Thank you to everyone who participated- and please, continue to add your thoughts!
If we keep in the front of our minds the idea that symptoms are adaptations, we must wonder what doing the drawings and sharing them with his peers is accomplishing for Marcus. I can think of several possible theories, such as giving him power, expressing his pain, giving him one area in which he is in control and can have an effect on others.
Also, the drawings express a part of Marcus, however disturbing they are. If we just try to ban them, we are giving Marcus a message that we are turning away from his pain, and that we do not want to see, share or accept all of who he is and what he has experienced.
I do not feel that taking drawing supplies away from Marcus will help at all. For one thing, we won’t win on this one. There are many more pencils and pieces of paper in the world than we can ever confiscate. But more importantly, that is a response that tries to eliminate his behavior and not to understand it.
We need to take seriously the effect the drawings have on the other kids, the staff and especially the therapist. This is something we have to discuss as a team and make deliberate plans to give ourselves the stamina to take this on. For example, the therapist may wish to include a male staff at first when she talks with Marcus about the drawings.
Then, as noted by one of the comments, I think we should explore the pictures with Marcus, and not in a judgmental way. What is happening? What are the characters thinking and feeling? What is likely to happen next? The therapist can express her thoughts: "Really? I think the woman might be scared and angry." But all discussion should be from a very centered, calm place- tell me more. Explain how it feels. What does it remind you of?
These discussions should include NO MENTION OF THE NEED TO CHANGE. They are entirely exploratory.
Meanwhile, staff can talk with the other kids about how sometimes when people have had painful lives they draw painful drawings. Encourage the kids not to react, but just bring staff into the conversation if Marcus shows them a picture. Of course, Marcus’ showing them around would decrease if he got less reaction. Then staff would handle it matter-of-factly: you know, Marcus, better to save these for therapy- I’ll give this one to your therapist and you can talk it over with her.
Another area of treatment could be to offer Marcus other opportunities to have power and control, using his drawing. Could he draw some posters for an upcoming agency event (subject to review of course). Can he draw a picture for the unit illustrating some positive message, and can staff get it framed and hang it up? You get the idea.
Marcus has been hurt repeatedly over his life time. He has found a way to both express his pain and get strong reactions from others. His behavior will not change quickly. We must understand that the way that we feel in looking at these pictures is the way that he often feels in his life. And we must support each other in doing the long hard work it will take for Marcus to develop a new, kinder view of life’s possibilities.
Let’s continue this discussion- click on "leave a comment" to share your thoughts.
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