Survivors Among Us
Stories that Inspire Hope
Joshua walked into the play therapy room to meet play therapist, Ms. Sonia at SafeHaven; he felt uncomfortable and withdrawn. As a child witness to domestic violence, Joshua struggled to understand concepts like safety and trust due to trauma witnessed at home. Kindergarten had been especially hard for him, fear manifested as anger, bursts of aggression, sadness, lethargy and anxiety. His day-to-day felt like a never ending roller coaster. By his sixth birthday he had yet to learn coping skills or the ability to express his emotions in a healthy outlet; he felt out of control. During school his teachers presented as frustrated with him, while at home mom and dad would argue and become physically combative. Joshua felt as if he was without any support or outlet for his anger.
Play therapy was different. Joshua felt safe, Joshua learned it was okay to be upset and how to express his feelings in a healthy manner. Joshua felt special. The play therapy room was an incredible place for just Joshua, not mom too. Ms. Sonia gently explained the ‘rules’ of play therapy, ‘here, you get to make the rules. Here, you are safe. Here, we can talk if you want, or not – it’s up to you, you decide how you would like to spend your time.’ This was too good to be true for Joshua. A place where he can play and be a child, free from worries that he would upset dad, free from worries that he would be too loud, free from worries that he was making too big of a mess.
Joshua had to adjust to this experience, was he going to talk to Ms. Sonia or not? Initially, he would come to play therapy withdrawn and wouldn’t say much. It is not that he felt shy but after witnessing and experiencing abuse for so long Joshua had learned it was easier not to talk to grown-ups. Every session he would pick one toy – a slinky – and quietly play alone, until his session ended.
The next few weeks were similar. He showed up, Ms. Sonia gave him the rules, and he would find one area to play in during the session. He avoided the hot wheels and tools because the reminded him of his dad when he was working on cars, but he really liked the kitchen set where he could make masterpieces for him and Ms. Sonia. After several play therapy sessions, Joshua began to learn it truly was a ‘safe place’. He began to enjoy playing pretend and explain his previous home life. Ms. Sonia was easy to talk to, and she didn’t mind being silly when he said that the new rule was vegetables are bad for you and all we could eat was candy, or we could only eat soup with forks. Every session felt a little bit easier.
School became easier too. After 6 weeks with Ms. Sonia, he was proud to show his new report card. He was getting more P’s and S’s (making progress and satisfactory) in his class instead of always getting N’s (needs improvement). Through his time with Ms. Sonia he began to understand how to express his feelings – without yelling or outbursts. Over his time with Ms. Sonia, Joshua improved his grades and obtained coping skills.
Every child deserves a voice and SafeHaven helped Joshua strengthen his – we are proud of you Joshua.