Play Therapy Technique All Therapist Must Do! The Family Portrait

by Play Therapy Student and Therapist
(Atlanta, GA)

My Play Therapy Technique You Must Do  - Family Portrait

My Play Therapy Technique You Must Do - Family Portrait

I can remember being in art class in elementary school and being asked to draw pictures of what was important to me. Every now and then I would draw pictures of books because I love to read or of myself swimming or playing volleyball. However, it was my family that was an ongoing point of interest for those drawings. They were my world then, and it was interesting to see how excited I got when given the opportunity to draw them again decades later.

Back in elementary school, my family was much smaller. There was me, my mom and dad, my younger sister and my two younger brothers. However, my family has grown a lot over the years; and in my picture I wanted to showcase everybody and their present interests.

In my picture was the original Sensational Six, my new brother in law, sister in law, two nephews, two nieces, and our dog. I used stick figures and a lot of my favorite colors – magenta, purple, and teal – in my picture.

I thought that I had depicted a pretty basic picture, but my “therapist” was able to pick up on several undertones in my picture that I was completely unaware of.

She began by allowing me to introduce the individual members of my family. My dad is a police lieutenant so I drew him with his badge and police hat. Standing next to him is my youngest brother with his headphones – he loves his music. On the other side of my dad is my mom. I drew them together because for as long as I can remember, they have been a united front. Next to my mom is me with my school books in hand because lately that is all I ever seem to do. In front on me is our dog.

She is the family dog but, I take responsibility for her – she is my baby – which is why she in front of me. I then drew my sister and her husband with their two children on the right hand side and my brother with his wife and two children on the left.

After I introduced them, she asked me why they did not have any faces. The question threw me off because I did not realize that I had done that. I thought about that question for a while and then figured that it may be because we are good at hiding our emotions from the outside world. We are intuitive with one another and can easily pick up when something is wrong with the other person, but we do not like to put that out for others to see.

Then she recognized how my brother’s family seemed to be separated from the rest of the picture and asked if there may be a reason why I did that. I thought about it and explained how rocky things have been between my brother and the rest of us since she has come into this life and it tends to cause a separation – in an effort to keep down confusion.

This play therapy family portrait assignment for my play therapy class was more insightful than I initially credited it to be. I know how I feel about my family but this simple picture helped me to see how I feel about them – putting things into a perspective that I normally ignore or deem as normal.

I think that this play therapy assignment will open some lines of communication between me and my family members and possibly help us to regain some facial expressions and spatial closeness in the next play therapy portrait.

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*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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