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Grief Self-Exploration House
Y’all know me, I’m always trying new things in my counseling office!! This week I did this grief self-exploration house with my grief group kiddos and I think it went really well!! The self-exploration house orignated from DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) and has been adapted for this lesson to focus specifically on my student’s grief journey. DBT focuses on staying in the present (not focusing on the past), developing healthy coping skills, regulating emotions, and improving relationships with others. The self-exploration house is considered a DBT technique that helps clients express their strengths and support systems, while also highlighting areas of growth.
To start off, I sat the students down with a blank piece of paper and asked them to draw a four story house. I then instructed them to draw a chimney, door, and flag on their house. I asked them to label each part of their house and walked them through step by step (see photo below for instructions on what to label).
During the first part of the lesson, my students were seriously horsing around. They were coloring, making fun of their silly houses, smacking each other with rulers, and laughing. There was LOTS and LOTS of laughing. I tried to “reign it in” but it was rough. I was literally sitting there thinking “add this to my list of counseling fails!” As I started looking around at their drawings, I realized they had some blank spaces. I assumed they weren’t listening to the instructions so I redirected them but they still had blank spaces!! I was losing my mind!! Then I remembered that humor is a coping tool and I realized they left those parts of their houses blank because they didn’t have an answer.
Once everyone’s house was complete (or as complete as it was going to get), I told them that we were going to start sharing our houses. I asked where they wanted to start and they said the foundation. And in that second they suddenly calmed down and “got serious” as I like to say. They stopped joking, stopped laughing, and just started really sharing what they’d written down. I told them that if they left a part of their house blank that was okay and we could talk about why that section was so hard for them. We had some great discussions about the grief cycle, coping tools, difficult emotions, and why people search for the good during difficult times.
I’ll definitely be doing this activity again in the future!! I used this activity as a part of my grief group but it can easily be used in individual counseling sessions as well.