Party Hats on Monsters
A projective drawing technique, Dr. Crenshaw developed to address multiple
fears, phobias, frightening dreams, nightmares, and PTSD symptoms in
children is Party Hats on Monsters (Crenshaw, 2001). This technique was
included in a review and recommended in “Fifteen Effective Play Therapy
Techniques” (Hall, Kaduson, & Schaefer, 2002). This drawing strategy
draws on both learning theory principles of titrated exposure to the
feared stimulus and gradual desensitization as well as embedded
suggestion based on the work of Milton Erickson that was later applied
to children by Joyce Mills and Richard Crowley (1986). By the very act
of trying to reproduce on paper the frightening image and discovering
that no matter how hard they try they are unable to make it as scary as
the image in their mind, they discover the power of defusing the fear by
putting it out on paper and getting it out of their head. The embedded
suggestions reinforce this notion by stating, for example, “It is very
interesting what children discover when they put the scary monster out
here on paper. They find it very hard to make it as scary as the picture
in their head and they realize this monster is not as scary as they
thought when they look at it in the light of the day. Also when you
change the monster, shrink him, or put a party hat on him, he is no
longer scary at all. The most amazing thing that children discover is
that when they change the image out here on paper they can also change
the scary image in their head. “
Here are two examples of Dr.
Crenshaw's Party Hats on Monsters Technique:
Step Directive # 1 (Picture by Ted, age 17, with a phobia of
spiders) "Draw the spider as scary as you can make it. Try to make it as
scary as the frightening image you have in your mind (see below)."
After the drawing is completed, ask if the drawing is as scary as the
picture or image in their mind. Invariably, they will say, "No." I ask
them if they would like to try again to make it as scary as the image in
their mind, some will and some won’t, but usually with a second or more
attempt they still can’t make the drawing as scary as the picture in
their mind. I typically reflect, "Isn’t that interesting, no matter how
hard you try you can’t make the picture out here on paper as scary as
the image in your mind. There is something magical about putting it out
here on paper, getting it out of your head, that it no longer looks so
scary. Isn’t that amazing?'"
Drawing Step Directive # 2: "Now I
want you to have some fun with this next step. Draw the spider again,
only this time change it so it is not so scary anymore or maybe make it
not scary at all, perhaps even something that makes you laugh. You
could put a party hat on it, shrink it, use your imagination and see
what you can change to that makes it no longer scary." Ted drew a
“Damsel in Distress” from the old western movies when a Damsel would be
tied to the railroad tracks and rescued at the last minute. He heartily
enjoyed his transformation of the spider.
The projective drawing and storytelling strategies
introduced in Dr. Crenshaw’s book, A Guidebook for Engaging Resistant Children
in Therapy: A Projective Drawing and Storytelling Series, contain a
story called, The “What-If” Walrus, that is also designed for children
Projective drawing and storytelling techniques have
been a particularly beneficial strategy in Dr. Crenshaw’s clinical work
with school-age and pre-adolescent children who have a difficult time
sharing their internal world through direct verbal expression.
© Copyright 2004 by David A.
Crenshaw, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Crenshaw, D.A. (2001). Party hats on monsters: Drawing strategies to
enable children to master their fears. In H. Kaduson & C. Schaefer
(Eds.), 101 more favorite play therapy techniques (pp. 124-127).
Northvale: NJ: Jason Aronson.
Hall, T. M., Kaduson, H. G., & Schaefer, C. (2002). Fifteen effective
play therapy techniques, Professional Psychology, Research and Practice,
Mills, J. C., & Crowley, R. J. (1986). Therapeutic metaphors for
children and the child within. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Three-Step Anger Modulation
revisit to learn additional techniques, which will be added on.
For more projective techniques and their use,
see Dr. Crenshaw's book: Engaging Resistant
Children in Therapy: Projective Drawing and Storytelling