A new approach to trauma-focused intervention with vulnerable children

The Big Tree Therapeutic Dolls

A new approach to trauma-focused intervention with vulnerable children

The Big Tree Therapeutic Dolls

The Australian Childhood Foundation has designed an innovative range of therapeutic dolls that are based on  “neuro-metaphor” – a new modality for working with traumatised children in any context.


As the trauma field has matured, there has been increasing interest in the use of practical applications to support the recovery of children and young people from experiences of violation and severe relational disruption.

Over the past five years, we have created and trialled a new type of tool that is a world first. It introduces the new therapeutic modality of neuro-metaphor. This approach intentionally integrates sensory, emotional and cognitive approaches to trauma resolution for children and young people. It recruits children’s imagination to playfully engage with stories involving characters that metaphorically represent the themes that are present in their own lives. As they tell and retell these stories, different plot lines emerge that children can interact with through language and experience through their implicit sensory based memory systems.

Trauma-informed therapeutic dolls

The new tool

The new tool is a set of four colourful, texturally rich therapeutic dolls who live within and around the branches of a creative narrative landscape defined by a Big Tree. Each of the characters represent pivotal themes that children engage with in the therapeutic process including,

  • identity configuration,
  • emotional expression and affect regulation,
  • nurture and nourishment,
  • being heard and finding a voice,
  • worry and calm,
  • transformation and adaptability.

Four characters with healing purpose

Each character has specific themes of experience and healing integrated into their design; including identity, emotion, nurture, sensation awareness, calm and relaxation, containment and transformation. Morton the monster supports children to explore their identity, Ollie the monkey encourages exploration of nurturing through feeding, Susan the Kitten is designed to help children feel calm, and Ellen the caterpillar represents themes of transformation and containment.

Trauma-informed design

The design of each doll has been organised and informed by a multi-disciplinary approach to the knowledge of how trauma impacts upon children.  Our own experience has shown that sensory information can play a vital role in understanding and responding to experiences of trauma.

The weighted filling of each of the dolls enables them to take on the contours of the individual holding them, making them fit snuggly into the arms of a child.  This experience offers a sense of tactile containment and security similar to the comfort of warm deep pressure touch. This relaxing and calming experience is vital for children when they feel distressed.

Upcoming training in using these Therapeutic Dolls

Professionals can access training in this modality by attending our training workshops held around Australia.

These workshops describe how this set of therapeutic tools are used with children and families, including an exploration of their capacity to promote sensory engagement. The dolls all have colour, sound and texture built into them.

What can you expect from attending this workshop?

Workshops include hands-on demonstration and exploration where valuable insight into the richness of meaning-making strategies that children and their carers/families can engage in when relationships have fun, respect and imagination restored to them.

The cost of the workshop includes the purchase of Morten the Monster and the Big Tree app. It also includes a comprehensive manual about how to use the tools with children and/or parents/carers.

Participants will be able to use the ‘Morton the Monster’ doll immediately in their practice. The three other dolls are available for purchase only to those who have attended the workshop.

The number of registrations for each workshop is strictly limited. Make sure you register now to avoid disappointment.

The Therapeutic Dolls cannot be purchased unless you have attended the training. The cost of each doll is $66 (GST Inclusive). Sales of the additional dolls will be organised on and after the training day.

Please note that we can deliver training about the therapeutic dolls to whole of organisations or teams of practitioners at your workplace. To find out about these customised learning opportunities, email support@childhood.org.au.

Name Date Time Location Cost
Therapeutic Dolls - neuroscience and metaphor 12 August 2019 09:30 am - 04:00 pm Level 1, 675 Victoria St, Abbotsford VIC 3067 $418.00
Therapeutic Dolls - neuroscience and metaphor 30 August 2019 09:30 am - 04:00 pm Cliftons Sydney 60 Margaret Street, Sydney NSW 2000 $418.00
Therapeutic Dolls - neuroscience and metaphor 15 November 2019 09:30 am - 04:00 pm 253 Gouger Street, Adelaide SA 5000(enter off Bailey Street) $418.00

See our full training calendar

We have a range of professional development opportunities available for you to engage with.  From short webinars to workshops and on to accredited courses we’ve got your PD needs covered.

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