Working creatively and through play enables young people to express things that they find difficult to talk about which in turn externalises some of the uncomfortable emotions that they live with on a daily basis. This is the technique we used when helping Max overcome his fears and feelings towards his father.

Whilst using sand tray, Max chose a dinosaur to represent himself and identified his father with a rat. Max began to describe how the dinosaur would like to eat the rat so that it wouldn’t come back again. This intervention was vital for Max to begin to process his feelings around his father and to experience validation from a safe adult.

Following the sand tray session I worked with Max on the difference between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ hurts and we explored how they can both feel very painful. We read a story which reaffirmed this and Max was able to begin to identify some of his own hurts. We used a large piece of paper to draw around the outline of his body and Max used different shaped plasters to identify on his body where he had felt hurt. Throughout this process we explored how he knew if they were ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ hurts and we labelled them on the paper.

The final hurt that Max identified was an ‘inside’ hurt and he explained that he had felt it when the rat had come to the house at the weekend. He said that the dinosaur was scared that the rat would hit his mum. Max was able to identify key adults and telephone numbers that he could contact if he or others were unsafe via his ‘ Helping Hands Safety Plan’.