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Art Therapy Rx: Nesting Dolls

"Underneath my outside face, there's a face none can see. A little less smiley, a little less sure. But a whole lot more like me." ~ Shel Silverstein

Earnings/affiliates disclaimer for the primed canvas

I wanted to start by saying thank you for stopping by to read my blog! I am excited to begin sharing with you some of my creativity. I hope that this post will inspire you and become a precious resource for your work with clients. The above quote by Silverstein inspired this art therapy directive with nesting dolls!

I wrote a paper on this directive and how it can be utilized with trans-gendered youth to empower them to embrace who they are and explore complicated feelings experienced when there is a disconnect between the body and a sense of self. I find that this directive can be used with many populations.

It was a potent intervention for me to use in therapy with transgender clients and other populations that had difficulty opening up and processing in session.

The rationale for using nesting dolls in therapy is self-exploration by creating a form of visual narrative. The directive creates a safe distance and a container for expressing feelings both physically and symbolically. Besides, there is a great deal of symbolism in the nesting dolls themselves.

The client is necessarily projecting themself onto the doll, which facilitates self-discovery and understanding by allowing the client to organize and separate the different layers of which they consist of. These layers can reflect several things, such as personality, feelings, thoughts, needs, and desires. This directive can be interpreted not only through our client's lens but also through various Gestalt, Jung, and attachment psychological theories. The possibilities for deep insight are truly endless when you throw in the creative process.

When using nesting dolls in art therapy, I have found that setting aside a few sessions is very important so that the client does not feel rushed. If possible, the directive can even be divided into one session for each nesting doll layer. The client can choose to work from the outermost doll to the most inner doll.

I find that clients tend to work in this order because it feels safe to expose one layer at a time, working from their public self to their most private and very often most vulnerable self.

Please Note: Be mindful of the art materials utilized not to overwhelm the client. Allow the client to choose materials if they feel they need too. I allow clients to select from collage materials, paints, stencils, and stamps.

You can check out the links at the end of this post for recommendations on supplies for this specific directive. You can also shop through my Therapy Materials section.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to nesting dolls, such as wooden craft, dry erase, or chalkboard nesting dolls (links below). These options may be cost-effective as well since they are reusable!

Using Nesting Dolls in Art Therapy:

1. Introduce the directive and allow the client to choose materials and supplies.

2. Explain to the client that they will be using the nesting doll to represent themselves using words, lines, shapes, and colors on each separate doll.

3. Once the nesting dolls are complete, have they should be witnessed, and the client should be allowed to process in whatever form they choose. I have used poetry to enable the client to describe each layer if they want.

Below are some reflection questions:

As a clinician, how do you use creativity to create a safe space and distance for your clients to work through complicated feelings?

What did you find interesting or useful in this post?

Your feedback is much appreciated! It will help me continue growing as a writer and help me improve future content!

With Love,


Related Article on my Launch of Art Therapy Rx:

**To receive an Art Therapy Rx handout, make sure to subscribe to my blog. Premium freebies will be sent via email to subscribers only. **


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be utilized as a form of self-help, personal clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content on this blog is meant for educational purposes and to provide clinical art therapy directives/resources for trained mental health professionals. This information is by no means a substitute for therapy.

Affiliate/Earning Disclaimer: Lauren Graham is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to In addition I an affiliate of the As an Amazon Associate and an affiliate of Play Therapy Supply, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases that are made by clicking on the affiliate links provided in this post. I only recommend products that I believe to be valuable and purchasing through my links is the same as shopping through Amazon. The only difference is you will be supporting my future work. Thank you!


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