Therapeutic Workbook for Elementary-Aged Children

Therapeutic Workbook for Elementary-Aged Children


How do we help grieving children express in words what there are no words for?

The challenge was to engage elementary-aged children in a therapeutic process that gently helped them along in their grief journey in an age-appropriate and non-threatening way. 


  1. Concept Development + Market Research: Conducted research on current bereavement offerings and found a dearth of outdated materials that did not visually engage or were hackneyed in their approach, thus reducing their viability. Key discoveries were that bereaved children:

    • Were easily overwhelmed and frequently regressed.

    • Had a high need for comfort items.

    • Had a difficult time putting their conflicting feelings about their loss into words.

    • Were distressed that their memories of their loved one faded so quickly.

  2. Stakeholder Ideation + User Experience Research: Gathered a national advisory board of 26 specialists who understood the emotional and therapeutic requirements of bereaved children. Created a manuscript based on synthesized research (competition analysis, ideation workshops, interviews, surveys) which uncovered optimal concepts and creative direction. Relied on validation from real users to make needed adjustments and determine the best flow for the therapeutic journey.

  3. Art Direction: Hand-picked 26 illustrators from around the world whose style captured the spirit of each of the activities, negotiating pro bono services for each. Provided art direction while managing the project and designing the layouts. Created line extensions including:

    • Leader's Companion (curriculum)

    • Memory Bank and prompt pad (click for more details)

    • Caregiver's Guide

    • Memorial Frame

    • Certificate of Completion

  4. Marketing: With no marketing staff and barebones budget, I solicited partners who sponsored the printings, covering most of our costs. I researched competitive products to create retail and bulk prices, weighing what investment our core audience of therapists could bear.


As a direct result of the research, I knew the end product needed to convey comfort and so I chose a creamy recycled paper that was pleasing to the touch and rounded the right-facing edges. I chose a calming brown palette to reflect nature and the seasons. I hand-picked illustrators that displayed strong line quality and had a fun—yet respectful—tone which invited the young artist to trust in and participate with the prompts in the book.

The Result

Draw It Out has reached over 21,000 bereaved children in North America between 2013–2016 and netted Art with Heart over $260k in sales during that time. The Draw It Out Leader's Companion is now in use by grief specialists, therapists, and school counselors around the country. Art with Heart offers a day-long training to teach facilitators how to use creativity to help young grievers heal using these resources. 

"Draw It Out is like a treasure map. It helped me reach deep down inside to get to the hidden parts inside my heart."  —9 year-old "Anna" who suffered panic attacks after the death of her baby sister

“The content is empowering and engaging, with an emphasis on resilience and personal strengths. It not only is a welcome resource for children and adolescents who have lost family members or friends or are confronted by serious illness, but also is a great tool for therapists to use with young clients.”Cathy Malchiodi, art therapist, research psychologist, author