Activity Created By:
Abena Benjamin and Andrew Schultz
Large piece of paper
Pens and Pencils
Markers and/or Crayons
Begin by having your client brainstorm about a fantasy world they would like to create. This fantasy world should have some relevance and importance to them; they should have a significant role in this created world. Once they have the fantasy world in mind, have them sketch the world out; provide them with the materials and encourage them to be detailed and creative! The should also draw themselves in the world doing something; they can choose the scene that they would like to draw and it is important that this be their choice in order for it to be meaningful. After they have finished designing their fantasy world have them discuss who they would be in this world and the significance of the role they would play. Ask them questions about who lives there, who doesn’t live there, what people do there, and other details. The purpose of the discussion is to not only allow them to express their creativity, but for you to gain an understanding of what is important to them and how they see the world.
Ages: 3 - 10 years old
Children who may be having adjustment difficulties or expressing unhappiness within their current environment.
Expected Results and Troubleshooting:
This activity can provide valuable information for treatment planning or as a supplement to play therapy. Their fantasies provide insight into the child’s goals and desires, as well as the ways that they provide meaning for the child. Because the child has an important role in creating their fantasy world, it may influence the development of an internal locus of control. Instead of being influenced by their environment, the child is given the opportunity to control their fantasy world. The procedure may also provide insight into meaningful relationships.
This activity also provides an opportunity to explore various themes within the context of the fantasy world (Ryan & Edge, 2011). Themes and emotions associated with trust may be explored, including safety, nurturance, comfort, safety, attunement, exploration, satisfaction, and hopefulness. Additionally, mistrust may be considered, often centered around themes of distance in relationships, chaos, ambivalence, trauma, destruction, loss, emptiness, despair, and scarcity. Themes of autonomy and independence can include control, weakness. Shame and doubt may appear in themes of victimization, helplessness, aggression, over-compliance, dominance, and approval seeking. Themes of initiative versus guilt can include injury or self-harm, damage to property or objects, not complying with societal norms or rules, preoccupation with evil over good, and concerns for personal safety. Themes of industry and competence versus inferiority may include conforming to norms and expectations, task persistence, alienation, self-worth, and approval. Finally, the themes of identity versus role confusion may include perspective taking, tolerance for emotions, identification with peers, respect for the values of society, and age appropriateness of interests.
One possible limitation in the use of fantasy in therapy is that it may negatively impact information preferences (Kappes & Oettingen, 2012). If the child’s fantasies involve an idealized future, they may favor information that is favorable to a goal in pursuit over negative information. This is similar to intentions, in that they both create a preference for information that views the goals in a positive light. This may create unrealistic expectations, and lead to poor decision making. This can even occur if both the positive and negative information is later considered. Simply put, they may seek information favorable to their goals, and ignore unfavorable information that would lead to more realistic expectations and decisions. For these clients, it would be beneficial to explore the negative aspects of their fantasies, as well as those aspects that they find to be favorable.
Another limitation to the use of fantasy in this approach is with children that experience fear of failure (Langens, 2002). These fears may moderate the emotional reactions that the child has to fantasies involving positive goals. When these children imagine attaining their desired goals, as well as imagining failures in attaining their goals, they are more likely to experience negative mood. With these children, it would be beneficial to explore their specific fears of failure. The therapist may utilize cognitive therapy techniques to create more realistic expectations before utilizing fantasies in therapy.
Glasberg, R. (May 06, 2015). The use of Fantasy in Clinical Assessment. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal, 2, 2, 1-17.
Kappes, H.B. & Oettingen, G. (2012). Wishful information preference: Positive fantasies mimic the effects of intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(7), 870-881.
Langens, T.A. (2002). Tantalizing fantasies: Positive imagery induces negative mood in individuals high in fear of failure. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 21(4), 281-292.
Ryan, V. & Edge, A. (2011). The role of play themes in non-directive play therapy. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(3), 354-369.
Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.