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.


My Box of Me

Source: Mercedes Samudio

Recommended Age Range: Ten and Up
Treatment Modality: Individual, Group


  • Identify client’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Increase client’s ability to develop a positive self-image
  • Explore and discuss the definitions of external and internal locus of control
  • Explore and discuss the stages of change model with client
  • Discover how the stages of change theory can be applied to their life


  • Cardboard box (any size)
  • Strips of paper
  • Colored Pencils/Crayons/Markers
  • Tape


    The client is asked to come up with 10–15 feelings, thoughts, events, and actions that they have experienced over the course of their life. Ask the client to write one item on each strip of paper. If the client is stuck or cannot think of 10–15 items, give the client prompts that ask them to think of things that no one knows about them, feelings that they have experienced, or events that they either enjoyed or did not enjoy. After the client completes each one, have the client fold each strip and place it in the box. Ask the client to shake up the box to mix the strips of paper, then pick a strip of paper out of the box. Whatever strip is picked the client has the option to pass or talk. The only caveat is that the client can only pass three times, and on the third pass they have to talk about whatever is on the strip of paper. When the client picks a strip and decides to talk instead of pass (or is on the third pass), explain that the client can talk about this topic for as long as they feel that they need to express themselves about the topic. As the client is talking, the practitioner should listen, reflect, and validate.

    Once the client is finished talking about the topic, ask the client if they would like to keep this topic in the box as a part of themselves or would like to update the topic to reflect what this topic means to them now that they have talked about it. If the client decides to update the topic, have them write the updated topic on another strip of paper and let them throw away the outdated topic.

    The client can tape the strips of paper on, around, or in the cardboard box. The idea is that once the client has completed the activity (which will be over a few sessions) they will have a box that reflects who they truly think they are.

    The practitioner can use different methods with the client to discuss the 10–15 topics that they choose. For example, the practitioner can direct the client to draw the topics on strips of paper and add a caption under each drawing. The practitioner could also use play to facilitate a discussion of the topics, such as puppets, dolls, or sand tray figures. Using these options allows for another level of engagement with younger clients or for clients who would like an alternative to solely talking about a topic.

    The main therapeutic value of this activity is to show the client that they have control over how they remember and hold aspects of themselves. As the client writes items and makes the decision to talk about it, pass on it, update it, or keep it, they begin to realize the influence they have over their own life. The practitioner’s role is to create a safe environment in which the client can practice developing this level of awareness. Essentially, as the client continues to practice keeping, updating, or discarding the topics on the strips of paper, they will begin to understand that they can control the aspects of themselves they want others to see.

    Being reflective of ourselves is one of the most important aspects of growth and change. While in treatment, the idea that change can happen often feels elusive to clients. When clients begin to think of all the things that have happened, that could happen, and that are happening in their life it can feel as if they have no control over the events they experience. As client’s come into treatment, the fear that treatment will not work can become a barrier to overall healing and movement through treatment. This activity begins to help the client externalize some of the thoughts and feelings that have led them to seek help.

    In Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1992) Stages of Change Model[PK1] , they discuss how we move from realizing something is an issue, developing new strategies to cope with that issue, and getting to a state of managing the old issue with the new strategy on a consistent basis. This theory of change is the basis for using this activity with a client; the clinician guides the client to identify items that the client wants to keep or update. With this theory of change in mind, the practitioner facilitates the client moving through the five stages of change, as well as discusses the fluidity of moving back and forth through these stages as a healthy aspect of change and growth.

    This activity also allows for the practitioner to facilitate a discussion on internal and external locus of control. In the beginning of the activity, the clinician will define the terms external locus of control (belief that someone/something else controls their life) and internal locus of control (belief that they influence their own life). With those definitions, the practitioner can then ask the client what type of control they have over that topic as they decide to keep, discard, or update the strips of paper. If the client feels stuck trying to decide between the type of control they believe they have over a topic, they can reflect on what would happen if either locus of control was in play. For example, the practitioner asks, “What do you think would happen if you decided to make this change?” or “What do you think would happen if someone else decided to make this change for you?” Overall, the activity allows the practitioner to open a discussion about how change occurs and the influence the client has over that change.

    Prochaska, J.O. & C.C. DiClemente. (1992). Stages of change in the modification of problem behaviors. Progress in Behavior Modification, 28, 183–218.

    About The Author
    Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, is a parent coach and family therapist who has been working with families for over six years, specializing in developing parent-child relationships. She is a leading parenting expert certified in nonviolent parenting and attachment parenting and has been featured in The New Social Worker Magazine, Parenting OC Magazine and Kids In The House.

    © 2015, Mercedes Samudio. All rights reserved.

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