Play Therapy and Art Therapy Self-Portrait

by Colby Longoria-Walters
(Waco, TX USA)

Play Therapy and Art Therapy Self-Portrait

Play Therapy and Art Therapy Self-Portrait

The above picture is a self-portrait of a 4-year-old female client. This client was sexually abused by her grandfather. After allegations were made, her mother failed to remove her from the environment and this child was continuously abused. Child Protective Services became involved, removed her from her home and placed her in a foster family. Her new foster family consists of the mother and an older brother. This client does not look like your typical 4-year-old child. She is very tall and very curious. She asks a lot of questions and talks a lot about food. Her favorite items in the play room are the mirror, sand box, and yellow exercise ball.
After becoming tired of the sandbox one session, this client asked if we could color together. I got out all of the coloring supplies and asked her to draw me a picture of herself that I could put in her file. As I watched her draw this picture, I noticed that she was pressing very hard with the marker onto the paper while drawing her arms and legs and used very light pressure while drawing her head. According to the’s translation page, this could indicate fear, trauma, and/or aggression. It is not evident as to if her picture is of a boy or girl, indicating possible sexual trauma. The self-portrait is a stick figure representing an insecure or depressed person. She drew one arm and no hands which could point to a sense of helplessness. Most concerning to me the most was the facial expression in her drawing. In my experience, most children will draw a smiling face on everything, so for her drawing to show a straight line for a mouth, indicating no smile, lead me to believe she was mad or sad.

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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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