Play is the language of childhood, expressed through fantasies of make-believe. Using toys and pretend can make a toy assessment interview be fun and productive. In this film, for example, the child “speaks” of aggression—and forgiveness – in a story of good guys and bad guys, violence and greed—but balanced with kindness and generosity. Because children “talk” through their play, it’s helpful for therapists to learn to understand and “speak” the language of pretend.
One of the most useful diagnostic procedures with young children is Lois Murphy’s Miniature Life Techniques. Spreading a variety of play materials on the floor, the therapist invites the child to “play with the toys in any way you wish.” Observing the play, sometimes taking notes, and narrating the action for clarification, the therapist follows the flow (or disruption) of the play and the general themes that emerge. At the end of the session the child is asked to reflect on the play, identifying what part(s) he liked the most and why. Here, Ben, a non-patient, becomes intensely involved in a war scene which he is reluctant to end. Then, after some indecision, he declares the knights the winner. Perhaps to make amends after so much killing, he announces that the rich people in a house gave away all the money to the poor. Then, asked his favorite character, he turned to reality and said “Sydney Crosby!” a hockey hero!
Total Running Time: 58 minutes