Boxes, BOXES, boxes! Always Great for Art Therapy!

The box is one of the oldest and most used “art therapy” activities and can be used with just about anyone, age 3 to 103, groups, individuals, families, couples, supervision groups, in any setting, including challenging settings like home visits…

I reblogged a great post about “safety” boxes which gives some great ideas and info for using a box in a healing and therapeutic way that can be even life saving… I happened to see this post recently while in the middle of making boxes with many different patients and art therapy group as well…

One of the most common box projects involves utilizing the box as a kind of “self-portrait”; on the outside and top and bottom of the box, choose images or other materials that express who you are on the outside, and on the inside of the box, who you are on the inside. This can mean so many different things to different people, but it allows for hiding and the idea of having privacy and a space that only you know. There is always the option of doing things inside the box and then closing the box so there is no access to the inside. Otherwise, the top of the box can have a multiplicity of meanings and ways it is connected to the bottom of the box.

I have found the above idea to be somewhat limited and sometimes too personal more recently, as I noticed that making “Affirmation” boxes seems to appeal to lots of people and can help with self care and increasing self worth, confidence, pride and creative productive thinking and combat destructive thinking and urges. The idea is to decorate the box and then write down affirmations or other positive thoughts or even quotes you find inspiring and put them in the box, to use the box on a daily basis to remind yourself of whatever you have chosen to put in your box. It makes the box have a feeling of specialness and also gives it a use and interactive quality that some other kinds of box directives don’t have. The “WISH” box below is one of my patient’s interpretations of this idea. You can mix wishes, affirmations, goals and things you enjoy into one box. The possibilities are limitless…

Boxes come in all shapes and sizes, and I like to have a variety available to allow for a lot of different options: shoe box, rectangular and square kleenex boxes (these have some interesting history, as the person choosing one knows on some level that probably the kleenex in this box was used by other patients and themselves as well as the therapist), jewelry boxes and typical store boxes of all sizes, boxes with tops attached that can be folded to become a box. There are all kinds of boxes that items come in like camera boxes and others. Food boxes like cereal bar boxes and other such boxes can be used as well. I also always have on hand very small “papier mache” boxes, cardboard boxes that I purchase in shapes of a heart, square, hexagon, circle and oval: ( They also come in larger sizes.

In the photos below I have included different boxes in various stages of creation. The majority are ones done by me in session with different patients, and the box with the word “WISH” on it decorated with decorative duct tape was done (not finished) so far over 2 sessions by an adult female patient.

As you can see, all sorts of materials can be used to decorate the box. Like the altered book project the box often presents as an object you are drawn to “cover” to begin with to have something to add to and to kind of transform the box into a new kind of box, especially if it is an obviously recycled box like a kleenex box.

Some great materials for boxes include: fabric and felt, yarn, magazine photos cut out of various types of magazines, words taken from my “Word Box”, decorative and colored paper, foam pieces, old drawings or paintings, etc. Masking tape and duct tape and other decorative tape have become commonplace items that are great for covering boxes, as shown by the box below with the duct tape on it and the one with only masking tape on it. To embellish the box you can use so many kinds of materials from rhinestones and jewels to pom poms, little mirrors, wood pieces, buttons, beads, glass pieces, rocks etc.

Other materials for the box include materials to put inside the box on the bottom if you want your box to be some kind of nest or “place”: sand, rocks, fake fur, feathers, twigs, glitter, old flowers, paper that has been cut into tiny slivers in different colors. I found some of this paper at starbucks, it also comes with some gifts, I don’t even know what it’s called but it gives a feeling of a nest right away…You can put such items in the bottom of the box and also hide objects in these nest like things.

I will be posting more about boxes as they are so fascinating; they also lend themselves to parallel creating in the therapy session. I often make boxes alongside patients with whom I might normally not make any art…











One thought on “Boxes, BOXES, boxes! Always Great for Art Therapy!

  1. Nice to see I’m not the only one with a passion for boxes. I like small 2″ cubed for decoration. Got hundreds of ’em. Folded and taped 20 last night – maybe make a picture wall or something.


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