In Play Therapy with older children (tweens) and teens, one of the important tenets is helping the child to establish a sense of self — Who am I? Who do I want to become? What are the innate things about me that are loveable and of value?
Too often, girls especially are targeted at a young age through media and savvy marketing to believe that “I am not enough,” “my body is not good enough, skinny enough, pretty enough.” This crushes a young girl’s self-esteem and confidence, placing them in even a more vulnerable, emotionally charged way of existing.
A powerful art-based play therapy intervention called the Inside/Outside Box is focused on helping identify how a child sees themselves, as well as how they think other's perceive them. In this activity, the making of a collage is used as a powerful, symbolic representation of the self.
The child can choose (or can bring into session) a shoe box with a lid. Instruct the client to cut out different words and/or pictures from magazines that represent how he/she believes others view him/her. Glue them into a collage on the outside of the box and lid.
Explore how other’s perceptions may or may not be true, what the client thinks about and feels while looking at their “outside box”.
On the inside of the box, have the child repeat the process using different magazine pictures and/or words. However, on the inside of the box focus on how the child sees his/her true self and identity.
Ask the client to share what each symbol or word is, along with its personal symbolic meaning. Process any thoughts and feelings that may surface.
Note, this may take several sessions to complete, and you may want to assign this intervention as “homework” for older children and teen clients.
The Inside/Outside Box is a wonderful tool that elicits powerful emotions and helps the tween and/or teen begin to see their whole self, creating a launching pad for blossoming self-esteem and self-worth.
Learn more strategies to help children express emotions with the new workbook, My Many Colors of Me, by Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S.