Drawing Out The Self


Case Study

(35 pages, including 10 images from 7 client drawings)

This chapter offers a sample of 10 therapy sessions, over a 6 month period, with one client, with detailed records of the actual discussions about the drawings between client and therapist.
The drawings address several issues: the client’s relationship with her actual mother and with another mother-figure in her life; the pressure the client feels to achieve, both socially and professionally;  and her relationship with a problematic boyfriend.   Specific examples  are given of the insights that the client made as therapy progressed. These insights and other comments are taken from verbatim notes from each session. These remarks can be seen on the drawings, where they were recorded in writing, during the sessions.

Session 5: Drawing “Myself and my Mother in a Loving Situation”

The title set for this picture (“Myself and My Mother In A Loving Situation”) is one that I use fairly often.  It works on several levels.  Firstly, it moves away from the negative, and encourages the client to recollect those positive times.  Secondly, it clarifies this important aspect of the mother and child relationship, and helps to bring into focus the complex admixture of possible resentments, longings, joy and sadness.  If, as occasionally happens, there are no memories of a loving situation, then the title might read “Myself and My Mother in an Ideal Loving Situation.”

Hanna seemed happy to draw this topic, and took under 20 minutes to do so.  When I sat down with her to look at the drawing, before we worked on our “objective” examination, she told me that it was a little harder to draw than she expected, and that it didn’t look anything like her Mom.  “They usually,” she said, “sat down on a Saturday and had a talk”.

Let me point out straight away that, on looking at the drawing, I assumed that the figure on the left was Hanna, and that her mother was the figure on the right.  It turned out to be the other way around, much to my surprise.  The use of the Objective Approach means that the therapist withholds stated judgment, and joins the client in a careful examination of the picture, allowing time for the actual to emerge.

Figure 44 - “Myself and my Mother in a Loving Situation”

What Hanna saw in the left hand figure (who was, in fact, her mother) appeared to be a teenager of 15, looking past the other figure, holding a cigarette that “looks like it’s burning her arm.”  The mouth, she said, has a “bit of a smile.”  But when I asked her later to describe how that smile might be described in more detail, she added that, it “looks like she wants to scream but can’t.”

The other figure (who is actually Hanna) appears to be the older of the two. She had a “more masculine look,” and again was not looking at the other figure in the drawing, but was “staring past her.”  The eyes, Hanna thought, on examination, had the look of a “zombie,” and were “really open.” She saw too that the feet were not on the ground, and that the spiky table leg appeared to be going through her foot!  Also (and I admit that I was so transfixed by the impaled foot that I initially missed this) the young-looking figure on the left had “two left feet.”  This is why it can be so helpful for the therapist to ask a question like “Describe the body to me while looking very carefully at the picture.”