by Tanja Sharpe
Our love for working with Dixit Card decks in the therapy room is always growing in the Creative Counsellors Community. These cards offer such a diverse way of exploring the many metaphors of life, making meaning and deepening the unconscious to conscious connection with clients.
I first came across the power of imagery and metaphor in therapy when I began exploring the archetypes and their meanings in 2014. I was drawn to wanting to understand more about the parts of me that I had yet to know while healing my own wounds from the past.
I was immediately fascinated and found myself ‘going down the rabbit hole’ to uncover what other treasures may be hiding in my unconscious mind. I connected with many aspects of the archetypes but it was the freedom of metaphor in imagery that really nudged my creativity and expression in a whole new way. Through imagery I was able to relate to myself on a deeper level and learn more about my motivations, hopes, dreams and fears in exciting new ways.
This led me to connecting with the work of Carl Jung and his deep connection with creativity. I read many books and articles that would reference Carl Jung’s interest and work in the Tarot, imagery, the unconscious mind and our creative expression.
I believe that in many ways his creativity was left largely unreferenced within our therapeutic training and fields until the more recent re-emergence, new conversations and reconnection to how creativity has infused and underpin the therapeutic models that we embrace today.
I believe creativity is where it all started in therapy and is where we will find therapy progressing to more and more over the coming years. After all we are all expressions of creativity manifested in our everyday lives whether unconscious or not.
At the heart of Carl Jung’s self-exploration which he called his “confrontation with the unconscious,” was The Red Book or Liber Novus. He created this between 1914 and 1930 and the book shares how he developed his principle theories of the archetypes, the process of individuation (which transformed his practice from being concerned with the treatment of ‘the sick’ to rather a means for the development of personality) and the collective unconscious.
A note that if you are keen to find a copy of the Red Book yourself then you could pay up to £400 from some sources online and I have even found an older version at over £2000 but what a magical adventure full of incredible metaphor and imagery.
There is much debate about whether this book was printed with his knowledge and permission or not.
So back to the reason you came here, exploring Dixit Cards…
Dixit cards are actually based on a board game which invites each player to begin and create stories using the cards as cues as they move through the game. There are lots of different sets and decks to collect and the cards offer magical, whimsical and ethereal images without words packed full of wonderful and exciting metaphors.
In the therapy room I don’t bring out the board game but rather work with the image cards as they are so adaptable to each client and what they might bring. Working together or solo, the client is invited to weave their words and stories and we know how powerful a visual and creative prompt can be to gain a greater awareness and understanding for clients.
I have found that working with these cards is not limited to any particular age group, as the images are so abstract and open to interpretation. They have the added bonus of not being too directive and the absence of words leaves much to the imagination or the wonderfully rich and resourceful unconscious.
Five creative nudges with Dixit Cards
Discovering parts of self: Invite the client to pick cards that represent the different parts of themselves. Focusing on the images, explore with the client what it is about each card that represents them.
Exploring relationships with others: Invite the client to pick a card/cards that represent themselves and then pick cards that represent the relationship that they have with others in their lives too. What does the client become aware of? What do they notice? How different are the cards?
A creative writing nudge: Invite the client to pick a card and free write something around this. This might be a poem, a short story or checking in with their emotions and feelings in the moment. Does this writing have a title? What meaning does the client take from this?
As a storytelling prompts in 1:1 or group work: During our annual Creative Counsellors Retreat in Snowdonia, we sat around the fire and created imaginary stories using Dixit cards as prompts.We laughed and bonded over the stories that we co-created together and it was one of the highlights for me to see the many relationships forming as a result. Working in this way can be a fun and sometimes challenging in all the right ways exercise to help groups to explore their creative side together. This is also great for 1:1 work too. Invite the client to pick a card and begin a story from that card. The client can either keep picking card until they feel that their story is complete or they can invite the therapist to pick a card and take it in turns from there. Are there any similarities or themes that the client can relate to from their story? In group work, invite someone to start the story by picking a card and continue to offer a card to the next person in the group until all members have had an opportunity to weave their words into the story. How will this end? What magic will you find together?
As an expression through art nudge: Invite the client to pick a card and create something expressive with paints, collage or anything else that they are drawn to working with to explore this card and the treasures that it might bring.
A word of caution! As with any creative counselling intervention, working with images and metaphor can be a very powerful experience for clients as well as the therapist. It can take us to deeper places very quickly and so we nudge you to get to know the cards yourself before working with clients. Maybe take these to supervision to explore in your own work and try these exercises yourself before bringing to client work where possible.
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