case seven: Woman, 30’s, Major Depression & Substance Abuse
This piece, done by a woman in her early 30's who was a patient of mine at a day treatment hospital, is an example of a widely used art therapy technique called The Scribble Technique.  This technique was developed by child psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott.
The technique is often used when the patient is creatively blocked, resistant, too depressed to draw, skeptical, or just shy and/or intimidated by a blank piece of paper.  The patient is asked by the therapist to just make a scribble on the page.  They are then invited to look at their scribble from various angles, turning the page, to try to "see" a picture that may be in the scribble.  They are then asked to develop what they see, using any materials they choose, with the therapist by their side.
This patient's resulting picture, after her initial resistance to coming to the session at all, led to a cathartic, tearful, and lengthy session about how her baby was taken away by the authorities due to her drug abuse, which led to her subsequent relapse into major depression and to her hospitalization.  In her scribble she saw herself holding her baby again (the small orange figure,) and crying her tears of loss and remorse.
This patient did not respond to any non- creative groups or individual therapy sessions while on the unit.  She refused to talk about her experiences and did not show any emotion until she came to this art therapy session, and the art therapy provided the opportunity for the treatment to really begin.

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