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Monday, August 13, 2012

Keeper Boxes

The Keeper Boxes
An Art Therapy Directive

Goal of Activity:
To give the client a safe place to express negative emotions or memories. Often people keep things bottled up inside of them, not trusting anyone (or themselves) to let it out. This directive gives the client a safe place to express herself and also provides an opportunity to let go of what has been bothering her.
Age Level:
All ages.
Suggested Time Allowance:
20-25 minutes for task, 15-20 minutes for processing and feedback.
          To increase client’s self-awareness.
To provide relief and decrease stress from “holding on to” painful events.
To have clients experience increased self-esteem and self-worth.
Any kind of small box (for this directive we are starting out with a small box in order to keep things to a manageable size), white construction paper, decorative paper (such as the paper used for scrap booking), ribbon, glue, scissors, and markers or pens. Your client can also decorate with paint or any other materials you can find that would work for this directive.

If you do not have access to boxes, you can also make a paper box. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2WpFN8bGQA&feature=related 


1)       Have the client choose a box (shape and size - you can also have the client make a box out of paper Mache or other materials).

2)       Next, ask the client to decorate the outside of the box.
3)       Cut several white paper pieces down to the size of the box so they can fit inside (these will be used as the pieces where the client will draw or color out what she is feeling or any negative memories, etc.).
4)       Place personal, important experiences, emotions, or thoughts on the pieces of paper inside (you can do this in one session, but often I have found that clients will take several session to fill the box and will let you know when they are ready to make another entry). It's important to highlight to the client that although it's alright to use words, the more images and colors that are used the more of a positive impact it will have on the client.

5)       Put the decorated paper in the box for safe-keeping and place the box in a safe place.
6)       Process the experience with the client.

Processing Questions:

1)  How was it making your Keeper box?
2)  What did you place on some of the pieces of paper to go inside the box?
3)  Can you leave it behind when you put the lid on, allow that issue to stay in the box without taking it with you?
4)  What will it take to leave that memory/emotion here with me so I can keep it for you?

Pandora’s Box:  Often, clients struggle with letting go of the pain surrounding a trauma. One of the analogies that I use with the client to help her in the process of dealing with her negative emotions/memories revolves around the story of Pandora’s Box. The idea is that if we open the lid all our emotions will come out (possibly explosively) and we will be out of control. Most clients seem to recognize this fear as being one they have as well.

I then ask, “What if there were several boxes, one that represented each feeling and each experience separately?” (I have them imagine my office wall as being full of shelves and on those shelves are tons of different boxes all shapes and sizes.) I tell them, "You can take down one box at a time, open the lid to deal with that emotion or experience and then put the lid back on and the box back up on the shelf whenever you want." This gives the client a sense of control and begins to shift her paradigm.

Then, each box I have the client use in art therapy is a metaphor for control. I may ask, "How does it feel to be able to put the lid on the negatives so you can let the positives come out?" After she answers, I reiterate that she has the power to do this with her life as well.

Getting It Out:  I further explain that it's important to take the “lid off” now and then so she can work on things in a "safe place" (like art therapy). Doing this helps the emotional pressure from building too much or become too much of a burden.

Pace It:  Taking her time is also very important. She has her own "process" and it is important to respect that process (not rushing or pushing too much).

You, as the art therapist, may need to help your client in the decorating process (depending on the needs of the client). Sometimes, the client does not have the confidence to make it happen. This is where positive affirmations and encouragement can make a huge difference. Usually, the end product evokes a sense of pride and increased self-worth in what was created.

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