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Using BioGraffs as a Therapist

BioGraffs is unique and unique things can sometimes feel hard to explain. Are you a therapist and wanting to use BioGraffs with a client to help them get a new perspective, talk about something difficult, or get unstuck from unhelpful stories?

Let's imagine together a session and you are introducing this unusual way of talking.

Let's say you have a client that comes in every session and "updates" you on what dysfunctional thing happened this week in their relationship. The details change but the story is the same. You want your client to get unstuck.

You suggest trying something new. Put a little pile of cubes in front of your client. Suggest that they think of a feeling or thought about this bad moment with their partner, and pick a cube to stand for that. Hold it in one hand. Now think of another feeling or thought they had in this bad moment and pick another cube to stand for that one. Hold it in the other hand.

Ask them what the first cube stands for. Then the other. If they didn't say already, ask them why they chose the colors they did. Now they have solidly connected this thought or feeling to an external object - they've externalized it and created visual and tactile connection to it. Already they are having a different experience with these thoughts and feelings.

Have them put the two cubes on a whiteboard. Give them more of those 2 colors and suggest that they arrange the two feelings in some way that shows how they relate to each other. Does one get more quantity? Are they far away from each other on the board, or bunched up close together? Encourage them to play around and see what they come up with.

That's the basic idea of BioGraffs. They are getting away from words and connecting with their feelings in a new way. They move them and arrange them instinctively, using spatial metaphors that are deeply embedded in our meaning creation. Is one color "over" another color? Encircling? This could communicate dominance, or one feeling oppresses the other. One feeling is more hidden and the other is an outward expression. Maybe one thought or feeling supports the other so they made a rough image of a table or a house, or stacked one color on top of the other. Let them tell you about why they arranged them the way they did.

Notice what meanings come up for you in how they move the cubes around. Ask questions about how they arrange them if there are things you notice that they didn't mention.

This part of the exercise goes pretty quick - a few minutes.

Now you might suggest that they add more cubes that say more about this experience. Give them a prompt to help. In this case it might be: Go back to this bad moment you had with your partner. What happened and what feelings came up? What other feelings would you add? Make some of the cubes stand for things that happened in this experience. Have them write what each cubes stands for using just a couple words -- just enough so they remember what each cube means.

Once they have a good number of cubes labeled, encourage them to play around with the cubes again and arrange them in a way that makes sense to them. In this case, they might arrange them in the order they happened. This would be a good time to show them the sample sheets that come with the kit, to help them see the possibilities.

They may work silently, or they might narrate their process as they go. This phase usually takes around 10 minutes or so. Encourage them to add cubes if they think of new things that would be part of this.

When they are done, have them simply explain it to you, touching each cube as they talk about what it means, why they arranged it as they did. From this point on, it's not that different from a typical session where they are talking about something that happened -- but with a few crucial differences:

  • They are able to connect directly, visually and tactilely, with discreet feelings

  • They can talk about particular feelings knowing you can see how individual feelings relate to the whole

  • They stay in this one moment

  • If they go off on a tangent, the image brings them back

  • They may have added feelings or thoughts that were only dimly formed - and now with an anchor they can connect better and expound more

At this point you might suggest moving cubes in ways that occur to you. For instance, if a feeling is hidden under other cubes - what would it feel like to move those cubes out and arrange them in a different relationship to the other cubes?

Use your wisdom to suggest ways to rearrange the cubes or add cubes to change the experience. Give them a way to experience this moment in a new way, and create new pathways, visual and tactile, to draw on in future experiences.

Maybe in your next session, do it again and see how it changes.

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