Brookside Center for Counseling and Hypnotherapy


The Role of Art in Hypnoanalysis

by Maurice Kouguell, Ph.D., BCETS

Hypnotists who have acquired the skills to hypnotize and use suggestive hypnotherapeutic procedures will become aware that they will need additional techniques for their hypnotic interventions. Hypnoanalysis involves sophisticated procedures applied within the hypnotic intervention that are aimed at going beyond the suggestive techniques to a reconstructive understanding. The approach in hypnoanalysis is to recognize elements of resistance, personality structure, and the "royal road to the unconscious" via various techniques. Techniques may include figure drawings, free association, dream interpretation, as well as a variety of various art media. Hypnoanalysts have developed various procedures for revealing preconscious and unconscious material.

The hypnotist needing insight before proceeding with any induction should be aware that insight into the client is revealed by motor responses, nonverbal communication and the use of free expression. One such expression is art.  

The heart of any interpersonal therapeutic procedure is communication. There is a constant flow of communication between the client and the hypnotist, not necessarily limited to just words: there are mannerisms, voice inflections and other expressions. Through such indirect communication one reveals much more of one’s inner-self than through words.

Through the use of art, and in this case particularly drawings, clients will reveal their inner meanings, concerns, as well as a multitude of aspects of their personality and motivations. In my book, DAPTH: Accessing the Unconscious in the Practice of Hypnosis and Counseling, the hypnotist becomes acquainted with various case illustrations on data which could not have been revealed through an interview alone. The following is a case illustration of what seemed to be an otherwise routine request for help to stop smoking.

Case Illustration One

Smoking Cessation in an Obsessive Compulsive Personality

Figure 1A client comes to you for smoke cessation. He tells you that he must give up smoking because his doctor is concerned about his health. He is very apprehensive about becoming a non-smoker. 
During the interview, you note that his life style is controlled by various rituals. Thus, upon arising in the morning he invariably walks to the kitchen, lights a cigarette, walks outside, takes three drags, fixes the coffee and looks outside. There are continuous rituals throughout the day. He is aware of his rituals and expresses fears of any changes. As a compulsive personality, it is clear that his rituals offer him control over anticipated fears. While aware of the senselessness of his behavior, those rituals provide him with a way to release and control his tension.

He was asked to draw a house (see drawing above). It took him more than five minutes to begin drawing. He did not start until he was exactly sure how he would draw it and where he would place the drawing. He ran a constant commentary of his inner dialogue. The entire drawing took 20 minutes, which is too long by any standard and had to be ended due to the time element. 
As you look at the drawing, note the details. Observe that the row of bricks in the main part of the house are similar in number. This suggests and reinforces the initial impression of a compulsive, ritualistic person. Since the client expresses his wish to stop smoking, should one automatically proceed with such a program?

The client came because he was told to do so. In the initial interview he expressed his fears associated with any change. Smoking is a ritualistic activity. (Most smokers are addicted to a particular brand; most use a lighter or matches, rarely both, most smokers hold the cigarettes in the same way, keep the pack in the same bag or pocket, flick the ashes in the same way, inhale and exhale in the same rhythm, and so on). Most smokers are fearful of being able to handle some situations without a cigarette. (For instance, they feel apprehensive about being able to answer the telephone or making a call without a cigarette, and fearful of being able to go through the day without having had their first cigarette in the morning. They could also have several other associations which have become habit forming). Rituals are much stronger and are binding, as experienced by a person with an obsessive or compulsive personality.

Cases have been reported where smoke cessation was successful but resulted in a severe depression on the part of the client. "Any suggestion is an intervention in a human system of equilibrium. Previous responses, although unconstructive may have been established for specific reasons. Intervening in them by either compulsions or inhibitions can change the equilibrium and release a chain of subsequent reactions that may be worse than the ones which the suggestions aimed to supplant." (Watkins, 1987) Any intervention dealing with altering a habit, needs to take into account the effect of the change on the overall personality. Thus, smoking is not treated in isolation but as part of a compendium of other characteristics.

Are you equipped to handle a compulsive personality or do you need to refer to him to someone else? Are you able to recognize a compulsive?

Back to the drawing, there are some other indicators that would be helpful to you as a hypnotherapist. Note how small the windows and doors are in comparison to the overall structure of the house. Those might reflect either the anxiousness of the person, or a need to remain guarded, or a feeling of being closed in. Note the two doors. The front door does not appear to be accessible but the side door is. Should you proceed with an induction you may wish to think of a non-directive approach, perhaps a naturalistic approach or metaphors or other techniques to circumvent the client’s needs to control.

Although small, both windows and flowers are present. While hardly perceptible, prognostically they support that communication could be established. Finally, notice the two driveways and notice how much more accessible the one leading to the back door is. You may wish to think of techniques that might be more appropriate to access the subconscious.

In any case, keep in mind that one should be able to do with hypnosis what one can do without hypnosis. 

Case Illustration Two

Recognizing Suicide

This 42 year old man came to my office because he was "in a rut and was told that he needed help and should try hypnosis in order to feel better."

Figure 2During the initial interview he appeared to be a very well spoken and jovial man with a highly developed vocabulary, who never really established eye contact. His eyes were constantly directed down to the left and if he looked up it was only to look up to the left when he seemed to attempt to retrieve some memories in response to some questions. The movement of the eyes looking down to the left is acknowledged by the Neurolinguistic Programming School as significant and looking down to the left is for most people a way to access their feelings. In this particular case, the client appeared to be completely immersed in accessing his feelings.

He had previous experience with hypnosis when he had attended a workshop. He was told that hypnosis would help him "come out of his depression."

The 'Draw A Person' was administered. At times one may not be completely sure what the drawing is and what it represents. It is acceptable to ask the person to provide explanation about the drawing.

Of interest is the fact that, although the paper was given him one way, he chose to rotate it. He was asked to describe the drawing thus projecting his own interpretation. The client explained that this man was hanging from a rope. While he drew, he sketched quickly. He looked very sad and as he finished the drawing, he gave a long sigh and smiled. It was felt that having expressed the thought on paper he may have experienced a sense of relief. When he handed the drawing back to me, I asked him if he had ever had thoughts of suicide. He did, but had failed because people had always rescued him. I asked him if he had been preoccupied lately with suicidal ideation and he replied that he was too tired to even give it a thought, for he spent many hours in bed unable to get up and there was nothing to get up for anyway.

While clients might come to us with a specific request for hypnosis, it is wise to recognize that frequently people may request hypnotherapy as a back door for accessing other serious problems. The figure drawing here with a paucity of details suggests withdrawal and depression.  

Copyright 1998


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