- (a) provide experiential learning about divisive
and (b) motivate adults to evolve and use an effective strategy to avoid
and dissolve triangles in and between their related family homes.
Participants - two or more client adults and/or minor or grown kids. If only two clients are present, the clinician can role-play the third
to do this - after...
any client crises are stabilized,
and (d) everyone's
are "below their ears;"
and discussing stepfamily identity,
conflicts and the topics above, and...
Ideally, offer this experience to courting co-parents
before any re/wedding commitments!
expect this exercise to take at least
30," and often a whole session. If necessary, move
furniture to provide a clear space about 8 feet in diameter. Before the session,
consider the ideas in this 2-page article,
and decide whether to give the clients a copy (or Web address) afterwards.
Options - In this or a prior session, offer a brief
didactic description and illustration of...
on family and other relationships. Also...
review this adult
learn if and how client couples can adopt and model it to avoid and resolve family
review the idea of relationship
(attachments) with the clients, and validate the different bond-strengths
between mates, bioparents and biokids, divorced parents, stepparents and
stepkids, and bio and step siblings. Then relate these strength-differences to
loyalty conflicts and triangle formations; and/or...
the exercise first, to raise client interest in and understanding the
relevance of the family dynamics above.
- the full exercise sculpts before and after scenarios.
A) "Before" Sculpture
Assure everyone that this learning experience is
not about blaming or shaming anyone, and that PVR triangles are normal and
inevitable in all families and social groups. Ask the clients to agree on a recent family triangle
involving some or all of the family members present, and briefly identify who took each of the
three PVR roles. Then say you want to use that situation to safely illustrate
how everyone can avoid or dissolve such divisive triangles. If more than three
client-members are present, ask the "extra" people to be observers.
the three role-takers - including any kids over say 5-6 years old - to stand and
face each other in a comfortable circle. Ask the Persecutor (P) to
briefly reenact their behavior with the Victim (V) in the chosen
situation, including the same body language and voice dynamics.
have V kneel and look up at P. Then ask V
to recall what s/he felt, and to re-enact their verbal and nonverbal response
with appropriate emotions and expressions. Then ask the Rescuer (R) to
recall her or his feelings and needs, and re-enact their verbal and nonverbal
behaviors. Use your judgment as to whether to re-enact the next sequence of
P-V-R interactions - usually one round of interactions makes the
Stop the action, and ask each person to breathe, reflect, and describe (a) what
they feel (now), and (b) what they needed in the original triangle.
note that the role-title "Persecutor" usually
feels disparaging, and that in typical triangles,
people in that role are (usually)
not trying to "persecute" the Victim, but their behavior feels
like "persecution" - i.e. scorn, criticism, disapproval, discounting,
demanding, controlling, and/or disrespecting.
note that V's ruling subselves can
feel like a
(1-down) and/or R's subselves can
P as "persecuting," even when P acts
are each symptoms of significant false-self
which need to be permanently
before family triangles can be permanently avoided or dissolved effectively.
Ask everyone to summarize (a) what each person
in the original situation
from the other two, and (a) who got these needs met well enough. Then ask
how triangle events and outcomes like this affect the mates' relationship,
and their stepfamily merger progress over time.
(a) refresh everyone on the difference between
fighting or arguing and win-win
and (b) note objectively that the three people were unable to do the latter
together in this triangle situation. This adds incentive for client adults to
learning and skill development.
(a) review common
and objectively note any that occurred as this triangle played out; and/or (b) invite
the clients to objectively
of the triangle interactions at home, from start to finish
B) "After" Sculpture
permits, ask if
everyone is willing to redo the exercise to illustrate options for a more
outcome. If the answer is "No," then note the option of doing this in another
session. If everyone feels like redoing, then suggest each role-player stretch,
breathe, and get back into each original role.
appropriate, summarize the difference between
and then ask each person to reflect and
identify one or two main needs they had in the original situation. Use
to validate each need. Note that the
common goal here is to find a way to fill each person's needs well enough
- i.e. to do win-win
as teammates, vs. combatants.
remind the clients of everyone's need to feel
respected by themselves and each other, and of
appropriate, ask each person to identify the R-message/s s/he got from the
others in the first scenario.
start by having R reenact her or his
behavior from the first round, and then have someone say something like
"Hold it! We've got a triangle
if s/he was kneeling, have V stand up and
face the other people;
With comfortable eye contact, have each person
say something like "My needs and yours are equally valid and important now."
to each other person. Acknowledge his feels awkward and alien, if
necessary. This is powerful experiential learning.
R(escuer) (usually an adult) to ask P(ersecutor) "What do you need
from (V) now?" Help P as needed to identify one or two main
needs. Then have R ask V(ictim) "And what do you need now?"
Help R define several primary needs. One of
them should be "To feel respected by P." Then have P ask R
"And what do you need?"
Facilitate win-win problem-solving, as time permits. When you feel done enough,
ask each person to say (a) how they feel, and (b) whether they got their needs
met well enough or not. Ask everyone to sit down, and ask any observers for
feedback on each half of the sculpting exercise.
clients to summarize the point of this exercise (to experientially teach them
about PVR relationship triangles and a better way of getting their needs met).
Then ask "Who in your home and family is responsible for avoiding, spotting, and
resolving these stressful triangles?"
ask something like "What do each of you want to remember about this experience?"
Option ask "What's the next likely triangle to occur in your home, and
who will take each role?" Thank the clients for being willing to try something
new - and notice how you feel
- Follow up with clients to see if they're starting to spot and replace their
triangles in and between their homes with win-win problem solving. If not,
identify what's in the way, and work to reduce any barriers. Encourage client
adults to teach other family members what they're learning here - possibly by
doing a version of this exercise at home.
encourage clients to strengthen their communication
skills, and affirm their progress. Watch for chances to illustrate how
conflicts usually cause one or more concurrent relationship triangles, and
continue to help clients become aware of
these interactive stressors and to evolve effective strategies to avoid and
resolve each of them. Note that evolving
these skills and strategies is an important adjustment task for adults and
and new stepfamilies.
If you haven't yet, consider sculpting loyalty
conflicts to add to clients' awareness.
- To provide a general or problem-focused experiential illustration of
structural and/or dynamic facets of a client family system.
General sculptures can (a) raise
clients' awareness of their family's alliances, roles, rules, structure,
membership, and/ort bonds, and (b) expand their vocabularies to enable
discussion of these factors.
Problem-focused sculptures can
empower members to use the same factors to understand and resolve a
presenting problem to (unmet need/s in) one or more adults or kids. This technique is useful with typical divorcing families and stepfamilies at any
developmental phase. It provides a
memorable new frame of reference for each member, and an activity clients can
use at home with other members.
Participants - four or more client-family adults and kids, at least 6 or
older. The clinician and any co-therapist can be part of the sculpture as
needed. Option -
do this exercise in a support group, using volunteers to portray key members of
or outer family. If some people aren't comfortable doing this, ask them to be
neutral "reporters" or "observers," and coach them what to look for. (e.g.
"Watch people's facial expression, eye contact, and body language, without
judgment." Usually such people want to participate, once they see the
to do this - when all client-members are undistracted physically and
emotionally, and have chosen the open mind of a student. The clinician needs to
be comfortable directing people ("I want you to..."), and to have earned at
least the preliminary trust of all client members present. It may be useful for
the clinician to have...
assessed the family's structure alone or
with the clients, and/or...
offered a brief description of
before doing this exercise.
Preparations - Plan on using a
full session and a room at least 12-15 feet square to do this (ideally) two-part exercise.
Move furniture aside to open up a free space in the center of the room. Remind
all participants why you all are meeting (or ask a client adult to do this), and do
an initial distraction check, Then explain the purpose of this
framing it as "worth a thousand words."
Assure everyone that no one will be
shamed or blamed, and often this becomes fun, vs. "work." Also propose that
there is no "right or wrong" way to be in this exercise - no one can "fail," and
each person's job is to (a) be herself or himself, and (b) notice what they
think and feel as the exercise evolves.
develop a context for this experience, first discuss (a) the
of the client's family, and (b) the concepts of
This raises the implicit question "What is your family's current
if anyone has done a family role play or sculpture before, and - if so -
what that was like for them;
seed expectations by suggesting something like "We
can wonder what you each are going to realize about how you see each
other in this special family," and/or "Here's your chance to show other people a problem or
something you like about your family."
- Decide alone or with client adults whether to make this (a) a general sculpture
(e.g. with courting clients preparing for stepfamily life), or (b) a problem-focused
one. Option - if circumstances permit, it may help to do general sculptures first to orient the clients, before focusing on a
A) General "Before" Family
your role as being like the director of a play, unless you're also standing in
for an absent client family member. Ask that clients not say anything during the
experience, and be nonjudgmentally alert to their thoughts, feelings, and needs
as the experience unfolds. Let them know you all will discuss the experience and
share useful learnings afterwards, and that they may continue that at home.
invite anyone who becomes significantly uncomfortable or
distracted to say so without guilt, so you can pause or stop the exercise to learn what they
whether the family wants to include God or a Higher Power, guardian angels,
and/or special ancestors and/or absent family members in the sculpture,
including dead person/s; and....
that after the first sculpture, you may redo the exercise with
client members taking on the role of director (if true).
everyone to put down any encumbrances (note pads, purses, pens,...) and stand in
a loose circle in the middle of the room or space. Verify who each person is
"playing" - themselves, or another family member. Option - ask if the
clients would like to specify their setting in the sculpture - e.g. their home
in general or in a specific room, a relatives' home, a public place, on
vacation, etc. Ask (a) if they would like to specify a time of day or night
("This is us as everyone gets ready for bed.") or (b) a particular
situation (e.g. "getting ready for dinner"), and/or (c)
where absent members of the family are - included, or elsewhere.
with primary partners, if present, and ask them to position their bodies, limbs,
faces, and eye contact in a way that represents their current relationship.
Avoid being too specific, and let the clients decide how to do this. Option
(with all players) - decide if you want the clients to be able to move their
bodies and faces (without speaking) as part of the sculpture - e.g. frowning or
grinning, yawning, waving a hand, rolling their eyes, pointing, clenching a
fist, kneeling and standing, hugging ort pushing away, etc.
a time, ask the players to position themselves relative to the mate/s and each
other in a way that suggests their feelings, emotional focus, alliances or
avoidances, and priorities, without speaking. Option - use movable
furniture and any objects as props, if/as appropriate. ("Nancine, do you want to
use this doll / pillow / scarf to represent your cat?") Validate any feelings of confusion
and uncertainty, again saying that there are no right / wrong choices, and
encouraging the clients to notice how they feel and what they're aware of
mentally and physically - specially any needs (discomforts) they discover.
everyone is positioned, ask if anyone needs to change their position (without
speaking) - e.g. moving closer or farther from someone else, hugging, sitting or
standing, turning their face or body, or moving outside ("leaving") the group,
Based on what evolves, improvise your direction, staying alert for feeling the
sculpture has gone far enough. Take your time: awarenesses bloom as the
group stays in static or dynamic position for several minutes. As this happens,
notice your own feelings, thoughts, and needs., and whether your true Self
of your other subselves.
it feels appropriate, ask each person to hold their position, assess what
they're aware of at the moment, and invite them to describe that or say "I pass,
for now," one at a time. When everyone has responded, ask them to reassess their
awarenesses, and say in a word or phrase "Right now, I need...") Option -
the clinician can also say what s/he is aware of now, or not.
depending on time remaining and the group's "feel," decide whether or not to
direct the clients in an "After" family sculpture. To do that, ask everyone to
do something physical (touch their toes, stretch their arms, take several deep
breaths, turn around in a circle, etc. to "break the spell" and reorient to the
present moment, situation, and their bodies. If another 20" or more remains, ask
for a show of hands as to how many are willing to do a related sculpture, to
illustrate changes they'd like to make in the first one (in their family
structure and dynamics). If they're not, go here. If they are, then do a version
B) General "After" Family
- to (a) expand everyone's learning from a "before"
sculpture, and (b) help each other get clearer on anyone's needs for
constructive systemic change.
Technique - Remind
everyone this is a learning experience, an ask each person to reflect
without judgment (option - and say out loud) on...
how they felt during the "before" family sculpture,
what they needed, and...
whether they'd like to change something about anyone's
position and/or behavior (body actions, expressions, eye focus, closeness, etc.
in the sculpture
Suggest that each adult and child who wants to can now act as the
director one at a time (within time limits), while you observe and coach.
Summarize and illustrate relevant guidelines, like "limited or no talking ("Amy,
you look at Jack and whine pitifully); asking players to move in place is OK;
direct people's facial expressions and/or bodies ("George, make an angry
face, and clench your fists"); set the physical closeness or distance between
people ("Jose, kneel on the ground and wrap your arms around Margie's legs);
etc. If there are no questions, ask "Who would like to be a world-famous
volunteer director starts to position other people, stand off to the side and
coach as needed - e.g. "Do you want Tomiko to look a certain way, make any
sounds, or be doing anything with her face or body?"
Let the clients create the sculpture,
unless you see a strategic opportunity to illustrate something they're avoiding
or unaware of. Option - offer to stand in for a missing family
member if the director wants you to. If the director is a child who starts to
get silly or inappropriate, refocus them respectrfully. Use your knowledge of
the client's situation to make suggestions and/or ask open-ended questions as
needed ("Max, you've said that your parents fight a lot. Do you want to model
that here in some safe way?")
everyone that their feelings, thoughts, and needs during the sculpture set-up
are just as useful as awarenesses after the sculpture is stable, and that there
isa no "right" way to do this experience. When the director is satisfied with
the set up, ask everyone to be in the sculpture for several minutes, paying
attention to (a) their thoughts, perceptions, body sensations, emotions, and
needs; and (b) whether they would want to change something about the sculpture
if they were the director. Options -
- ask everyone to guess how each other person
feels right now, and what they may be thinking.
Remind clients that this sculpture
represents how the director sees things, not what's "right" or
appropriate, end the sculpture. Ask everyone to breathe, reorient to their body
and the room, and to stay in place, Facilitate discussion about what this
experience taught them about themselves and their family - particularly if there
was anything new and/or surprising for anyone. Watch for chances to change
something and redo the sculpture, if conditions permit. (So Luanda, you feel
your parents should have stood back to back? Do you all want to try that briefly
and see what you learn?")
you feel the experience is finished, ask everyone to sit down, and begin to
recap and close the session. Options -
anyone chose to observe rather than be part of the sculpture, ask them what
they saw, felt, and learned.
ask a volunteer to say (a) why
everyone came to this meeting, and/or (b) why you all did this experience
ask each person to say how they felt about doing this exercise together, or
Suggest that people will probably continue to think about and learn from
this sculpture after the meeting ends, and to share any awarenesses with
Remind everyone to use "hearing checks" in any such sharing, and to avoid
right/wrong judgments about others' perceptions, thoughts, and needs.
Decide if and what to share about your own observations and reactions to the
"after" sculpture or the before and after sculptures together. ("Something I
learned from doing this with you all is ____.")
Ask everyone to notice the difference between talking about a family
situation (or not), and acting it out. ("Actions really do say more than
words, don't they?")
Ask how any absent family members or supporters would have reacted to the
sculpting experience. ("How would Tim's grandfather have reacted to what we
all did here together?"
Observe that before and after
sculptures are a useful way of identifying unmet needs, and trying out ways
of filling them.
Propose that the client's' family is like a
and that any one member changing something will usually affect everyone else
in small and/or significant ways.
If appropriate, ask if people were
aware of who was leading their
during the sculpture/s - their
or "someone else." If a
led, ask clients to reflect on what that means.
whether anyone else wants to try being the director, and if the adult/s could
supervise doing their own before and after sculptures at home. Affirm each
person's willingness to participate or to take care of themselves and contribute
as an observer, Options - if appropriate, ask everyone to stand and
form a circle, hold hands, and to look at each other family member and notice
what they think and feel; and/or (b) invite everyone to do a "group hug," and
make any sounds they wish to. Ask what would happen if they evolved a ritual
like this at home, including any absent members.
C) Problem-oriented Sculptures
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