Jamie was 5 when he arrived at RBWA. He and his family had fled Domestic Abuse from his father. Jamie had left behind everything that was familiar to him, everything that he loved including his friends, his bedroom and his favourite toys.
Jamie had witnessed severe domestic abuse from his father to his mum. He had seen his father push his mum over, he had heard him calling her horrible names and he had comforted his mother all too often when she was in tears.
In Jamie’s eyes you communicate with your family by hurting them, by making them cry and as the male of the family you are in charge.
Jamie didn’t know any different. Jamie didn’t know right from wrong, in his world this behaviour was ‘normal’.
Jamie was displaying challenging behaviour on arrival including shouting and swearing at his mum and siblings. He was also self-harming by scratching himself when frustrated and banging his head off the walls/doors.
As a Play Therapist I soon realised that Jamie wasn’t always able to tell me what it was that was making him feel so cross, he didn’t understand why now people were telling him that it not ok to shout at his mum and that he should be listening to what his mum asks him to do.
Jamie started an intensive course of play therapy in which he used the therapeutic mediums available to him to ‘play out’ the difficult scenarios that he had witnessed between his mum and dad. Play is a child’s natural form of communication so for Jamie it didn’t matter that he couldn’t make sense of it or put into words what he was trying to express, he didn’t have to. He was accepted for who he was and what he was displaying without judgement. Jamie now had a safe place to explore and start to try and understand what had happened to him in his short life.
Jamie used large puppet heads and would fight with them in the playroom, he also regularly used the sand tray and figurines to act out the behaviour that he had seen his Father displaying to his mum. The father would always play the ‘baddy’ in his play. The ‘baddy’ would be hurting the other character or shouting and swearing at them. The ‘baddy’ would be telling the female character what to and making threats of what would happen if she didn’t do this.
Jamie began to process and make sense of the difficulties experienced and his behaviour began to change. He became calmer and was now able to voice his frustrations telling his mum what was making him feel so cross instead of hurting himself.
After 10 play therapy sessions Jamie no longer needed to be in therapy and his family relationships with his mum and siblings had improved.