Troy received play therapy from BB4K

Troy*, aged 7, is receiving Bounce Back 4 Kids (BB4K) support after experiencing domestic abuse from his birth mother.

Troy lives with his dad Nathan* who has full custody. They broke off contact with Troy’s birth mother in 2019 and have moved into a new home. The BB4K service lead referred Troy for play therapy because there were no available BB4K groups for his age range at that time. Nathan also experienced abuse from Troy’s mother and received one-to-one support from the service lead.

Initially, the BB4K team were concerned with Troy’s emotional wellbeing after he experienced neglectful and abusive parenting from his birth mother and witnessed domestic abuse towards his dad. He was internalising his feelings and was not able to talk about the things his biological mother did and said to him. He was crying at school but did not know why and was exhibiting ticks and mumbling to himself. He was also struggling to settle into their new home. Nathan worried about the long-term impact on Troy if he did not receive support.

Troy began attending weekly play therapy sessions in March 2021. Play therapy helps children to explore their feelings, to express themselves and to make sense of their life experiences. Play is children’s natural medium to learn, communicate and to explore their worlds. Conventional talking therapies may be inappropriate for children and young people who struggle to put their feelings into words.

Play therapy allows children the opportunity to explore and understand these feelings through play at their own pace.

BB4K’s experienced play therapist worked with the family on several key objectives:

  • To provide a child-centred environment for Troy to be able to process his early life experiences
  • To improve his emotional well-being
  • To enable Troy to be able to verbalise his worries and open up to his dad
  • To support Nathan to understand the effects of early trauma and domestic abuse
  • To support Troy’s school with any difficulties Troy maybe having
  • To promote positive relationships with women

Troy initially found it difficult to settle at the beginning of his play therapy sessions. He was unable to communicate his feelings about his early experiences either through verbal communication or through play with the toys and art materials. By using a non-directive child-centred approach, the play therapist gradually built up a relationship of trust with Troy and he became more relaxed and confident.

One year later, weekly sessions are continuing and the play therapist has seen several positive outcomes in Troy. He has been able to use his voice, the sensory provision, sand and art materials to communicate his feelings and to talk about his life with his birth mother. He is now able to make decisions in the room and take control of games, even making up his own rules. His play has become more relational and he appears confident in the therapist’s ability to cope with his pain, anger and sense of loss. He has begun to display a range of emotions.

The therapy sessions have also improved Troy’s life at home and at school and Nathan has noticed several gradual changes. Troy is better at communicating and they sometimes talk about his ‘old mum’ and how Troy feels about her. His confidence has increased and he feels safer in his new home. Initially, he could not be left alone in a room because he was too scared; this has improved a lot, though there is still some way to go. He is also more confident in class, although still lacks confidence in his own abilities. His teacher reports that Troy is more able to communicate his needs and worries with adults and, with support, he is less aggressive when reacting to situations with his peers. Nathan feels they now have a strong foundation to help Troy keep building on the progress he is making with the BB4K play therapist.

* Names changed for confidentiality