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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Technique Toolbox - "Trashie"

 "Trashie" Technique

Credited to: 101 Favorite Play Therapy Techniques

For use with: Individual therapy with children with behavioral/emotional problems, family therapy with child and parents present.

What you will need:

small trash can with swinging lid (can be found at Dollar Tree for $1)
8 1/2x11 paper cut into fourths

What you do:

Whether in an individual or family session, the therapist hands out usually 3-4 squares of blank white paper, already pre-cut, to everyone present. With the trashcan placed in the middle of the table, the therapist introduces "Trashie." (Trashie was so named because a client of mine decided that was to be the trashcan's name....and it stuck. My Trashie doesn't have a cute little face like the ones pictures here.) The therapist can say that Trashie only "eats" pictures of things that make the child (or family) sad, mad, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Trashie will eat any negative emotion.

Have the child or parents draw pictures then utilizing markers, crayons, etc, and then take turns explaining each other's pictures before "feeding" them to Trashie. For younger kids, I usually make a show about Trashie eating the pictures, complete with snarls and growls and burps of contentment. I explain to parents prior to the session starting that I want them to focus on an aspect of the client's behavior that is troublesome, and then I'll process with the child about hearing their parent discuss as aspect of their behavior that makes the parent sad, mad, etc. Then we discuss how it felt to "feed" Trashie those negative emotions.


Trashie is essentially a ritualistic creative activity designed to free the child from negative emotions that might play continuously in his or her head. It's also a safe place for parents of children with problematic behaviors to open up in front of their children to talk about how the behaviors make them feel. Since this is done process-style, not favoring one person over another, children are not as threatened by receiving the information this way than they would be if the therapist were just to have the parent tell the child outright how their behavior makes them feel.

It's therapeutic for the child (and parents) to crumple their drawing up and stuff it in the trashcan, as well. Symbolic of releasing that emotion or letting Trashie deal with it instead. With older children, I'll remove the top of the trashcan and see if they can make the paper ball shot from further and further distances. Remember, therapy is supposed to be just as fun as it is serious at times!

Shoot me an email if you ever decide to use this technique in a book. It's one of my favorites!

*** "Trashie" is not copyrighted by Jeannie Campbell, but you better not use it.***

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