Creating a Magical Safe Place


  • White poster board
  • Tape, glue and scissors
  • Crayons and coloring markers
  • Miniature items- various options which might be interesting to both genders, including objects, greenery, etc.
  • Craft items such as feathers, etc.
  • Age appropriate magazines for crafts, design, travel and style

When client arrives tell them “we are going to create a ‘safe place’ picture today”, discuss in age appropriate language that sometimes when a person feels concerned, anxious, scared, etc. it helps to visualize a place which makes them feel safe and happy. Ask them if they can picture a location they have been, or want to go, which makes them smile when they think of it. Instruct the client this place can be all their own, real or imagined, or come from any place they can think of. This ‘safe place’ can also be described in terms appropriate to the interests and passions of the client. For example, if a client shows an inclination towards super heroes, this could be the client’s very own ‘Batcave,’ ‘Watchtower,’ or ‘Xavier School,’ or ‘Avengers Tower.’ If they like fantasy it could be ’Wonderland’, ‘Arendelle Castle’ or even a location in Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings.

Once that portion of the instruction/discussion is complete, sit them down at a large table with all items accessible. Tell them they can create a picture of their happy place and/or pick any items that make them smile and think of it. Each item will then be in their “safe place”. Let them know they can cut up any of the magazines, use all crafts and/ or objects for their picture/visualization board.

Target Population:
Male and Female, ages 5 years old and up

Expected Results and Troubleshooting:
As stated by Wright, Basco, and Thase (2006) “the concept of mindfulness refers to teaching patients to better focus on the activity of the moment…, rather than being overwhelmed by strong emotions” (p. 233). Practices further elaborated on by Freeman, Pretzer, Fleming, and Simon (2004) who discussed how mindfulness offers relaxation, diminished reactivity, self-control and coping for “anxiety, stress and aversive physical sensations…through non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of bodily sensations” (p. 64). One mindfulness technique is the use of a “safe place” which an individual can visualize at times of stress or anxiety. Through guided meditation a therapist can help a client discover or create a place they can picture in their mind which acts as an emotional retreat and calming distraction at times of distress, a location to focus on now to redirect focus from the upsetting emotions. While this exercise can be very helpful the complexity of creating a location in one’s mind can be prohibitive for younger patients, or those who struggle with abstract visualization. This activity offers a solution by providing a concrete vision board for creating that “safe place”. The therapist can also use this activity for further insight through discussion of what objects, setting, styles, etc. were picked for the board, as well as an insight into the client’s play habits. The process of artistic creation itself may also prove therapeutic.

Related Works:

Freeman, A., Pretzer, J. Fleming, B., & Simon K. M. (2004). Clinical applications of cognitive therapy (2nd ed.). NewYork: Springer.

Tan, L., & Martin, G. (2014). Taming the adolescent mind: A randomised controlled trial examining clinical efficacy of an adolescent mindfulness‐based group programme. Child And Adolescent Mental Health , doi:10.1111/camh.12057

Thompson, M., & Gauntlett-Gilbert, J. (2008). Mindfulness with children and adolescents: Effective clinical application. Clinical Child Psychology And Psychiatry , 13 (3), 395-407. doi:10.1177/1359104508090603

Thurman, S. K., & Torsney, B. M. (2014). Meditation, mindfulness and executive functions in children and adolescents. In N. N. Singh (Ed.) , Psychology of meditation (pp. 187-207). Hauppauge, NY, US: Nova Science Publishers.

Wright, J.H., Basco, M. R., & Thase, M. E. (2006). Learning Cognitive-Behavior Therapy: An Illustrated Guide . American Psychiatric Publishing Guide, Inc.

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.