Journal of Psychology in Africa

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The great arch of unimagined bridges: Integrative play therapy with an abused child

Rachel McDermott


This case study describes the early phases of integrative, long-term psychotherapy undertaken with a child subjected to chronic domestic trauma including violence, alcohol abuse, neglect, abandonment, and bereavement resulting from HIV/AIDS. Recent statistics on the prevalence of violent trauma, domestic abuse and HIV/AIDS in South Africa are reviewed, as are principles of trauma intervention that have been established across a range of psychotherapeutic modalities. Following from integrative trauma work undertaken locally, this therapeutic process acknowledges both indigenous and western frameworks of meaning, the latter most heavily informed by principles of analytical psychology. Selected aspects of the therapy are discussed in light of both perspectives, with reference to the child's process of recovery. This paper seeks to add support to practised and published local work in which a range of possible healing practices, meanings, and experience are taken into account. It is proposed that such integrative efforts contribute towards an evolving African psychotherapy.

Keywords: child, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotherapy, South Africa

Journal of Psychology in Africa 2005, 15(2): 165–175
AJOL African Journals Online