A "Must Have" Tool for a Play Therapy Technique: "The Happiest Place on Earth" Play Therapy Mandala

by Play Therapy #6
(Atlanta, GA, USA)

Play Therapy Mandala: A Must Have Tool

Play Therapy Mandala: A Must Have Tool

Mandala Assignment
May 30, 2012

You never know what might happen when you start an art project, especially in a play therapy training. Self-expression is after all the most essential component of art. Art is often about capturing a moment in the psyche of the artist.

Moments before we were given this play therapy mandala assignment, I received some news that disappointed me and frankly left me unsure of my future. It was in this mindset that I began to create this mandala. I allowed myself to create purely in the moment, drawing whatever my heart could express through my hands.

My first impulse was to draw Mickey Mouse ears on the mandala circle. I almost stopped myself, thinking that it would not be very academic. I then fell back to the initial impulse to create something in the moment. I then started to draw sweeping arches within the circle. I used several different colors and drew from several different angles. As it began to take shape, i noticed there was an empty space in the middle. I suddenly conceptualized the meaning behind my mandala.

I consider myself an artist, but drawing is not my medium. I wanted to start over on the assignment so I take the time to could truly express the feelings that I associated with the mandala.

I used circles to represent different aspects of my life. There are four different colors for each member of my family. There is also an orange circle for school and a green circle for work. All of these circles are intertwined and circling around the empty space in the middle, which is where I feel I exist.

My life is in constant chaos. It seems that the harder I try to reign in the different aspects of my life, the worse it gets. This cycle leaves me longing for some sense of stability in my life. I search for a state of "organized" chaos.

This concept is even evident in the way I completed the play therapy mandala. Even though I committed to creating something in the moment, I still had to redo the assignment to make it "good enough". Truthfully, I would like to do the assignment again to fix some obvious errors, but i think that would defeat the purpose of the assignment.

As an adult male, it would seem that the MIckey ears would be the furthest thing from my mind. The fact is that they have a special meaning for me. The last few years have been especially difficult. It seems that the proverbial "rug" has been pulled out from beneath the feet of every aspect of my life. During this time, we have managed to hold on to a time-share at Disneyworld that my wife and I bought years before this latest round of difficulties all happened.

My wife and kids and I go there every year the week after Christmas. We stay for one week. For the past few years, we have not had the money to go to the theme parks or any of the paid attractions. But for that one week, we are all generally happy. We have traditions and procedures we follow every time we go. Everyone knows what is expected of them, and everyone generally does what they are expected to do. When problems arise, they are generally handled quickly without ruining the trip. This annual trip has become a reprieve from our normally chaotic lives. It has become that bright spot in my family's year. Disneyworld refers to itself as the "happiest place on earth," and for me and family, it has come to live up to its creed.

In that moment of uncertainty when I began this play therapy project, I find it interesting that I chose this image to represent my feelings. That one week a year may mean more to me than even I realized. In the mandala, I represented my family within the ears. There are five circles that all come together at one point. They are all the same color to represent unity.

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Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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