Featured Technique

Featured Technique

Add to your repertoire of creative therapeutic interventions with this original technique.

Please be sure to print this page as the technique below will be replaced by a new technique each month.

Printable form of current Featured Technique can be attained here.


Parenting Metaphors

Source: Pam Dyson
  • Create an opportunity for parents to express feelings
  • Identify parenting strengths and challenges
  • Assorted small objects such as elastic bands, rubber erasers, rocks, batteries, pieces of rope, paper clips, rolls of tape, keys, bandages, candles, a cork, a fishing bobber, a superhero figure, animal figurines, etc.
  • Table

Advance Preparation

Gather the assortment of miniature objects. Place them on a table top. Arrange seating to ensure objects are visible and easy to reach.


Explain the activity as follows: "I have several small objects on this table. I would like you to take a few minutes to look them over." After the parent has examined the objects say, "I would like you to select one object that symbolizes your current parenting experiences and feelings and place it in front of you. Then I would like you to share your reason for choosing that particular object."

Questions to process the activity:

  1. How long have you been feeling this way?
  2. How do you wish things were different?
  3. What is one thing that you could do to change how you are currently feeling?
  4. In what way are you hoping therapy can help?
While processing the activity, the practitioner reflects feelings, validates experiences and expresses empathy.


Metaphors are an integral part of therapy and are not limited to working with children. When parents bring parenting concerns to a therapist it is vital that the therapist understands exactly what the parent is feeling in order to gain insight about their experiences.

Selecting a miniature object that represents their parenting experience expands their ability to explain their situation in more specific detail. It generates self-understanding and helps identify issues that need to be addressed. A parent might select a fishing bobber and describe they are feeling as if they can barely keep their head above the water. A paper clip may be representative of a parent who is struggling to hold things together. The parent who chooses a rubber band may feel that they are stretched to the point of snapping.

When the practitioner reflects feelings, validates their experiences and expresses empathy it ensures that the parent feels heard and understood. This helps to create a collaborative relationship between practitioner and parent.

This activity can be used with individual parents or in parent education classes and support groups. It can be used at the beginning of therapy and again at termination.

About The Author

Pam Dyson, MA, LPC, RPT is a licensed professional counselor and a registered play therapist in private practice in Ballwin, MO. She is the founder and director of the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training and was the 2013 Recipient of the Association for Play Therapy Key Award for Professional Education and Training.

© 2014, Pam Dyson. All rights reserved.

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