Using Face Painting in Family Therapy

This great intervention idea was submitted by reader Paula Jensen. Ms. Jensen earned a gift certificate to for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

This is a creative therapy technique that can be used between a parent and child, two or more siblings, or a couple.


Materials: Face paint in many different colors; a sheet of pictures/ideas; soap and water for clean-up, and a mirror.

Session length: 60-75 minutes (including clean up).

  1. Each client is allowed about 20-25 minutes to paint a design of their choosing on their family member’s face (e.g. parent paints the child, sibling paints another siblings face).
  2. After face painting is complete, allow time at the end to discuss observations you have made throughout the activity and for clients to process their thoughts and feelings from the experience. It may be necessary to allow processing throughout the activity.
  3. Allow 5 minutes for clean-up.

Notes: Clients may look at their face at the end of each turn or once all clients are complete. Allow the clients to make this decision together before beginning.

Generally, I would allow the client who I perceive to have the least power in the relationship to go first.

Clinical Benefits

  1. It allows insight into what motivates a client’s behaviors in a way that may be difficult to gain through traditional talk therapies.
  2. It opens discussion about how a person interacts with family or loved ones, and how they interact in the world.
  3. It can allow clients to begin processing insecurities or areas in which they feel powerless and may assist them with overcoming some of these internal conflicts.
  4. It provides insight into a parent-child relationship. How the parent and child interact, including how they give and take direction from each other. It can allow the therapist and client to see how comfortable parent and child are with giving up control to the other family member.
  5. It is a fun, non-confrontational, creative way for allowing growth to occur.
  6. It can simply be a bonding experience between the parent and child.


When I worked as a child and family therapist, I utilized this face painting activity during a mother daughter session. Initially, my goal was to provide a positive bonding experience for the family. Through the out the activity, it came to light that the mother’s self-consciousness about herself interfered with her willingness to try new things and participate in activities with her daughter. This was a big issue between them because the daughter was not receiving the mother-daughter time she desired. In addition, it helped mom express to her daughter how proud she was that her daughter was so outgoing and confident. Through this activity I was able to assist the family with addressing a core issue within their relationship.

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