Excerpt from ISSUE #23 (August 2008)
Using IDT with Children and Adolescents
Often in schools, kids come to see the counsellor, not because they have deep psychological problems, or because life is crashing down around them and they need to start dealing with destructive, lifelong patterns, but because they have a problem and they want a listening ear and perhaps some support and guidance to deal to this problem. Therefore many of these young clients are only in counselling for a short time. This can pose a challenge to the traditional view of counselling with thoughts such as, a client needs to be in therapy for “x” number of sessions to actually move forward. or this problem is just the presenting issue and there are deeper underlying issues. Sometime there are of course, but often in the school setting it is the presenting problem that is the problem the client wants an answer to an after that they go back to facing life as normal. Children and adolescents often move forward very quickly, at times leaving the counsellor asking “Have I done my job here?” As with many other areas in the young person’s life, change can happen quickly.
IDT is a great modality in this setting because the page comes alive to the young person and speaks to where they are at… if it’s just a simple solution to a particular problem that is needed, then the child will explore the metaphor and come up with some great “wise words”. Often the wisdom that comes from the young mouth is surprisingly mature! If the problem is part of a deeper issue, the child allows this emerge through the page. Mostly young people have less inhibitions than adults when it comes participating in the drawing process, and also they are less inhibited when it comes to engaging in the metaphor, …and sometimes it is difficult to see how this process is going to come together and do the necessary work, but it does of course!
For instance Olivia (11 years) was facing a number of issues in her young life; Dad has an illness that prevents him having full time employment, Mum works full time, Nana is in latter stages of terminal cancer, and older sibling has mental health issues which frequently affect the rest of the family, and Olivia’s friends were “being mean” to her. We had already worked on several drawings in past sessions. This particular day I asked her to draw someone on a journey, and to show a difficult place in this journey. Olivia quickly engaged in this process, and as she drew she talked about a computer game that she played and how much this picture was a scene from the game with various difficult challenges. I am glad that she could not read my mind! I wondered where this was going to go and how I was going to be able to bring this to a useful conclusion, and many other doubts about this session. But I should have known that I could trust the process! After she had drawn the various challenges of this game, and added some things to help the traveller traverse the difficulties, Olivia leaned back, looked at her picture and declared “this is just like what’s happening to me eh” and she proceeded to tell how she saw the relationship between her and this metaphor and was able to express clearly what she wanted to do as the next step in her journey. Why did I doubt? Of course it works. I just need to lean back and trust!
- Averil Pierce
Funeral Work across The Globe
I’d never ‘done’ the South Island, so last week, after completing Unit Two (of the IDT Foundation Course) at Christchurch, I took an extra day and went on the Trans-Alpine Express trip to the West Coast. Sitting opposite me was a young (24) Chinese tourist, by herself and clearly ‘down in the dumps’. After we’d introduced ourselves and settled in for the ride, she said her father had recently died and his funeral held two days ago (-all while she was in NZ)…. “It is very sad!” She took up my offer of help, and using my little A6 pocket notebook and ballpoint we headed into IDT, much to the intrigue of people sitting on the other side of the train and the train staff.
My first intervention was to ask her “can you do me a drawing of you and your father?” This produced two simple stick figures side-by-side (big father, small 12 yr old daughter) with the Chinese writing in the traditional vertical style as they talk to each other. The next few pages dealt with her relationships with father and mother, and her memories of living at home (-saying what needed to be said and releasing some of her sadness through tears). The drawings by this time had moved to full body pictorial expression, the writing still vertical, and her demeanor was a mix between the culturally dutiful, obedient, courteous 12 yr old and the belatedly appreciative 24 yr old. By the end of this set she was feeling much better in herself. After a pause we re-contracted, and in the next set of drawings we conducted our own Chinese-style funeral, cremation and burial services, drawing out on the pages each step of the ceremonies as prescribed by her culture. By this stage she was still writing in Chinese but the characters were now written horizontally in the modern manner, and her involvement was present time. After another pause we re-contracted again and the last set of drawings addressed where she was now in her life and her foreseeable future. (This arose because traditionally the remaining parent moves in to live with the ‘children’). By this time she had become the 24 yr old ‘international student’, writing in conventional English. All up we produced 12 small pieces of paper in an hour and a half, which she carefully sorted into order and put safely away.
I was reminded that drawing is an international language; how suitable and wonderful IDT is for cross-cultural communication where language and cultural norms are quite different; how it helps us deal with heavy issues in a light way; how user-friendly a method IDT is for clients to learn, how the therapist does not have to understand all the content in order to follow the process; how the client spontaneously matches both the developmental stages involved, and reveals each stage of the therapeutic process; and how working at the ‘universal’ dimension bypasses personal and cultural differences.
- Russell Withers, 1998