Creating masks can be a great tangible exercise to supplement many themes in therapy including, but not limited to: identity formation, self acceptance, self esteem, exploring defense mechanisms, exploring emotions, learning emotive vocabulary, identifying others’ emotions based on body language, and role play.
At my agency, we have a stocked art closet. This was a major pull for me and I have loved finding all of the treasures. One of the hidden boxes contained Paper Mache strips. They are super easy to use- cut and dip and water. Then place inside the mold. We use plastic costume masks as the mold. The strips dry and you pop them out! Then you can paint, glitter, draw and bedazzle.
It is such a hands on project!! That alone can be relaxing for some of my more hyper children. Along the same line, however, I have to have some trust in my clients’ ability to follow instructions and stay on task.
I use this technique in different ways depending on the client and their developmental status. With younger children, I use the mask to create a coping skill, highlight a strength or create an angry face to have a healthy outlet for their negative emotions. With older children, the mask can be a part of their identity formation, who they are on the outside, helpful for identifying any defense mechanisms. As a part of the exercise, I will have them draw a 2-D self portrait that they can cover with their mask to demonstrate the use of a coping skill or defense mechanism.