Therapy Resources



Home Page


Self Help


Find a Therapist




Alternative Therapies Picture

Alternative Complimentary Therapies

Chapter 2 Part 3

Most of my paintings consist of only two or three colours - red, black and occasionally yellow... When I am depressed, black represents total despair and a great sense of personal worthlessness: red represents anger of an almost suffocating kind - anger directed mainly at myself because of this sense of worthlessness: the occasional use of yellow suggests feeble and rare glimmers of a hope for a future. when I have drawn a figure, it is usually a black silhouette because I do not want to acknowledge that the figure bombarded by despair and anger is myself.

Although this account does not state the condition of the patient, the symptoms could be associated with schizophrenia. This narrative reveals the individual learning to analyse and discover for themselves who they are. By working alongside the art therapist the client will try to put all the pieces together to eventually gain understanding and meaning.
A psychoanalytic concept called transference can develop through the response to self-drawings. The patient recalls early childhood experiences, and the feelings associated with these are transferred or put onto the therapist and the artwork, thus bringing out deep seated childhood memories and experiences. These can sometimes influence the present. Depending on the theoretical framework from which the therapist belongs this will influence the way the issues will be worked through. For example, they may be explored within the here and now or the client may be encouraged to regress back to a particular time or event. In contrast to transference is counter-transference, here it is the therapist's own feelings and responses to the client and their artwork. Although this would not be the main focus for the therapist, the schizophrenic's symptoms would be, they do need acknowledging if they arise. The therapist may verbalise these feelings in association with the patients artwork.

Although this is seen sometimes as creating a problem, in that the therapist may influence the client through their own understanding where it may be inappropriate.

According to Dalley, Rifkind and Terry (1993) the patient and the therapist experience a range of feelings and responses to the art images produced, both of these can be understood as significant. The therapists' own feelings can indicate how the client is feeling, therefore it is important for the therapist to distinguish their own feelings from that of the client's. (Kuhns 1983:21) as cited in Dalley, Rifkind and Terry (1993, p10) identifies the importance of transference and counter-transference and explains how they can be understood in relation to the therapeutic process,

The process is one of "mirroring" reverberating and reflecting back and forth through several layers of consciousness; the consciousness of the object, of the artist, who creates the presentation of the self through the object or in the object of the beholder, who responds to all the layers with accumulation of conscious and unconscious associations which include deeply private nodal points in the unique experience in which there are correspondences, but not identities in others.

The idea that the art therapist can have a great impact on their client and can affect the direction the client is taking will be discussed in the following chapter, the role of the art therapist.

1 2 3