, was Brandon. He was experimenting with finding his own ways to assert himself. After receiving 25 sessions of Play Therapy, Brandon was ready to leave therapy.
His attention at school improved and Brandon was able to finish his class assignments on time. He began to play football on the playground and made more friends because he was a fast runner. He still had a few tantrums now and then but far less than before the therapy. Brandon began to play with his twin brothers and taught them how to kick the ball into the net. This activity became the twins favourite and Brandon used it to stop them from getting him in trouble.
His mum arranged nursery time for the other siblings and she began Filial Play to learn how to interact with Brandon. She used her skills to play with all of her children at different times so each one got her sole attention once a week.
Kara – age 10
Kara did not have any friends at school. She was sad and lonely. Kara always sat quietly in class, doing her work as she was told. She was polite and always well behaved. There was something in her behaviour that worried her teacher. Kara seldom smiled, she played alone, usually with a leaf that she found or a small twig. Kara only whispered in class, she never looked at anyone, she kept her head down whenever other children or teachers talked to her. Kara was often absent and when she came back to school, she looked pale and withdrawn.
Kara was referred to Play Therapy by her teacher and parents.
In her first session, Kara sat on a chair and just looked at the floor.
The next week, Kara slowly walked around the room and gently touched different objects. She particularly liked the doll house and dolls. She picked a figure of an old lady and put her on the bed in the doll house. Kara took a brush and very gently brushed the doll’s hair. She kept doing this until the end of the session. Every week, when Kara entered her “Special Time”, she walked around the room and looked at different objects very carefully. This was the start of what became her routine. She would go to the doll’s house and pick the old lady doll.
Half way through her therapy, Kara began to talk with the old lady doll and involved other dolls in her conversations. Brushing the old lady’s hair became a routine in every session. The dolls were moved around the room. Sometimes they were swimming in a bucket, another time Kara would read a story to the old lady.
One day, Kara put a piece of floral material on the old lady’s head and placed her gently on the bed in the doll’s house. She moved the bed and the old lady to the sand tray and gently placed the lady on a leaf. She took another leaf and covered the lady with it. Kara drew a circle around the leaves with the old lady underneath. She brought a fairy doll with golden wings and carried the leaves with the old lady to the window. When she placed the lady and the leaves on the window, Kara smiled and sat on the chair.
Kara’s grandmother, to whom she was very close, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kara’s sadness was caused by a difficulty in dealing with this illness and impending death. Kara’s parents were looking after the grandmother at home. Their home became a hospice and nobody had enough time to talk to Kara.
Kara dealt with her grandmother’s cancer and death through play. Although Kara was ten years old, she still couldn’t express her feelings in words. Play Therapy enabled Kara to realise painful emotions through metaphor.
Kara’s grandmother died shortly after Kara carried her away using a fairy as an angel.