Play Therapy and Art Therapy Animal Self-Portrait

by Colby Longoria-Walters
(Waco, TX USA)

Art Therapy and Play Therapy Dream Portrait

Art Therapy and Play Therapy Dream Portrait

The above picture is an animal self-portrait of a 5-year-old, male client. This client witnessed the brutal shooting and killing of his mother by his step-father, along with his two younger sisters and their cousin. He now resides with his birth father and grandparents in a location about 100 miles of his prior home. He is very shy but loves to talk about school and dinosaurs. After reading the Creative Counseling 101 e-book, I thought that the animal self-portrait activity would be a great activity for this client because he loves to draw, color, and paint and it might give me an insight as to how he is processing the trauma. I was certain he would compose a picture of a dinosaur, showing that he was maybe destructive and wanted full control over the situation.
It was unclear as to what the client was drawing at first, but after a few questions, the client revealed that if he was an animal, he would be a dog. We talked about what being a dog meant to him. He stated that dogs were friendly and nice, but could also protect anyone who was in trouble. He also stated that his father purchased a dog for him after his traumatic experience and it has helped him feel safe. The dog is a pit bull that is grey and has a white face. His name is Dream. The other items in the picture include a lake, so the dog will have something to drink; a tree, so he can lay in the shade; and two suns, one for where he lives and one for where his mother now lives.
The dog seems very appropriate for this client and his explanation was beautiful. He wants to feel safe and make others feel safe, yet have the ability to protect those that he loves. The water and tree show that this client has a nurturing side and thinks about the needs of others. His placement of the two sons was very symbolic of his view of his mother. It is unclear as to if this client fully understands what actually happened and his thoughts as to where his mother or mother’s spirit is located.

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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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