The Art Therapy Family Portrait Technique

Learn How To Do The Art Therapy Family Portrait Technique with your clients, or students.

We can teach you how at Creative Counseling!

This is a very important art therapy technique that I give to children and adults. This activity gives me a lot of insight and information about the client and their family situation.

I usually wait until at least the third art therapy session with the client to do this activity. I will always have the client do the art therapy self-portrait first before asking for a family portrait (See Art Therapy Tab to your left).

Many school counselors will have a student complete an art therapy family portrait on the very first visit. I do not do this as it seems to violate the "beginning forming relationship" with the student, or art therapy client. Allow some time to get to know the art therapy client, or student. before completing the art therapy family portrait.

A relationship must be created before the art therapy family portrait is requested. The same is true for creating a miniature world, or using the doll house. The art therapy family portrait shows the child’s view of the family and the world that family lives in.

To a child, their family is the most important thing in the entire world. In healthy families all members are loved, cherished, and protected. 

A healthy family keeps children safe and raises them into adulthood in order for the children to one day repeat the process. All dynamics of the family of this can be seen in the art therapy family portrait.

When you ask the art therapy client to complete the art therapy family portrait you are asking for information and insight on the family relationship, the hidden rules, who likes who, who dislikes others, who is accepted, who has the power, patterns, beliefs, and family issues, challenges, and strengths.

The art therapy family portrait technique can show a healthy family dynamics, or a dysfunctional family dynamic. One can even spot possible abuse in a family portrait (See Art Therapy Interpret Art Counseling Drawings Tab to the Left).

Use this art therapy activity with caution. Allow the art therapy therapy client to be the ultimate translator. Do not put your own judgement onto the art therapy family portrait.

Materials for Art Therapy Family Portrait Technique:

One Large sheet of white paper

Markers, pencils, pens, or crayons 

Directions for the Art Therapy Family Portrait Technique:

1. Ask the client to draw a picture of their family to make the art therapy family portrait.

2. Allow time for the client to finish the art therapy family portrait drawing. This might take a session, or two, to complete.

3. Once theart therapy family portrait drawing is completed ask the  client to “introduce you” to all the family members.

4. Look to see what family members are included in the art therapy family portrait. Is the client in the art therapy family portrait? If not, then ask why they did not draw themself in the drawing.

5. Look at what family members are next to each other in this art therapy family portrait drawing. This will usually tell you who is closest to whom in the family.

6. Are all family members drawn with the same perspective? Are some drawn very tiny, while others appear to be extremely large?

7. Ask questions about each family member? Why is dad drawn next to the older brother or sister? Why is the baby brother at the very end, far away from everyone else?

8. I usually do several art therapy family portrait drawings over time. This allows me to see any progress or regression with the client.

Note: This art therapy family portrait techniques can and should be used with other art therapy and sand tray therapy techniques. See the mandala, sand tray, puppet shows, and miniatures. See miniature worlds, mandala, puppets, and sand tray on this website. 

Look at the navigation bar to the left for more information on art therapy, sand tray therapy, play therapy and more!

Family Portrait to Creative Counseling Home

Copyright © 2015 Creative Counseling 
All Rights Reserved

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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