Tree of Life


It’s the first day of Autumn,  which reminded me that I wanted to share a wonderful activity called The Tree of Life.  I was recently introduced to this exercise during orientation to CIIS‘s Expressive Arts Therapy program a few weeks ago.

The Tree of Life was developed by  Ncazelo Ncube, a child psychologist from Zimbabwe,   who co-partnered with the  Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia  to create a healing exercise for children who had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.  This gentle project allows people to find strength in their own personal stories using the tree as a metaphor (

This strength-based arts activity has been used in various communities around the world.  For instance, CIIS has partnered with The Glide Foundation in San Francisco in a research study to observe the use of expressive arts therapy with vulnerable children ( This activity is one of the arts-based methods being utilized to help kids develop strengths through their own histories in a way that does not re-traumatize them.

My “Lemon Cohort” classmates and I made our own trees during orientation. When I got home, I decided to incorporate what had gone into my tree that day directly into my journal. There is so much that can go into each level: the roots, which represent one’s ancestry and family history;  the ground to signify current sources of strength and influences;  the trunk to describe one’s skills and abilities;  branches as dreams, hopes and wishes; leaves to signify important people in one’s life and; the fruits – gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

My son worked on his own tree for a little while. He put “babysitter” on his trunk, which is cute, as he’s never babysat for anyone. I’ll take it to mean that this is a skill that he is developing.

I enjoy being back in school, and it’s great to have aesthetic responses and experiential activities incorporated into the curriculum. Naturally, there is also quite a bit of reading, which is why I have not been blogging very much. Life has been busy, which is good. All of these new experiences will find themselves on a future Tree of Life.