Arizona (of Grey's Anatomy): "This is not general surgery on a miniature scale. These are tiny humans. These are children. They believe in magic. They play pretend. There is fairy dust in their IV bags. They hope, and they cross their fingers, and they make wishes, and that makes them more resilient than adults. They recover faster, survive worse. They believe."

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.)


  1. Anonymous on January 30, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    You're awesome!

    I remember once having to have a discussion about the dollhouse play of my son...who always put us both in the bathroom. They labeled him "anal retentive", and questioned me about this joint bathroom time.

    I simply stated that the majority of our time was morning time getting ready to leave, and evening time getting ready for bed, and that he needed CONSTANT supervision, and we didn't have hang-ups about who saw who...we just spent time together getting ready to leave or go to bed. I think I was still prime suspect number one for pretty much everything.

    I too, love how a child can speak one moment of the unspeakable, and then flit on to what's for lunch. And I love knowing you are in the world working with them.

  2. Lisa on January 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    And I love stories about you and your son ... especially the stories about when he was little! ;) I think I would have been ok with joint bathroom time in play(makes perfect sense to me and I don't think I can clinically tell you what anal retentive truly means) ... it's more when the "kid" hangs the "mom" and the "dad" with shoelaces around their necks from the beams of the dollhouse that make me wince ...


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