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Art Therapy Rx: Nesting Dolls

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

"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

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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.

Using nesting dolls in art therapy for self-exploration.