Therapeutic Intervention Using "Onward" for Grieving and Growing Up Without a Father

Therapeutic Focus:

This intervention focuses on processing grief and exploring the emotional and psychological effects of growing up without a father, using the characters and plot of "Onward" to guide the therapeutic narrative and activities.

Steps in the Intervention

  1. Story Review and Identification:
    • Begin by watching "Onward" with the client or discussing the plot and key moments. Ask them to identify with the characters’ emotions and experiences, particularly those related to their father’s absence and their quest.
  2. Expression of Grief:
    • Use Ian and Barley’s emotional responses throughout the movie as a way to open up discussions about grief. Engage the client in art or writing activities that allow them to express their feelings about lost relationships or unmet expectations due to the absence of their father.
  3. Understanding Emotional Journeys:
    • Discuss the emotional journey of the characters, focusing on Ian’s development from feeling incomplete and lacking confidence to discovering his own strengths and capabilities. Relate these themes to the client’s personal experiences of growth and self-discovery.
  4. Role Models and Support Systems:
    • Highlight the role of Barley, Ian's older brother, as a supportive figure who helps Ian on his quest. Discuss the importance of other supportive relationships in the client's life, such as siblings, other family members, mentors, or friends.
  5. Memory Integration:
    • Inspired by the brothers’ quest to reconnect with their father, facilitate a session where the client creates a memory box or a digital collage of memories of their father or father figures. This helps integrate the presence of the deceased or absent father into their current life narrative.
  6. Resilience Building:
    • Discuss how the brothers overcome various obstacles during their quest. Use this narrative to explore resilience and problem-solving skills, discussing how the client has used or can use similar skills in their own life challenges.
  7. Legacy and Moving Forward:
    • Toward the end of the intervention, focus on how the brothers carry forward their father’s legacy in their own actions and choices. Encourage the client to think about what aspects of their relationship with their father or father figures they would like to honor and carry forward.


This intervention model using "Onward" allows clients, particularly young adults and children, to explore their feelings of grief and absence in a safe and structured way. By connecting with the characters’ journeys, clients can find space to express their own emotions, recognize their personal strengths, and appreciate the support systems around them. This therapeutic approach aims not only to process grief but also to empower clients as they navigate their path forward without their father.

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