In therapy, I often use art as a tool to help clients externalize their experience with OCD. This technique assists the client in expressing how OCD affects their life by using color; giving their OCD a name, a shape and a face. When I first mention to clients that they will be finger painting in session, they often have a surprised look on their face. Most of their comments go something like this, “Finger painting. Seriously? I haven’t finger painted since I was in…kindergarten.” Although some are hesitant when they first start their painting, I find it is not long before they begin to get into their work and create what I call a masterpiece.
Below you will find artwork done by a few of my clients. Each client was asked to paint a picture of what their OCD experience looked like before they began therapy. They then are asked to paint a second picture of what their OCD experience looks like now that they have been in therapy after a few months.
As you review each client’s own interpretation of their OCD experience, can you see some differences in their pictures? What are some similarities? If you are a sufferer of OCD, can you relate to these pictures? Do these pictures remind you of your own experience?
What I have noticed as a therapist from this technique is that most often clients express a sense of validation when they are finished. Externalizing their pain and suffering caused by OCD then gives them a sense of relief. OCD is not just something happening in their head. It is something very tangible and very real. And now it is out there for everyone to see.
–Nancy Larsen, MSW, CSW