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
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)
1 2 3
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.