The Play Therapy Doll House

Family Portrait Activity

This is an excellent play therapy doll house activity for adults, teens, adolescents, or children. I can learn more about a person's childhood in thirty minutes doing this activity than I can talking to them for five or more "talk therapy" sessions.

For their final exam, my play therapy counseling graduate students actually have to build a doll house that is similar to the home, or homes, they grew up in. They also pick play therapy miniatures that represent their family members. I ask them to reenact a typical scene from their childhood while living in the home (or apartment, etc.),

My play therapy students go into this project with all their heart. Just building the home from cardboard or wood brings back so many memories for them.

Usually, within ten minutes of presenting a "typical family scene" students are tearing up and bringing forward all kinds of emotions they felt in childhood. Sometimes these past emotions are happy, sometimes they are sad.

With play therapy graduate students, this play therapy doll house activity stirs up unfinished business from their earlier life. They often realize it is something to be addressed, possibly even in a private therapy session later.

The play therapy students are amazed at the power of the doll house when used in play therapy. Each time I witness this session, I too am amazed as it is always very powerful weather it is a positive or negative home environment.

I also recommend this when working with play therapy children as you can really learn a lot about what is going on in the life of a child by witnessing how they view their home life. This is better than the family portrait on paper!

Materials for Play Therapy Doll House: Generic Doll House or Unfurnished Doll House Furniture and Miniatures for the client to choose and place in the doll house.

Directions for Play Therapy Doll House Activity:

1. Allow the play therapy client time to build their childhood home, or home, using available doll house furniture and miniatures. This is where the generic doll house fits into play.

2. The play therapy client will build the house similar to building a sand tray. The play therapist will need to sit back and witness the building stage unless the client wants to talk while building.

3. The play therapy client will choose miniatures that represent their family of origin or family. These can be "anything" from people, to animals, to things.

4. When the play therapy client is finished, ask them to reenact a typical scene from their childhood, or home environment. Stay with the play therapy client as they act out their family scene.

5. Process with the play therapy client as needed after the scene has been completed. Ask what they would change if they could. If there is something to change, allow the client to do so.

6. Tell the play therapy client to feel free to exchange, take away, or add miniatures as needed. This can be a powerful way to "re-frame" the past if necessary.

This play therapy activity is very powerful and should only be used with a professional play therapist, or with proper play therapy supervision.

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