About Interactive Drawing Therapy


The IDT Modality

IDT is a page-based way of working with the client’s words, images and feelings to access and work with different parts of the clients psyche. IDT uses right-brain drawing and writing techniques to complement and extend the more common left-brain talking and Rocky Mountainscognitive processes. Creative, inspiring and respectful, IDT is a client-centred process of disclosure and discovery in which you actively partner the client in the process of deepening their work, often through the development of visual metaphors. The IDT counsellor does not interpret the client’s imagery or content. By accessing wise and resourceful parts of the unconscious, IDT provides us with new tools for understanding and working with the client’s therapeutic process.

IDT is a process-directed method that follows the natural path of the psyche as it seeks to admit and resolve issues, release potential, and move on. By externalising onto the page, the page becomes a mirror that enables clients to see themselves more objectively, change their perceptions about themselves, their experiences, and their world of possibilities. IDT allows the words, images and behaviours of the client to reveal where they are in their therapeutic process, the nature of the underlying issues, and how best to intervene in the moment.

IDT works by systematically alternating between left-brain and right-brain functions, – between the client’s cognitive schema, beliefs and attitudes, and their latent capacity to put things into a different perspective with insight and conviction. IDT gives us a remarkable and unique set of tools to safely and gently transform client resistance and access the inherently resourceful parts of the client’s unconscious. Used in both short-term crisis work and long-term developmental work, IDT bridges across age, language and cultural differences, and adapts to different levels of client readiness and ability. It has the range and relevance to address tough behavioural issues of literal, pragmatic reality, through to matters of symbolic value, metaphor, and an archetypal or existential nature. IDT heals the past, anchors the present, liberates the new, and unfolds the future.


Visual Language

‘The page’ is used as a therapeutic tool to mediate the interaction and relationship between client and counsellor, between one part of the client and another, between ego and the unconscious, and between the personal and the collective. As clients layer their talk down from surface-level matters to deeper-level issues, they will naturally and spontaneously move their perception from literal and pragmatic explanatory talk (about their external-world life events) to symbolic and metaphoric image-description (about their internal -world sense of self).

Brain HemispheresThis change in the way clients present themselves corresponds to a shift from left brain function to right brain function and provokes a fundamental cognitive rebalancing of dominant schema. This is an archetypal adjustment that occurs for all of us and IDT embraces this phenomenon into its way of working. The use of interactive drawing and writing to reframe between the literal and the metaphor is a potent and unique way of working that bridges across cultural and language differences, and helps clients and supervisees, practitioners and supervisors transcend limitations and release latent resourcefulness.

IDT requires no artistic talent, graphic skill or drawing ability; has no interest in aesthetic or creativity considerations; and does not involve making art objects. IDT avoids the pursuit of meaning-making, psychological enquiry, diagnostic interpretation of the client’s pages, or the psycho-analysis of the client. The effectiveness of this client-centred, process-directed therapy lies in its capacity to provide simple procedures that sustain the client in their work, whilst the practitioner operates from a more strategic and meta-level framework.


Wide Application

Hikers uphillIDT can be used with individuals, couples, families and group therapy, with all ages (including young children), cross culturally, and for short-term crisis to long-term developmental work. IDT is particularly useful with clients who for various reasons may not be verbally or conceptually fluent. Enrolments in our training courses come from mental health teams, counsellors psychologists and psychotherapists, alcohol and drug units, specialist education services and teachers, community and social workers, trauma and abuse specialists, Maori and Aboriginal counselling agencies, occupational therapists, child and youth workers, hospice and spiritual care providers, nurses, speech therapists, ESOL, prison workers, supervisors and mentors, group facilitators, mediators and managers, guidance and career advisors.


Benefits of IDT

IDT can be used in simple reflective ways or more intensively at greater depth. It is an easily learnt, user-friendly therapy that can stand alone or be used in conjunction with other modalities. Strong and often deeply buried feelings can be accessed, yet be safely contained and transformed within the tangible and anchoring focus of the page.

  • Agency managers are delighted with IDT’s demonstrable results, improved safety-making, increased turn-around of casework, enhanced staff morale, and the acquisition of new tools to assist with clinical assessment, the planning of client care, and peer supervision.
  • Counsellors report that IDT is inspiring, produces breakthrough results, builds professional competency, eases their load, enhances client relationships and captures the client’s self interest.
  • Clients express their amazement at the relief, satisfaction, empowerment and liberation that IDT brings them with behavioural changes unfolding as long-held issues dissolve their grip.
  • Supervisors advise that IDT helps supervisees quickly reveal issues of parallel-process, greatly advance their clinical competency, build a strong sense of professional empowerment, and increase self-observation.


IDT Teachers

IDT teachers are independent and accredited contractors who agree to deliver selected IDT training on a course-by-course basis. They are neither employees nor agents of IDT Ltd. IDT teachers:

  • Are IDT trained and accredited.
  • Are experienced IDT practitioners.Agency-picture
  • Are registered members of the NZ Association of Counsellors (or professional equivalents).
  • Are contracted by IDT Ltd to provide in-house agency-based training for mental health teams, specialist education, youth and community development, church-based service agencies and other community-based agencies in New Zealand and Australia.
  • Consistently receive high praise in the feedback sheets that are completed by attendees at each course.


History and Development of IDT

The IDT modality was developed by New Zealander, Russell Withers, whose counselling training consisted of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt therapy, REM therapy, CBT, Primal and Cathartic therapies, Psychodrama, and a substantive amount of Co-Counselling training (John Heron) as well as several years of individual psychotherapy (both Freudian and Jungian), and complemented by a high amount of group and individual therapy. Prior to Russell’s counselling career he was an award winning architect for over 20 years. Trained to diagram and make notes on the same page (as a device for clarifying the client’s needs, recording site conditions, exploring ideas, etc), it was natural for Russell to use pages when working with clients in a counselling context. Russell noticed clients would keep changing the drawing until they were satisfied that it was an accurate representation of both their situation and their needs.

Originally used in a more left-brained cognitive focus, the IDT method progressively revealed the symbolic inner-world condition of the client, and the power of alternating between left and right brain functions. Through rigorous recording and analysis of hundreds of client sessions it could be seen that the client’s words, images and behaviours change in patterned and predictable ways as they progress through the stages of their therapy. The IDT map of the therapeutic process is unique and a significant contribution to clinical practice. The theory-in-practice of IDT developed from the detailed collation and analysis of clients drawings in session. IDT has thereby grown out of the phenomenology of working with clients and remains a developing modality.

Top of MountainIDT is used by both professional and voluntary helpers across a wide spectrum of psychological and social services, and has been acclaimed as an innovative and inspiring resource that readily adapts to the differing needs of different client groups. To date, IDT training courses have attracted thousands of enrolments from around the world and from many different professions. IDT is widely recognised as a valuable, effective and proven way of helping clients and informing professional practice. Many agencies now incorporate IDT into their professional tool kit, and it has become an approved professional option for various training and accrediting institutions.