Interview with Felicia Nubivn, LMSW: Butterfly Gardens and Telehealth

Felicia Nubivn is a social worker, researcher, and advocate for social justice. We connected over Twitter, and she shared that she had been using a butterfly garden in telehealth sessions. Since I’m always looking for more telehealth ideas, I reached out, and Felicia was kind enough to take time to talk with me about her butterfly garden.

Felicia Nubivn, LMSW

Butterfly metamorphosis parallels therapeutic change and growth. We can completely transform into something unrecognizable from where we started, and self-care and rest are essential to this change.

Felicia has shared more about her decision to create a butterfly garden on her blog. She created the garden with the intention of healing her own inner child: “Most of our destructive behaviors come from what we learned as children.” She had just started a new job as an outpatient therapist and wanted to work on her own healing as well as that of her clients.

Although a butterfly garden could be a metaphor used in any session, telehealth is an especially apt way to communicate this to clients, since they can literally see the development and lifecycle over several weeks. You are not just talking about growth and transformation; you are seeing it in real time.

In telehealth sessions, Felicia would show kids the different stages of growth in the garden, from caterpillars to cocoons to butterflies. She shared with me, “Metamorphosis is very similar and symbolic of healing.” Kids were intrigued by the butterflies’ growth process, and Felicia tied these stages into the children’s own stages of personal growth and healing.

Butterflies are a great metaphor for moving on and termination in therapy. Young clients especially are often hesitant to stop therapy even when they have made great progress because change is scary. But as we see with butterflies, even though the cocoon feels safe and comfortable, we outgrow it and are ready to move on.

Although the butterfly release can’t feasibly happen during sessions, Felicia shared that her clients love hearing that the butterflies got to move on to their next stage and are ready to be independent because she took such good care of them as they grew.

Photo by Cindy Gustafson on

Growth is important, but change can be scary and painful. We are all becoming something even better than we were before if we can let ourselves leave the safety of what’s familiar.

Felicia has shared blog posts about mental health and social justice, and her website is full of wonderful resources.

You can purchase a kit to create your own butterfly garden on Amazon or check with a local butterfly rescue for resources. If you want to use butterflies in your telehealth sessions but don’t have the space or capacity to create your own garden, the University of Florida offers a live feed of their Chrysalis Cam as well as time-lapsed videos of the different phases.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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