Sixteen year old Amy came to The Green House for drama therapy following sexual abuse from an adult male family friend. She had been in foster care for several years after a court had found her parents’ guilty of neglect and a failure to protect her from the friends who had abused her from such a young age.
Amy’s foster carers described her as a popular, sociable girl with lots of energy and hobbies. She was doing well at school academically, but having difficulty with teachers and support staff as she struggled to follow school rules. She was regularly refusing to attend school or would absent herself from lessons and leave the school premises, raising school and home’s concerns for her safety. Amy viewed herself as being able to “take care of herself” and resented adults expressing worry for her, or as she saw it, imposing restrictions on where she could go and with whom.
On first meeting Amy, she appeared to be very self-confident and full of creative ideas and energy. She enjoyed using the sessions to write stories and then began to want to use drama in order to enact the stories that she had created about motherhood, babies and families. Amy regularly wanted to take on the role of the mother, caring for a number of young babies all by herself. Two themes began to emerge from this work: that of Amy expressing the need and wish to be in charge of her world; and that of Amy having not had her own needs met by her parents as a young child.
Using the stories she had written and enacted, Amy was able to explore how she felt in the role of a mother. She described to her therapist the powerful feeling of protecting her babies and then made links to her own life and wanting to somehow make up for her own past experiences. Amy became able to see her own fears that perhaps she had not been a “good enough” baby and was therefore somehow responsible for the harm she had experienced. Amy then began to take on the role of the baby in her stories and explored her own needs that had not been met in early childhood. Through this role, Amy was able to recognise that the “perfect baby” did not exist and that it had therefore not been her responsibility to have been so.
By the end of therapy, Amy was more able to accept that it was OK for her to express her own needs rather than trying to fulfil these through growing up too fast and having to be the adult. Through becoming more able to recognise her own needs and wants, Amy decided to go to college to study creative writing.
On an emotional level, Amy and her therapist thought about how scary it was to acknowledge her longing to be looked after and cared for, and how she sometimes reacted against this by playing up at school or at home.
Due to her early life experiences of getting hurt when adults were “in charge,” it continues to be difficult for Amy to let people know when she might need to rely on them. However, with the help of her therapist, Amy was able to talk about this with here carers and school. They now have a better understanding of why this might be, making it easier for them to know when to offer support and when to step back and give Amy space. Amy’s improved relationship with her foster carers has meant they are now more able to discuss with her the reasons for the rules and boundaries they set, as well as finding ways of helping her to gain her independence.