Extracts from Therapy Sessions

The following are extracts from psychotherapy sessions with survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. The aim of this page of the Healing section is to demonstrate the fact that the various interventions listed above can and often are combined. Psychotherapy is often referred to as ‘the talking therapy’, and art therapists are often assumed to only do art-making in their client sessions. The same cross-over of intervention strategies applies to EMDR, CBT, emotional-release and inner-child therapies. Treating childhood trauma usually requires a wide range of interventions to deal with the complex nature of the damage.

Descriptions of therapy sessions do not use clients’ real names, and any identifying information is removed. Nothing is reproduced without the client’s permission, and clients collaborate in the writing up of the session material.



Rachel – Art-making allows me to stick around with myself!

‘Rachel’ came in wanting to use drawing to move the process forward, as she was feeling a slight change in her state, away from only seeing external reality having power over her, towards some sense of internal power. As she thought about going into drawing, Rachel reported that the only image coming into her mind was of a particular blue colour. I suggested she sit quietly and write a little, as a point of entry into the creative space.

Writing 1 :

Where does the self come from? 

From circumstances
From colour
From necessity

From fear and
Self protection
From anger and shame 

With a quick look at this list it’s apparent where chaos comes from,
so many pathways to tiptoe along,
so many ways to hide.

Rachel felt the writing showed her how many influences keep her in a state of fear. She moved into drawing:

Drawing 1. [emerging self]

IMG_1836 (1)


We looked at this picture, and Rachel said that she had wanted the blue wing-shape with orange dots to be wings, but now they looked more like a little canoe or venetian barge.   I invited her to start another drawing, to allow the process to move forward in whatever way her system led her.

Drawing 2. [winged self]



Here Rachel has allowed herself to have wings. She describes the image as ‘flying across the landscape’ and ‘being attracted by the light coming through a kind of doorway’.

After looking at this picture together, I suggested Rachel take a moment to write, to allow something from this experience to be put into words.

Writing 2 :

I can’t hear anything, just the feeling of ‘unshacklement’
Release of soul

Rachel returned to drawing.

Drawing 3


Rachel felt that this drawing was rather childlike, more playful, and that she had been able to draw it without self-judgement or censoring.

Drawing 4


Rachel said of this drawing, that this was the original colour image she’d had when she first thought about drawing. This ‘self’ felt to her to be more a core self, not the child self but a more global or whole self.

The following week we talked about this process, how and why producing the four drawings might be different to just drawing the original image of the blue colour.

H: Do you think going through the 4 part process allowed the original ‘sense of blue colour’ to emerge with more of a sense of Self?

R: Mmm – I see it like a movie set. To not go through the sequence of pictures would make each individual one feel more one-dimensional. To focus on just one picture is more like a superficial skimming over the surface. The four together is more like a movie, more 3-dimensional.

Going through the process for me is the opposite to what I normally do – which is that I avoid the emotional experience and try to go straight to the end result and intellectualize something new. When I say I just go to the end result, its really just me deploying the skills I’ve learned to adhere to the ‘rules’: it is born of, and serves survival and invisibility only.  You survive and you fit in (perhaps mutually dependent) but never really experience anything.  There’s no possibility of seeing choice (survival mode is all encompassing), its reactive and flat.

H: you mean that you avoid ‘swimming’ in emotion and experiential moments?

R: yes! I would have expected facing the feelings to be much harder. But doing it this way feels safe and not hard, it didn’t feel hard at all.

H: perhaps because the process switches off language?

R: yes, it by-passes language, and that’s good because that’s one of the tools of ‘fitting in’. Some of the images in those drawings are breaking the rules – my rules!

H: yes I see what you mean! They are expressions of feeling, like the self flying through the air, and the self that is playful and not ‘serious adult’.

R: . . . art-making allows me to ‘stick around’ with myself!

H: Hmm . . . so these pictures are artifacts of an experience of emergence of the emotional self!


[I loved Rachel’s rewording of both mindfulness and art therapy’s usual term ‘staying present to self’ – “sticking around with myself”]