Stick Boy: Our First Attempt at Art Therapy

Jamie was waiting for me in the kitchen when I got home.

‘I’ve missed you so much Mum.’

He held out his arms and there were tears in his eyes.

‘Is everything alright?’

‘I’ve had another angry.  Dad had to hold me.’

Rob appeared looking shell-shocked.  He reassured me that the weekend without me had been fine apart from the last hour.  As is so often the case the angries had centred on homework.

Refreshed and reinvigorated from an utterly lovely weekend spent with a friend, indulging in music, food and conversation I was able to take the long view.  I thought back to the day last week that I spent listening to Dr Margot Sunderland talking about art, storytelling and play as a means of helping children to process past trauma.  That evening I suggested to Jamie that we do some drawing together and that perhaps that might help to soothe away some of the angries.

‘I’m getting bigger and stronger,’ he said.

‘I wonder what the angries might look like when you are a big man?’ I ventured.

‘I’ll be fine by then,’ he mumbled unconvincingly.

He might be right, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it and I well remember Margot talking about unlaid ghosts and unprocessed trauma.  So we sat in bed together with a pad of paper and two bic biros.

‘How does the world feel to you when you are angry?’ I tried in a rather amateurish way.

The bic biro sped around.  A little stick boy appeared in the middle of the page with an upside down smile and dishevelled hair.  The right hand side was labelled ‘bad side’ and contained a host of figures holding pistols.  Bullets rained down on to the little stick boy. The figures were smiling, some were weighed down with devil horns.

‘It must feel lonely and scary to be the stick boy,’ I try.

‘That stick boy is me.’

A good side was added to the left hand side of the page.  It was empty apart from a well-formed picture of me with a big smile and wonder woman hair.  Between the stick boy and the good side appeared a deep and wide river.

‘There’s a 99% chance I’m going to go over to the bad side and a 1% chance I’m going over to the good side.’

It looked pretty hopeless. Then he drew an electric car, a new invention, which can cross rivers, but only if the percentages are more favourable.

‘I wonder how we can improve the chances that the stick boy can cross the river?’

He thought for a while and then wrote ‘Calm’ followed by the numbers 1 to 6.

‘We have to think of six things to bring calm.’

With each calm point he wrote down, the percentages were adjusted; first to 90% and 10% and then to a more encouraging 75% and 25%.  He wrote things like ‘listening to music’ and then ‘playing Lego together’.

‘It has to be together or it won’t work.’

He ended the list with ‘drawing’.  The percentages adjusted to 0% in favour of the bad side and 100% in favour of the good side.  This unlocked the magic car, which came across the river and brought the little stick boy to his mum on the good side.  With a final stroke of the pen, a big smile came across stick boys face.

10 thoughts on “Stick Boy: Our First Attempt at Art Therapy

  1. Stix

    Very clever mum. Well done for creating a safe space and opportunity for Jamie to express himself and his angries. Well done Jamie for letting mum do that.

    1. admin Post author

      Thank you Stix. Not so clever – I fear it’s taken me a long time to realise what’s needed. Getting there in the end.

  2. Anne Little

    Well that was worth reading! I think you have done really well here and Jamie will he gets top marks for his ability to express himself in this calm and nurturing way. I have tried this but with no success. I think the timing (after you had been away) added to the success do you? I am going to look for the “right” time.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes I think the timing was crucial. We often get a period of reflection after an angry episode and I find that to be the most fruitful time. Good luck finding your fruitful time. Let me know how you get on.

  3. Considerer

    Thank you for writing all this. The whole blog. I’ve loved reading the ups and downs you’ve experienced, but this post made me smile most of all.

    I’m currently looking into the possibility of adopting with my Husband and I’m seeking any first-hand information I can find – enter blogs. Yours is particularly good at sharing the nitty-grittier side of things; I’ve heard the term ‘theraputic parenting’ several times in my research but in reading your posts I begin to understand it. Thank you for your honesty and generosity in sharing it all. I hope you continue to make headway.

    1. admin Post author

      Thank you so much for reading Considerer and for your comment. I believe it is important to be honest when talking about adoption. I’ve linked to other adoption blogs on my website which you might find useful. And good luck with your decision.


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