Family Paper Sculpture (FPS)

see Selected Publications 5, 9, 11, and 14
Bell, L. G. (1986). Using the Family Paper Sculpture for education, therapy, and research. Contemporary Family Therapy, 8, 291-300.

This is both an exercise and an instrument used in the family interviews. Family members are given a variety of colored circles (to represent people), red and black strips of various length (to show similarity and differences between people) and blue yarn loops ("boundary markers") of various sizes. Family members are asked to jointly arrange the materials on a standardized white board in a way which describes their family. The family's FPS is photographed. Various measures are coded from the picture, e.g. individual, marital, and family boundaries, descriptions of family members as similar and/or different, closeness among family members.


Use these materials to describe your family.

The colored disks are for people, the red and black strips are to show a relationship between two people: red is to show that people are similar in some way, black is to show that people are different. The blue yarn circles are "boundary markers." They are for showing a person who is somehow separate, or a pair, or group of people who belong together. A boundary around one person may be used to show that he keeps to himself a lot, for instance, or a boundary could be used to show that two people have something special going between them - something that others in the family are not a part of.

You may wish to include on the board relatives or close friends of any or all of you.

The only rule is that you are not to write on the disks or on the board. Work at your 'picture' until it feels right. There is no right or wrong way to do this.


Poker chips painted the following colors (6 of each color as the maximum number of people in the family was 5 for our original study): green, gold, silver, yellow, red, and blue. A 26" x 20" white board. Red and black strips, several in a variety of sizes from 1" to about 24". Circles made from blue yarn or various sizes, small enough to go around one person, to large enough to encircles a picture which took up the whole board.