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Alternative Complimentary Therapies

Chapter 2 Part 1

The individual experience

The previous chapter gives an idea of what indicators in the form of images can be identified as schizophrenic symptoms. This was taken from the professional view point.
In contrast to this is the individual experience. The reality that schizophrenia fragments the mind, the different symptoms that the individual may experience, in particular an altered sense of the physical self all effect the patient to question who they are. This idea of an altered sense of self, especially in a physical sense is described by one man who suffers with schizophrenia:

My body has the same forms of distortions as my vision and these are manifested throughout my anatomy. My body feels like there are intentions, ridges, and agonising disfigurements all over. Strands of hair falling down on my forehead feel much larger, heavier, and more noticeable. My body feels dry like it is brittle. My skin and underlying fat feels deadish like when you get novocaine, except you still have sensation. Eyes feel hollow, like they extend further back in the skull. Appendages frequently feel different shapes, narrower or fuller or curved in opposite directions. Hands, arms and legs sometimes feel an inch to the side of where they really are at. Fingers at times feel and look longer or shorter than usual. My face can feel twice as long as it is. (anon, nd) as cited in Torrey (2001, p66)

This individual experience, although unique is very much characteristic of some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and can be expressed through drawings of the self by the individual. The patient's own judgement of their self-image is of paramount importance, Dalley (1984, p177) reiterates this by stating, "The concept of self-image seems dependent on the reactions and opinions of others as well as the individual's own judgement."

When the individual engages in self-portraits they can explore their self-image. They can be explorations of the individual's identity. The patient may be struggling to find their identity or may not even know who they are because of the emergence of the 'real' voices, hallucinations and the so many other symptoms that accompany schizophrenia. Therefore, self-portrait drawings can be used as a vehicle for self-expression. They may eventually even help the individual to gain some independence over their shattered mind, the different perceptions they have of themselves and the outside world. Self-portrait drawings allow them to explore their different aspects of the self, how they look, feel and understanding from the inside what the outside is like. Dalley, Rifkind and Terry (1993)
Part of the self-drawing process involves the person illustrating their perceptions, fears and feelings, to then be looked at together and discussed with the art therapist. Drawing the way they feel at specific times. How the drawing makes the individual feel and why they think they drew it like they did and what they used, the colours and materials, all are important and part of the therapy process. According to Liebmann (1990, p15) it is a combination of the process of making the art and the relationship between the client and the therapist.

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