A study of time limited serial drawing as a non verbal counselling approach with immigrant children of non English speaking backgrounds

  • A. T. Huber

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Primary school aged immigrant NESB children attending an introductory English centre were referred by teachers to the school counsellor when behavioural and Iearning problems (including PTSD symptoms) had persisted for more than six months. Five cases were included in the study; four children were refugees or from a war zone and one was accompanying parents temporarily studying in Australia. These children were all assessed as having experienced some degree of traumatisation linked to pre-migration, migration and post migration experiences which included profound change, Ioss and grief, extreme stress and trauma, and disruption of attachments. Because of their limited ability to express issues verbally, a non language dependent counselling approach known as serial drawing (Allan,1988) was used. This involved the child drawing each week in the presence of the counsellor for a contracted. number of sessions (6). The study examined the efficacy of this approach with these children by 1) examining whether each child's drawings followed a series of stages predicted by AlIan (1988) reflecting their processing of troubling issues as well as their relationship with the helper and 2) observing behaviour change following serial drawing using repeat Teacher Report Form (Achenbach,1991) ratings. Results indicated that all children were able to symboticalIy express troubling issues, but only those who currently felt safe (both physicalIy and psychologically) were able to process and resolve their issues through serial drawing. Behaviour and learning showed positive change and a reduction in PTSD symptoms in the three cases whose drawings followed stages reflecting healing and therapeutic engagement with the counsellor. The other two cases showed continuing behaviour and learning problems, including PTSD symptoms. The study concluded that time limited serial drawing couId be a useful assessment as well as therapeutic approach with children unable to articulate troubling issues, but that healing may depend on other preconditions such as trauma being past and the child being able to forn a therapeutic relationship in a short time. Continuing attachment problems may hinder recovery.
    Date of Award1997
    Original languageEnglish

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