Applications of Sculpting, Role Play and Drawing to Counseling Children

Alusine M. Kanu, D.A. 

Family sculpting, role play, and drawing can be implemented as techniques in counseling to help those who struggle or for those in need of personal growth. Family sculpting can be desired and implemented and does provide information on family relationships that might not otherwise be perceived. It is also a helpful tool when working with children who may have neither the vocabulary nor the ability to fully express their understanding of family dynamics.

Kantor and Duhl (1973) add that sculpting symbolizes their interpersonal relations. The belief with this approach is that families accurately see their situations rather than just taking about them. Upon review of literature on sculpting, I believe families who do sculpting assume psychological responsibilities. These responsibilities involve remembering, planning and coordinating activities. When developed appropriately, the design of sculpting can develop a positive sense of self-worth (“I am lovable”) and a positive view of others (“People love and can be trusted”). I would hope to apply this technique because it enables families to secure attachment styles that are outgoing, affectionate, and can handle the challenges and disappointments of close relationships without losing self-esteem. An added value of using sculpting in family counseling is that the approach teaches “behavioral flexibility” (Pearson, 1983). This approach teaches counselees to adapt to new situations and relate in new ways when necessary. A flexible person draws on a large repertoire of behaviors. Such an individual is confident about sharing messages with others and about understanding the messages that others provide. The flexible person is able to self-disclose when appropriate but does not use this ability in inappropriate contexts. The flexible person can demonstrate listening skills. The flexible person can show concern for children, can be assertive, and can be independent when called on to stand alone. These are all behaviors one can observe when the family sculpts.

 The roles we play affect our communication, who we talk to, how we talk to them, what language we use and how we respond to feedback. A good example of a role play is parents’ treatment of children. Even after some people become adults, their parents treat them as they did when these people were growing up. I use role plays all the time. I believe that role plays are an instructional technique that can be identified to learn to relate, to influence, to play and to help. For example, traditional couples hold on to traditional gender roles. There are few power struggles because each person knows and adheres to a specific role within each relationship. Independent couples stress their individuality. Independents see themselves as relatively androgynous, as individuals who combine the traditionally feminine and the traditionally masculine roles and qualities.

All family relationships have a clear perception of the roles each person is expected to play in relation to the other and to the relationship as a whole. Roles are responsibilities and behaviors expected of individuals because of their position. The critical quality of a role is that it is not tied to any particular person. Rather, a role could be performed by any number of individuals.

 According to Malchiodi (2001), “Drawings bring issues relevant to treatment to the surface thus providing information on developmental, emotional, and cognitive functioning, hastening expression of hidden traumas, and conveying ambiguous or contradictory feelings and perceptions.” Drawing is particularly useful in trauma intervention because it enables counselees to verbalize their experiences and encourages the expression of emotion-laden events more successfully. Drawings are ways to capture similarities among emotions. Emotions are influenced by mind, body, and culture. When we judge people emotions based on drawings, we look at nonverbal behaviors. The cultural context gives a framework of both expressing feelings and interpreting the emotions of others. Emotions may be adaptive and maladaptive. Emotions are evoked by drawing because they are communicated verbally and nonverbally. Emotional expressions are also governed by rules and can be contagious. Drawings are a good way to emphasize how someone else is feeling and trying to relate to these feelings. In their use, drawings enable identifying the emotions a person is experiencing and allow him or her to communicate them further.


Kantor, D. and Duhl, B. (1973). In D. Bloch, Learning space and action in family therapy: Techniques of family psychotherapy. New York: Grune and Stratton

Malchiodi, C.A. (2001). Using drawing as intervention with traumatized children. Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions, 1(1).

Pearson, P.D. (1983). Toward a composing model of reading. Language Arts 60, 568-680.

Source by Dr Alusine Melvin Moseray Kanu