To think, to wonder, to learn, to make a change, we need to have something to grab hold of. An idea or a thought can become so much more once it is written down on paper.
Within clinical practice, psychologists often use drawings, timelines and genograms (family trees) to help their clients see their context and difficulties in a visual way. But why is this technique so helpful?
Gerald Oster’s recently published book- Using Drawings in Clinical Practice, emphasises some of key reasons why drawing is useful when working with children, families and adults.
He stresses that often drawings are an easy way to engage clients, especially those who are nervous or find it difficult to share some of their deeper concerns.
Oster’s book speaks about the benefits of using drawing in an initial session or assessment session with a client. As drawings and pictures can reveal so much about the intricacies of a person’s view on the world and their relationships with those around them.
By simply asking a client to draw their family, any difficulties or strained relationships soon become apparent. They might have drawn themselves very distant from their family, or made their partner look like the devil- whatever is put down on the page is valuable.
Having drawn a picture, clients will be able to see themselves that they have created a solid image in their mind. By having their own views on the world and their relationships with others, down on paper it can help a person become more reflective.
Their ideas, beliefs, emotions and thoughts become concrete when they are on the page. This means that they can be explored and looked at from lots of different ways. Fleeting thoughts can be held and looked at, stressful and scary images can be explored and altered. By seeing something in black and white (and colour if the NHS can afford pencils), you no longer have to be puzzled or pestered by intrusive thoughts.
Children find drawing and writing down thoughts particularly helpful. Oster writes about the importance of being able to help a child make connections between their drawings, and their emotions and thoughts.
Drawings, timelines, family trees, poems, stories, comic books, sculptures, paintings… all represent something about their creator. By seeing our own perspective on the world and relationships in front of us in a concrete and tangible way, we can begin to connect how our view of impacts our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.