Back to The Future: Play Therapy Doll House

by Chris WIlson
(Play Therapy Student for Play Therapy Class)

Back to The Future: Play Therapy Doll House

Back to The Future: Play Therapy Doll House

When I first heard other students talk about the infamous "play therapy doll house" assignment in Dr. Stangline's Play Therapy Class at Mercer University, I was excited. Compared to research papers and literature reviews, a craft project seemed like a welcome respite. I was even more intrigued by the fact that we were required to make it without the aid of a kit. Then came the twist: it was to be based on our childhood home.

What? I had already designed in my head the classic victorian play therapy dollhouse with all the ubiquitous accouterments. Was I really supposed to scrap all that for your basic 1970's ranch shoebox? Disappointed was hardly the word to describe how I felt.

After a couple of days of fretting over just how I could possibly make this project interesting, my wife casually made a comment that restored my hope: "Well, you do have those plans..." Of course! I had completely forgotten about "the plans"

The plans of which she spoke were a set of detailed floor plans drawn by my father for improvements he planned to make on my childhood home. The plans included additions to the original structure. While living in the house, we partially completed the changes, but moved before we could complete the renovation. At some point after my father's death, I came across the plans and held on to them for sentimental reasons. I decided that for my doll house, I would complete the house with the changes he had designed.

The process of building this play therapy doll house was unbelievably therapeutic. My father built houses, and I began working with him on job-sites from the time I was about eight years old. As a result, I also participated in the renovations to our home. Seeing this home completed, even at a smaller scale, felt like a an opportunity to work with my father once again.

As I followed his plans to complete this play therapy doll house, there came a flood of memories. I was able to once again visit where significant events in my life took place. My sons were able to contribute to the building of this home, just as I was able to contribute to the building of the original when I was their age.

An even more interesting component of this project was that while I followed my father's plans, I was able to change aspects of the home I found less appealing. I changed the roof design. I changed the exterior veneer. I remodeled and updated the interior. I was able to put in the pool I always wanted. I think that is the power of the play therapy doll house.

We all have our baggage that we carry with us. It is based on memories that we have of fixed moments in time. By reconstructing these moments, we are able to step back and get a different perspective. Even though we can't change that moment in the past, we can renovate and restructure the way we think of it to fit our needs for the future.

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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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