Stories of Healing and Hope: Self-Control and Scribble Drawings

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Scribble drawings offer another method for our male clients to learn to regulate their reactions and maintain self-control.

It may just look like a bunch of scribbles to everyone else, but that‘s kind of the point.

The twelve men in Miranda’s Process Group sat in a circle drawing scribbles. While Miranda, a therapist at DAP, read a meditation on gratitude, with phrases like, “Who do I appreciate?” and “What have others done in my life that I am thankful for?” the men took markers and drew with a free flowing hand.

After they finished their scribble drawing the men, who are all in the program because they have used abuse, looked into the image, turned it around, colored it, and reflected on what they saw in the drawing.

In Process Group the men have to attend for twelve weeks and complete three assignments: the  “Self-Control Plan,” “Taking Responsibility,” and a “Maintenance Plan.” But within this framework, therapists are free to use various techniques and modalities to guide the men through understanding their abusive patterns and practicing healthy behaviors to replace those patterns.

With the scribble drawings,  Miranda’s ultimate goal was to provide a tool for the men to regulate their emotions better during times of stress.

Psychologically, when a person thinks about things they are grateful for during times of stress, they are able to reduce their symptoms of stress and control their reactions much more quickly. Their heart rate could go down or they could stop sweating. The hormones flooding the body, which produces a flight or fight mode could slow.

These sorts of reactions are what the men must learn to be aware of when creating their self-control plan. They know the words or actions that trigger their stress levels to rise, and they must learn to regulate those reactions in order to avoid abusive behavior in the future.

“This is hard work,” Miranda says, “and I want it to be hard. I need to see the guys working on their issues and changing their behavior.” But, as Miranda explains, this hard work needs to be coupled with unique approaches that engage the men and give them tools to change their behaviors.



Through the Men’s Program, men who use abuse learn how to create healthy patterns to replace their abusive behavior.

Activities like scribble drawings, though they may seem simple,  serve many purposes. It helps the men participate – different styles of activities can engage clients in different ways. Through sharing their insights, these activities help them bond, which is necessary for them to hold each other accountable. And lastly, it provides another method the men can use in their daily lives to disrupt their pattern of abusive behavior.

When the men in Miranda’s group shared what their drawings meant, the insight was surprisingly profound.

In one client’s meandering lines he saw the troubled path that led him to his arrest.  Another man had trouble coloring in the drawing, and knew this was part of his need for control and perfectionism. And lastly, another had colored bright splotches amidst a world of gray—he saw images of hope and change amidst  reminders of his difficult past.

Art therapists believe that spontaneous art like scribble drawings can help release the unconscious and lead to self-understanding. And, with creative activities such as this, the men in our program are able to achieve this result—a self-understanding that is one more step towards ending their abusive behavior.

Leave a Reply