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Trauma, Loss & Doll Making

Trauma, Loss & Doll Making

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Earn 1 Credit for Technique Module toward

Certification in Art-Assisted Grief Therapy

Offered by the Portland Institute.

Presented by

Sharon Strouse


Art Therapist

Associate Director

Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

Sarah Vollmann


Board-Certified Art Therapist

Buckingham Browne and Nichols School

Practicum Faculty

Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

USD$99 for 3-hour module

Dolls have a universal and timeless appeal.  Ancient civilizations created them to ward off illness, promote fertility, and ensure abundant crops.  Dolls have been infused with the wishes, fears, and hopes of their makers, and have served as powerful talismans of transformation.  Learners will discover the clinical benefits of doll making through case studies that illustrate its effectiveness in the treatment of grief and traumatic loss.  This creative, imaginative and transformative art therapy technique explores the relationship to the self and to the deceased, either of which can be represented by dolls, through the lens of meaning reconstruction and attachment informed grief therapy. 

We will present handmade art therapy dolls as a valuable vehicle for the telling and reworking of one’s loss narrative, which includes event and back story, bracing, pacing and facing, and for exploring an identity impacted by grief and rooted in the existential question, “Who am I?”  Alternatively, the doll making process and product can serve as a concrete, transitional object to support the exploration of the continuing bond with the deceased.  It provides opportunities for reconnection, care giving and memorializing.

Our time together will include the sharing of a survivor’s intimate doll making experience.  Small breakout rooms and a larger group discussion will serve as a witnessing experience to the process of non-verbal expression, using a pliable human form to gain a sense of control and well-being.


  • Discuss three reasons why creative and expressive interventions, such as doll making, are desirable with those suffering traumatic loss;

  • Examine aspects of Meaning Reconstruction, defined by sense making, benefit finding, identity reformation and bracing, pacing and facing as important components of doll making, an imaginative process that addresses the shattered “self;” 

  • Understand three tenets of Attachment-Informed Grief Therapy, where the doll making process and tangible product are in service to the continuing bond with the deceased; and

  • Examine doll making and its ability to address the event story and back story which are key components in Meaning Reconstruction.

Note:  Completion of this program (total 3-hour activity, including approximately 2-hour recorded webinar and 1-hour reflection) and return of the Responsive Journal satisfies 1 Technique Module required for Certification in Art-Assisted Grief Therapy.


This program contains the following video segments:

  1. Doll Making: History, Materials and Clinical Extensions (30 mins)
  2. Case Illustrations: Working with Traumatic Losses (41 mins)

  3. Doll Making for Meaning Reconstruction: Relearning the World & the Self (20 mins)

  4. Process & Product: A Live Interview (44 mins)



Presenting Faculty

Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT is a board-certified and licensed clinical professional art therapist and Associate Director for the Portland Institute.  Her art therapy private practice, national presentations, trainings and practitioner supervision / mentoring focus on traumatic loss, specifically with parents who have lost a child, suicide bereavement, and military loss/ Gold Star Families.  The theoretical foundations of her group and individual art therapy work are grounded in meaning reconstruction, attachment informed grief therapy, continuing bonds with the deceased and restorative retelling.  She is author of Artful Grief: A Diary of Healing, ( written twelve years after the suicide of her seventeen-year-old daughter.  She is co-founder of The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation ( a non-profit dedicated to supporting programs that increase awareness of mental health through education and the arts.

Sharon Strouse,


Photo - Sharon Strouse 1.png

Sarah Vollmann, MPS, ATR-BC, LICSW is a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified art therapist. She earned her master's in art therapy from Pratt Institute and her master's in social work from Columbia University. Sarah currently works with adolescents at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge Massachusetts, and with bereaved patients in her private practice. Her 20 years of experience have spanned a variety of settings, including a pediatric medical hospital, a residential treatment facility, and a mental health clinic. Sarah worked with 9/11 families and she is certified in traumatic stress studies. Her publications on grief and loss include a recent chapter in Briana MacWilliam's Complicated Grief, Attachment and Art Therapy: Theory, Treatment and 14 Ready-To-Use Protocols, and an article  in  Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying, entitled "A Legacy of Loss: Stories of Replacement Dynamics and the Subsequent Child." She has presented nationally and internationally on art therapy, grief, and bereavement.

Sarah Vollmann,


Photo - Sarah Vollmann.jpg

USD$99 for 3-hour module

For other enquiries, simply email Carolyn.

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