Who's It? Scribble Tag with Children Who Have Witnessed Abuse

by Catherine Swanston

This study examines the usefulness of including the game of Scribble Tag in the initial assessment process with children who have witnessed and experienced abuse. Scribble Tag is a variation of the schoolyard chasing game “Tag”, which is played on paper and incorporates the child’s drawing and use of a Home Base or Safe Place. Phenomenological and psychodynamic examinations of three aspects of Scribble Tag, the Home Base, the manner of play and the interaction with other reveal the game’s usefulness in gathering information about a number of domains of interest to therapists working with children who have been exposed to violence. These areas of interest include eight themes for assessment: the child’s concept of safety, coping skills and defenses, strengths including ego strength, how a child feels about self, the child’s concept of boundaries, developmental issues, and the child’s current concerns. The game also reveals possible indicators of four clinical issues: sexual abuse, attachment disruption, anxiety, and post-traumatic play or on-going trauma.  Further analysis focused on these areas of interest leads to the conclusion that the behavioural indicators, hypotheses and questions which arise in the mind of the therapist while playing Scribble Tag can, as part of an initial client assessment, contribute to the development of working hypotheses regarding the therapeutic needs of children, and assist the therapist in setting relevant treatment goals.