Meet Deesha Boodhoo – ellenor’s newest play therapist.
In her role, Deesha works with children who have recently experienced the loss of a family member – be it a parent, grandparent, or sibling – to help them express and come to terms with their feelings through the medium they’re most comfortable with. Play.
Deesha also works closely with ellenor’s Children’s Team, counsellors, and other play therapists – including Jola Martis – to understand each child’s profile from a holistic perspective. She evaluates referrals, contributes to ellenor’s GEMS (Grief Every Moment is Special) days for bereaved children, and collaborates with social services.
Speaking to Deesha, it’s easy to see why she found such a profession. (Or, perhaps, why the profession found her.) She’s a calm, gentle presence, and has a natural knack for building relationships with both parents and children.
It’s something that, when you’re working with children who have experienced almost unfathomable loss, is crucial for establishing trust – and enabling the child to be as comfortable and at ease as possible while they play.
“Grief and loss is something that so often doesn’t get spoken about amongst family and friends,” Deesha explains. “So when a child comes for play therapy, they know they’re in a safe space. That they can be who, and how, they want to be – and will receive acceptance and unconditionally positive regard.”
Many elements of Deesha’s personal history and background feed into her innate ability for understanding not only children, but the grief and loss they’re grappling with when they come in for play therapy.
Born in Mauritius, she moved to the UK at the age of 18, where she gained her Bachelor’s degree. Relocating to move halfway around the world – from a small island nation in the Indian Ocean to our island in the North Sea – Deesha explains that at that time she not only, in a way, lost her country. But her grandfather.
Only many years later did Deesha realise how much that loss affected her.
“It’s why I love working with people going through grief and bereavement,” Deesha explains, “because I’ve experienced it myself. And I think when you’ve been something personally, you’re able to empathise more; to understand more.
“That’s what’s led me here.”
In 2013, Deesha moved to Kuwait, where she taught in a British school. There, she nurtured her love of working with children – though she had some reservations.
“I loved teaching, but there were a lot of things I wasn't happy about: the undervaluing of the children’s wellbeing, and how everyone was pushed into the race of pursuing high marks. There wasn’t enough of a focus on the social or emotional aspects of the children’s health.”
Later, Deesha moved back to the UK, gained her Master’s in Play Therapy – and the rest is history. Yet it was a tricky occupation to explain to her friends and family – Deesha is Hindu, and play therapy isn’t a concept common in her faith.
So we ask: Deesha, how would you define play therapy?
“It’s similar to counselling,” she explains, “but the toys become words for the children. A five- or six-year-old doesn’t know what anxiety is or why they keep on experiencing different heavy emotions after experiencing death of one of their family members. Many times, we see children communicating their feelings in other ways such as changes in behaviour and in symbolic ways (Play activities or artwork). Sometimes the behaviour can revert to the typical behaviour of a younger child which is known as regression or acting out behaviours which can be seen as difficult to manage by the family.