Working with a group of grieving middle-schoolers this week, I was reminded once again of the power and unique expression of mask painting.  Masks are particularly effective for teens who are building and establishing an identity.

     Masks can be decorated and then hung on the wall as a way of externalizing one’s false self, and as a way to dialogue with the visual image itself.  The reflection on the work provides a means for clients to confront dysfunctional beliefs and to discuss emotions in terms of how they are expressed and where and with whom they are appropriate.  One way to help facilitate changes in cognitions and beliefs is to ask the client to give the mask a voice and to engage it in a dialogue.

Questions that could serve as a guideline for the dialogue might be:

What is the mask disguising?
What is the mask protecting?
What is the mask’s function or role?
What feelings are present?
What does the mask need?
For what is it asking?
Is there another mask that needs to be made?

     Every mask made in our group this week was uniquely expressive and provided a rich and meaningful way to process the experience of loss and to cope with changing ideas and feelings of bereavement.


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