Case Studies


David was a 5 year old boy who was referred to play therapy because of his anger and aggressive behaviours. David had witnessed frequent verbal arguments between his parents at home. David completed 16 sessions of individual play therapy.

In initial sessions, David used weapons for fighting and shooting and engaged in car crashes. Aggression was the overriding theme in his play. This seemed to be symbolic of conflict in the home. At times, David's aggression was directed towards the play therapist and safety limits were necessary to implement. As sessions progressed, David was able to release his anger in more appropriate ways for example using the boxing kit. In later sessions, David talked about his feelings freely. The playroom was a place where David could face his feelings which had not been safe for him to do before. This gave him a greater self-awareness.

David's mother reported that he was less angry and calmer at home. He was able to express his needs, wishes and feelings more appropriately. David's teacher also noticed a change in him at school. He was more confident and co-operative.


John was an 8 year old boy diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disorder caused by a lack of insulin secretion from the pancreas. Treatment involves insulin injections, exercise and regulation of stress and diet. John's parents thought that he had adjusted to the diabetes as he complied well with the diabetic routine of insulin injections. However, they reported that John had recently become challenging when asked to complete homework and chores or comply with rules. John completed 12 sessions of individual play therapy.

In initial sessions, John played out battles between soldiers in the sand box. This was followed by battle scenes between soldiers on one side of the sand box and plastic food items on the other. In middle sessions, John set up hospital scenes with battles between medical personnel and patients. Later, one particular patient began to win the battles. In final sessions, John did not play out battles, but painted pictures, played with family figures and talked about his favourite TV programmes.

While John's parents did not think that his behaviour was related to his medical condition, it was clear from the ‘battles' in John's play that he had strong feelings of anger towards the restrictions that his medical condition had on his life. Through play, John was able to express his feelings in an age-appropriate way in an environment of safety and trust. John developed an in increased understanding and sense of control over his feelings, preventing future negative expressions of these feelings. John's behaviour at home became less challenging and he became more became more co-operative with homework, chores and rules.


Sarah was an 11 year old girl who was referred to play therapy following her parent's separation. She was suffering from nightmares and sleeplessness and had become more clingy, more dependent and more demanding. Sarah completed 16 sessions of individual play therapy.

In initial sessions, Sarah drew pictures of people and houses. The content and colours used in her pictures, seemed to represent happy and sad memories and feelings that she had about her family. In middle sessions, Sarah seemed to explore feelings and experiences about her parent's separation through re-enactment of home scenarios using the doll's house, furniture and family figures. In final sessions, Sarah placed miniature world objects in the sand tray which seemed to tell the story of her parent’s separation. Using creative mediums of art, doll play and sand, Sarah was able to explore and express her feelings about her parent's separation and in so doing, reached a greater understanding and acceptance of her new family situation.

Sarah's mother reported that she was happier and less clingy, and that the nightmares and sleeplessness had ceased. Sarah had also become more independent and started some extra-curricular activities