Play Therapy 101 Technique Case Study Part 2

by Latia Nell
(New Zealand)

Creative Counselling 101 : Play Therapy 101 Assessment Case Study Technique : Part 2
Case Description
M is a 9 ½ year old girl. She has eight siblings. M lives in a large extended family of 40 plus people who are all neighbors. Many of M’s male relative are all part of a gang known as the “Mongrel Mob”. Mob members are known for high levels of indiscriminate physical and sexual violence.
Presenting issues
M has recently become very depressed, and has regressed in her behavior and academic performance. It is very clear that something has happened to her, or that she has witnessed something traumatic around the gang’s activities.
Counselling goal
The goal has been to give M an opportunity in a safe place to express herself, and to help her resource herself emotionally so she can cope with her life situation.
Session progression
M was happy to attend counselling, and found the idea of being in counselling “like on TV” highly novel and attractive, although it soon became evident that she was actively avoiding any real / deep issues. In the third session we created a mandala out of candy. M was given a variety of types of candy, in different shapes, colors, textures and sizes. She chose to only use Pebbles, which are candy covered chocolate drops, about a third of an inch in diameter. M explained her choice as “I like how I know they are always all the same”, which is indicative of her need for stability.

We then explored many possible meanings of her mandala. M chose the following interpretations as being relevant to her :
• Dots showing there is something hidden / secret in her life.
• The repeated heart pattern, which shows she feels loved, and love as a source of strength.
• The predominance of red, pink and purple colours :
 Pink, the ‘quiet’ colour, shows her fear to speak out.
 Purple, a need for attention (help).
 A red ‘outline’ showing a sense of threat or danger, and powerful emotions, surrounding her entire life.
 The sparing use of yellow shows hope that is still there.

M was happy to then move into exploring what was going on in her life. It came to light that there was an uncle who was trying to become the patriarch of the family through physical violence. CYF’s (Child Youth & Family – the New Zealand equivalent of Social Services) staged a cultural intervention, where the grandfather was given the opportunity and support to reassert his position in the highly traditional family. He did this, with explicit instructions to the younger people to refrain from all violence or face the consequences (he would expel them from the family homes).
Within the next two sessions, M was visibly more relaxed and secure. She had the support and security of her parents and grandfather in asserting her safety needs.

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