My Strengths and Supports Tree

The last session is a time for wrapping up loose ends, for saying goodbye, and for helping to equip clients to continue with life after therapy. This craft is great for instilling confidence of reminding clients of their strengths and supports that they can rely on as they go forward. Plus it’s a great activity for the Spring season!

Many of us will have seen various images of trees used as metaphors in therapeutic material. Family trees and the roots of addiction, for example, all show up frequently in therapeutic literature. What I like about this activity, is that it is not only descriptive like a family tree, or negative like the tree of addiction, but it is a very positive look at the child’s strengths and supports, while also showing them very practical ways in which they can go forward and continue to grow their support network, their strengths, and their accomplishments.

Supplies
Paper
Pencil
Pencil crayons, crayons, markers, or paint

Directions:

1) Draw a tree on a blank piece of paper. This can be as simple or as detailed as the child likes, but it should include a root system, a trunk with branches, and leaves.

Tree outline

2) Have the child colour or paint the tree as she likes. She can write name on the trunk of the tree.

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3) Starting with the roots, discuss the important people in the child’s life. These are the people that support the child, who help give her strength. You can talk about a tree’s root system, how roots give strength and nourishment to a tree which help it to be strong and to grow. Next, invite the child to write the names of people that support her on the tree roots, or under the ground, at the base of the tree if there are no roots.

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4) For the branches, have the child talk about her strengths and then write a strength on each branch. What positive qualities does she have that have helped her to get to this point in her life? These qualities can be both internal and external, and can include both skills as well as personality traits.

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5) On the leaves, write the things that the child is proud of having accomplished in her life. These don’t have to be major accomplishments to us as adults, but things for which the child feels a sense of achievement. The child may need some encouragement at first to notice her accomplishments. Our society and our education system so often leads kids to believe that unless they are the best or the winner at something that they have not achieved anything significant. Accomplishments could be as simple as cleaning one’s room, having a good report card, joining the soccer team, etc. They should also include the accomplishments that the child has achieved in therapy.

This is a good time to point out to the child that just like the leaves of a tree cannot grow without the branches and the roots, it is important for her to use her strengths and let the people in her life help her.

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6) At this point, the counsellor and the child can review the things that the child has accomplished during her time in counselling as well as making a plan for how she will continue to maintain wellness or work toward her goals outside of counselling. The therapist can again refer back to the tree in helping the child make this plan. Who will help her to stay on track? Which of her strengths will help her to follow her plan? What has she already achieved that can help her, or that at least can give her the confidence that she can achieve her goals.

7) Invite the child to add “Completed counselling” or “Made a wellness plan” or some variation to her Strengths and Supports tree as a reminder that her time in counselling was both an achievement, and also has given her some additional skills and strengths that will help her now that counselling is over.

Adaptations:

Instead of drawing, you use cut and paste for younger children who might struggle with drawing the tree. Very young children may not totally understand the metaphor as well as older children, but they can still come up with names of people who help them when they are sad or scared. They can also come up with positive traits about themselves and things that they are proud of accomplishing. Young kids will understand the explanation that the tree will help them remember the good things about themselves and who they might turn to when they need help. If you have some construction paper cut-outs of tree trunks and roots, tree tops, and individual leaves, children can paste the pieces together on a separate piece of paper. The counsellor can help them write names and traits.
For kids who are in to arts and crafts, painting or a mixed media project can be in order. Have the child paint a tree using any kind of paint. They can write on the painting or may prefer to paste on branches, leaves, and roots with people and strengths written on them.

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