Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

Living Edition
| Editors: Jay Lebow, Anthony Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Sculpting in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Diana Semmelhack
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_189-1


Introduction/Theoretical Framework

Sculpting is an experiential therapy intervention created by Duhl et al. (1973). They wanted to find a way to explore family and couple interactions in physical and sensory ways rather than solely through the use of language (Papp et al. 2013). Virgina Satir (1972) was also a pioneer in the development of expressive techniques for dealing with families and had some influence in the development of sculpting. Sculpting has also been referred to as a gestalt technique (Hearn and Lawrence 1981a, b). Although popular in the early days of the family therapy movement, today sculpting is not often incorporated into contemporary family therapy models.

Rational for the Intervention

In traditional family sculpting, one member of the family at a time is asked to physically arrange the family members in relationship to one another. This enables family members to show how they experience their relationships relative to one another. One...

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  1. Duhl, F. J., Kantor, D., & Duhl, B. (1973). Learning space, and action in family therapy: A primer of sculpture. Seminars in Psychiatry, 5, 167–183.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Hearn, J., & Lawrence, M. (1981a). Family sculpting: I. Some doubts and possibilities. Journal of Family Therapy, 3, 341–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hearn, J., & Lawrence, M. (1981b). Family sculpting: I. Some doubts and possibilities. Journal of Family Therapy, 7, 113–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Jefferson, C. (1978). Some notes on the use of family sculpture in therapy. Family Process, 17, 69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Papp, P., Scheinkman, M., & Malpas, J. (2013). Breaking the mold: Sculpting impasses in couples’ therapy. Family Process, 52, 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Satir, V. (1972). Peoplemaking. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Midwestern UniversityDowners GroveUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam Fisher
    • 2
  1. 1.Human Development and Family StudiesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA