Ntsapho (not his real name) is a 5 yr year old boy who was referred to Empilweni by the psychologist at Khayelitsha Hospital because he wouldn’t speak to her. Six months ago his behaviour started changing and he became cheeky, demanding and aggressive, using big swear words. He recently stabbed a cousin with a pen and he demanded to have a gun so that he could kill everybody. A few months before the onset of this behavior his father was shot to death by robbers at his home in his and his mother’s presence. The mother was very traumatized and couldn’t cope with seeing reminders of her husband every day, so they left their home to stay with the maternal family.
The mother was being treated for her own emotional needs by the psychologist, so Empilweni was able to concentrate on Ntsapho. For the first two sessions he was too anxious to separate from his mother, or to talk, so the mother was included in the sessions and Ntsapho was encouraged to use gestures to indicate his answers.
Gradually Ntsapho trusted the counselor enough to be on his own with her and to talk about the fears and worries and sadness that this traumatic experience had caused. He soon began to work through his feelings in free play, drawing, and story-telling. The mother was helped to understand how Ntsapho was trying to cope with his trauma, and how best she could assist him, while at the same time, learning how to set limits on unacceptable behavior. The mother’s extended family was also seen, to explain to them how best they could support her.
In all, Ntsapho was seen for 8 sessions, mother for 3, and the extended family for 2 sessions. Both mother and Ntsapho made good progress in coming to terms with their loss and their trauma, and Ntsapho became once more the happy, friendly child he had been.