Drawing Out The Self


The Objective Approach

An introduction to the fundamentals

(45 pages, 2 drawings)

This is the core of the book – a step-by-step description of the key method that defines the Dewdney approach to art therapy.  It explains what is unique about this approach, and  how a therapist might use this method in  sessions with clients.  The chapter begins by discussing what kind of clients can benefit from this approach (age, capacity for personal insight, drawing ability), and why we write on the client’s drawing (a very unique element of this approach); it also looks at how to develop trust between client and therapist.

The bulk of the chapter then takes the reader through the execution of one drawing, and discussion around that drawing assignment. The assignment is “How I see myself / How others see me” – which is often one of the first drawings to be done.

We see the client’s drawing first as it appears when it has just been drawn. We then see the drawing again, as it looks at the end of the session, with all the client’s comments written on the drawing.

It can be difficult for clients to view their own drawings objectively. This chapter describes some techniques that the therapist can use to encourage a client to view their own drawing in an objective way.  Actual question and answer exchanges between the therapist and client are included.  Tips are offered to therapists on how to direct the client to view their own work more objectively.

After the client has made some objective comments about their drawing, and these comments are written down, the session then moves into a new phase of subjective discussion. Techniques for handling this transition are explained. Advice is also provided on how to close a session. As the discussions about the drawing progress, there is  explanation about  the important difference that may arise between a client’s intention, and what they actually draw on paper.

The chapter ends with discussion of potential problems in a drawing session (e.g. if a drawing seems to reveal severe mental pathology).


Figure 25 - “How I See Myself / How Others See Me”
All the comments have now been restored to the drawing
In the top right-hand quadrant, next to each figure are the client’s answers to the therapist’s specific questions. The other written comments come from the client’s responses and elaborations that arose later in the session.

What is written on the right side of each figure in the drawing is the objective part of this approach.  These written comments are mostly the result of Pat’s beginning ability to look at these figures with as much objectivity as she can muster. Linda suggested to Pat that they start with the figure on the left first, using questions that are basic to most sessions.

Linda:   Is this person male or female?

Pat:      I can’t tell. I think it’s kind of non-sexual. It has no sex.

Linda writes Pat’s statements on the drawing.  Pat’s entire sentence was not written down, but key statements or words were recorded.  This requires some practice on the part of the therapist. Initially, the therapist may feel more comfortable noting almost the whole of what is said.  However, if the therapist writes down all that the client says, space on the page and time can be quickly used up; they can become bogged down in the details.  If both client and therapist see the same gender, all the therapist needs to do is write the response on the paper.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to check, using questions that encourage an objective response, to see how the client arrived at this conclusion.

If there is a discrepancy between the therapist’s observation and that of the client, the therapist should write down the answer and put a question mark after the statement.  The therapist needs a reminder (written on the drawing) of when the client’s answer has been questioned.  I use a question mark to indicate that this needs further exploration.  I will ask the same question as before, and this will usually help the client reconsider his or her statement.  This client began to realize that there was a discrepancy between her verbal answer and what she was looking at – what she herself had drawn. (Other clients may not see such discrepancies so quickly.)

At this point, it is very important that the therapist not push his or her observations, but to allow any discrepancies to be self-discovered by the client.  Asking further objective questions helps the client focus on areas that may encourage him or her to see the possible differences between the intention and the product.