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“Killing a Demon”: The Use of Cultural Symbols in Therapeutic Work with Children- A Case Report

Authors:

H. M. C. D. K. Peeligama ,

Sirimavo Bandaranayake Specialized Children’s Hospital, Peradeniya, LK
About H. M. C. D. K.
Child Psychiatric Clinic
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U. R. Attygalle

Sirimavo Bandaranayake Specialized Children’s Hospital, Peradeniya, LK
About U. R.
Child Psychiatric Clinic
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Abstract

This case report describes how family conflict, and a lack of parental support for emotional expression, result in distress being expressed through cultural symbols in children, and how these very symbols can be utilized in therapy. In the current example, a 12-year-old girl presented to mental health services with altered behaviour and claims of being possessed by a demon for two months. There was a history of the parents being emotionally unavailable and frequent altercations with the paternal grandmother in whose house they currently lived. Even though possession states are not uncommon in adults presenting to mental health services, it is uncommon for children to present with persistent possession states for long periods of time. In this instance, the whole family was supported with an eclectic family therapy approach, using psychodynamic, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and Systemic ideas. This approach utilized the very same “demon” symbol the child presented with, and resulted in the child expressing her distress in a more adaptive way and getting back to her daily activities.
How to Cite: Peeligama, H.M.C.D.K. and Attygalle, U.R., 2022. “Killing a Demon”: The Use of Cultural Symbols in Therapeutic Work with Children- A Case Report. Journal of the University of Ruhuna, 10(1), pp.25–29. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/jur.v10i1.7990
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Published on 22 Dec 2022.
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