Touch Drawing for Persons with a Life-Challenging Disease

by Ruth Vanden Bosch, M.A., R.N., L.P.C.

I have worked with Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP), a group founded by Bernie Siegel, MD, for several years. It is a specialized form of individual and group therapy based on “carefrontation,” a loving, safe, therapeutic confrontation that facilitates personal change and healing. Dr. Siegel taught me that what people say is often a cover-up, because we are all trained in language and use it, consciously or not, to conceal things that disturb us. When we communicate in visual images, we tell the truth, because we can’t manipulate the language as well. I use Touch Drawing with my counseling clients and at The Art of Healing retreats that I co-facilitate with Dr. Bernie Siegel. We use several art mediums such as music, drawing, writing and dream interpretation.

Each participant is given Touch Drawing materials. They sit at a table with one other person. We start by watching the video “Through the Veil” and then read the instructions out loud together. All questions are answered and then I ask the participants to close their eyes, cease from talking and let their fingers magically create beautiful pictures. They draw for 40 minutes. I play soft music in the background.

The participants love “Touch Drawing” as you can see by the joy on their faces as they draw and when we interpret their pictures at the end of the drawing period. We spend an additional hour talking about what he/she believes is revealed in the drawings.

Some of the drawings were very specific to the disease the participant was experiencing. This picture was drawn by a breast cancer survivor. She chose red and her picture clearly resembles a mammogram and chest with ribs.

This picture revealed a brain with purple dots. This person had had a severe migraine headache prior to drawing the picture.

This picture shows a face drawn in orange and black. This participant is struggling with a particularly aggressive cancer of the esophagus. He titled the drawing ‘The Dichotomy of Cancer’.

The person who drew this picture is a breast cancer survivor and her husband has cancer of the kidney. The butterfly represents her healing (transformation) and the heart and couple holding hands represent the love and support that the couple shares in their life together and in their journey back to health.

The last picture shows what appear to be lungs. The person who drew it has lung cancer. It shows the darkness of the cancer and the red areas show her treatment. The picture of black and red circles, also drawn by this person, reveals her inner turmoil of what direction to go with her life as far as career and a place to live.

Touch Drawing has been a blessing to me as a psychotherapist and I recommend it to other therapists working with persons who have a life-threatening disease. The drawings speak what the unconscious mind needs to say and the conscious mind is afraid to say or to painful to say out loud.

If you are interested in attending the next Art of Healing Retreat, please contact me at (269) 857-5963.