Small figure work is not a full training such as Psychodrama, Narrative Therapy or Gestalt Therapy, rather it is another tool which clinicians can add to their repertoire. The use of small figures produces different internal knowledge in the client from the use of talking therapies and thus makes a good adjunct to talking therapies. It sometimes will produce a deep emotional response in clients and at other times enable the client to “step back” and see themselves in a dispassionate way.
Small figure work has some similarities with sand tray work, however it has more of a focus on family systems and specific interactions between people and less of the symbolic meanings attained through the use of sand tray. The small figures can also be used in symbolic ways.
Using small figures enables clients to:
• Express and understand their knowledge of the family and social systems they inhabit.
• Experience themselves and their stories from both internal and external perspectives.
• Connect with feelings and understanding that are held in nonverbal memory.
• Concretise and thus more fully experience their hopes and wishes for the future.
The theoretical underpinnings of small figure work lie in psychodrama and the ideas of JL Moreno especially concretisation and role reversal. However therapists trained in other modalities are likely to be able to reframe the work in their own way. Similarly therapists learning small figure work quickly develop the practical skills to integrate the work with their usual practice.