Dolls have been an ever-present practice throughout different societies across the world. The specific type or use for the dolls developed in response to the specific culture at that time. Dolls have generally been linked to feminine power and energy. Historically, dolls reflect societal roles, cultural values, or problems of a given time or place. They have also functioned as a way to transport healing energy, to invoke magic, and to create a physical embodiment of a prayer.
The history of making and using dolls can be used in the context of art therapy for a variety of purposes. Creating a doll with a client can facilitate an exploration of gender identity, childhood experiences, and nurturance. The tactile experience of making a doll can be used as a self-soothing process to externalize painful feelings. Dolls also allow the opportunity for play, which is more powerful when using self-created objects rather than store bought objects. This can allow a client to share a story with the art therapist or to explore a fantasy, both which will allow further insight into the client’s psyche and experience.
In these examples students created “wish dolls” as demonstrated in a video by art therapist Margaret Nowak. These dolls were created by wrapping yarn around fabric and embellished with other fabrics and buttons. In this specific directive the dolls embodied a wish or affirmation which the students connected to personally.
~Jenny Asaro, MPS Art Therapy Class of 2019