My current clients are tiny. They are victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect. They come from families with multiple stressors: poverty, racism, violence. They have PTSD. Many of them do not come from homes where they are told how wonderful they are or how much they are loved. They soil their pants and we call it "sneaky poo"* . They have severe separation anxiety and we spy on the "scary feelings." Their stuffed animals talk to them and give them strength and magical powers to overcome fear.
Sometimes they play in weird ways with dollhouses.
Something always comes out of dollhouse play.
And little bit by little bit, we work on the things that are big and scary and bad. Because those things, it turns out, aren't really a match for the fierceness of my shortest clientele.
And we end sessions like this:
My 6 year old client: "Lisa! The big hand is on the 11 and you said when it got on the 11 it was time to put away our toys! Can we play with the paint next time? I got goldfish crackers today for snack. I love goldfish crackers. I love cheddar! I'm so glad I'm not allergic to cheddar 'cause then I couldn't eat CHEESE!! And next time, can we talk about our feelings some more, too? AND play Connect Four?"
My friend, I also love cheese and Connect Four.
But I do kind of dread dollhouse play ...
(* Freeman, J., Epston, D. & Lobovits, D. (1997). Playful Approaches To Serious Problems. Norton & Company: New York.)