Communication Model – helping individuals deal with mental distress


The Communication Model is a brand new model of care that is intended to help an individual deal with mental distress. It is an original system of care that involves emotionally connecting an individual with psychological distress to a practitioner through means of abstract line frequency – like drawings. The communication model is an intervention. It can be applied to individuals without a DSM diagnosis – but who often experience high levels of inner turmoil while maintaining a high-level career, good family structures and firm groundings in the community. The Communication Model was developed in 2005. It integrates aspects from my Bachelor of Arts degree in “Arts Policy Management and Education, specialization in Museum Visual Art Education” / “Cultuur en Beleid, specializatie Kunsteducatie.” 2001. These aspects include searching for a higher purpose in life, connecting to emotion, exploring feelings, looking for the source of despair and connecting to another human being (the practitioner) through conversation and visual art abstract drawings. The method of the intervention includes a Triangle method. It involves the individual with mental distress, the practitioner and the abstract drawing. The practitioner experiences the emotional connection – the counter-transference – and draws the emotional connection of the conversation down on paper. The interaction between the individual, the practitioner and the abstract drawing completes the triangle effect. This is the intervention. This triangle effect alleviates pain and psychological distress because it taps into a unconscious part of the mentally distressed individuals psyche. This process of communication involves the coding and decoding of verbal and non-verbal messages, especially messages involving complicated and emotional deciphering. The practitioner untangles the emotional message by using insights into the psychological state and transforms them into an abstract drawing – indicating a map-like external process that enables the individual to understand the complexity of the emotional situation. Enhancing his/her ability to comprehend the vast nature of many human problems. This method of illustration, indicates that it takes a lot of understanding, exploring and reflecting in order to untangle the abstraction. Finally, on the completion of the Communication Model intervention, the individual with the mental distress goes away with an increased awareness and a higher consciousness relating to their own individualism.

Written by Annuska van der Pol, BA / PDD-IMHA

1. 2013 Camosun College Interprofessional Mental Health and Addictions Post Degree Diploma Program
2. 2001 InHolland University of Applied Sciences, B.A. in Arts, Policy, Management and Education



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  1. How do you decode the abstract drawing? Do you sit and discuss it in a more traditional therapeutic setting? Or am I wrong and the therapist is doing the drawing?

    • You are right. In this case the practitioner is creating the drawing. The drawing is a physical counter-transference based on the communication between the practitioner and the individual client. It is the concrete creation of the dynamic between the two people involved. The abstract drawing is not decoded. The abstract drawing is the result of the verbal decoding which occurs in the session. The verbal decoding is often a very complex phenomenon which involves understanding many components of a very unique and personal life situation. The practitioner uses the abstract drawing as a tool to help decipher the message that the client is conveying. When an individual is especially distressed, the direct communication (eye contact, verbal communication and intonation) can at this stage be very confrontational, – it is the indirect communication i.e. through the counter-transference through the practitioner, linking the raw emotion of the client, and using a pen and paper to translate those abstract feelings on to white paper, that often soothes the distressed individual. Instead of a practitioner sitting with a pen and paper and writing concrete words down, the practitioner jots down shapes, lines and abstraction. This abstraction drawing, which often can turn out to be an unconscious design of some sort, symbolically seals the communication between the practitioner and the client. The creation of the drawing becomes an imprint of the therapeutic session, unique to the two individuals involved in it. This drawing that can be kept on file, and it can be referred to in future sessions. The memory of emotion, for both the practitioner and the client, are hence integrated onto that particular one drawing. Like the session itself, the drawings remain confidential. They are private communications. However the drawing is not the end product. The end product is working towards resolving a personal situation (intellectual or emotional life situations), and the drawing is a tool that the practitioner uses to increase the level of quality to attain the actual goal.

      I believe that in Art Therapy, and I believe the Communication Model to be the opposite of Art Therapy, that it is the client who draws the artwork, and afterwards it is the therapist who analyzes it, or the therapist and the client analyze it together. In contrast to this idea, the Communication Model drawing is indeed created by the practitioner and it resembles a dual conversation – an interaction between two people, where the focus is on working towards resolving a particular situation which the client brings to the table him/herself.

      I appreciate your question.

      • I actually replied in the wrong place, see the next question!

    • You are right. The therapist creates the abstract drawing. The drawings itself is not decoded. However the conversation that unravels gets decoded in a sense. The conversation is a balance between two individuals – where the curiosity of the therapist listens attentively and in his/her mind links cause and effect patterns which can be transformed on the paper by the pen. This cause and effect reflection often leads to the mapping of an intricate line drawing.

  2. Interesting. (Isn’t that what Freud said?) How one trains for this is curious; are there any books on it? Is it a bit like channeling or more like active imagination? How do you know when you are on he right track with an image?

    • The Communication Model process involves understanding what the individual is going through. Understanding what an individual is going through is a very intricate conversation which involves reflection, empathetic comprehension and having insights into ones own humanity – in which these insights often help to understand the individual who is experiencing emotional distress (for example). In essence, an individual may want to see a practitioner who uses the Communication Model for two reasons. First, it is an alternative to the existing clinical psychology approach and it is different to the psychiatric / traditional model of care. The Communication Model was developed with knowledge in art history and knowledge in humanity. That’s all. For example, if one looks at Jackson Pollock’s painting, called “Autumn” 1950 [] one of the first components to understanding this painting is understanding the cultural context of the painting. Understanding the context surrounding a human being is essential to comprehending, what’s going on. Another example is the expression. For example, if one looks at Van Gogh’s painting, “Langlois Bridge at Arles,” 1888 [] one can view the bright colors and at the same time one can view passionate / violent brush-strokes. As an Art Educator/Practitioner, looking onto the “Langlois Bridge at Arles” I see the colors and brush strokes combined with the choice of color and the choice of brush strokes, however when I look closer and examine the paintings, not only do I experience the external passion, but I also experience the internal passion / turmoil/ psychosis. This is one of the crucial components of the Communication Model, namely being able to communicate with an individual in a way where the external words, non-verbal communication and intonation penetrate through the facade. Penetrate through the external – and become able to experience the actual inner turmoil. Just like seeing Van Gogh’s violent brush strokes on the painting, can indicate a psychological distress on the inside. Just like, some individuals use language and word choices that symbolically represent their inner feelings. It is the inner feelings what the Communication Model is really about. It is about getting past the words, to the feelings and then to explore those feelings.

      Sometimes individuals with severe distress experience a repeat of emotional outbursts without the knowledge as to what is happening to them. In this specific example the abstract drawing is the best intervention. For example, the practitioner could explore the words, and the message being conveyed on a concrete level – however if the practitioner really wants to understand the depth of the feeling, he/she would need to either intuitively pick up on that specific form of subtle communication and / or resort to using the pen and paper and to start drawing lines and shapes on paper. Which are the direct counter-transferences of the individual in distress. The abstract drawings often represent psychosis. It is an illustration of psychosis. It is the psychosis communication that gets transfered from distressed individual to practitioner and the practitioner expresses this psychosis through pen on paper by forming lines.

      Your question, if this is a type of channeling (Klimo, 1987), no this is not a type of channeling. What it is, is a form of empathy. I believe that the Communication Model triangle method involves the practitioner being able to empathize with the individual in distress. The empathy can be a bodily sensation – but it does not have to be a bodily sensation – the point is, that the practitioner picks up on the flow of the conversation and translates it down on paper in a concrete, reality-based form. This concrete form i.e. the counter-transference of the emotion on paper – in actual ink on paper – often provides an individual in severe distress with relief. It is this feeling of relief from distress that the whole Communication Model is about. It is an intervention that is used to provide relief from turmoil, in a non-medical and non-traditional (non psychology and non psychiatric) way.

      Secondly, the abstract drawing is not the main purpose. It is the process that is important. The practitioner never focuses on the drawing. It is an automatic flow. There is no right or wrong with the way the pen flows on the paper. In a sense, you are right by saying that it is an active imagination – however – to me, imagination means that an individual is in thought about the artwork, and that is not the case with the abstract drawings. The abstract drawings are solely intended to help alleviate the pain an individual experiences. It is the intertwining of two people in a communication which receives an extra layer through the joining of empathetic emotion through the abstract line drawing. Kind of like from Greek mythology when two individuals interact and become one in a therapeutic sense.

      Plato, “According to greek mythology, humans were originally created with 4 arms, 4 legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”

      The unity through the Communication Model is a unity through a connection with the concrete artwork. This is the glue that holds the balance between the practitioner, the individual and the abstract artwork together.

      How would one train for this. To start off with I would recommend reading up on art history. It is broad subject but I belief the Communication Model is grounded in principles from art history, namely from the Middle Ages to 1960’s. Then in order to prepare for understanding the Communication Model intervention I would recommend reading material that teaches on about empathy. For example, I believe work by Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be a great place to start. Furthermore, in the near future there will be a book coming out on the subject of the Communication Model and this communication is intended to teach people about how it is implemented. So I really would like to thank you for your questions. It is through questions that I am better able to formulate the exact workings of the Communication Model.


      Annuska van der Pol


      Klimo, J. (1987). Channeling : investigations on receiving information from paranormal sources / Jon Klimo. Los Angeles : J.P. Tarcher ; New York : Distributed by St. Martin’s Press, c1987.

  3. Reblogged this on Zenkatwrites's Blog and commented:
    This is an ongoing discussion now, and I find it fascinating. Anyone know about this type of communication model?

    • This type of communication model is brand-new. I conceptualized it in 2006/2007 and have been researching this model from 2004 to 2013. It is something I started from scratch. I am so glad that you aspire to learn more about it.

    • Hi there Psychologistmimi – I am glad that you like the Communication Model. Was there anything specific that caught your eye that you liked about it? Regards, Annuska

  4. Heyan said:

    Really interesting, and creative! Hope there is an assessment procedure like a clinical trial that can quantify the effectiveness of this model.

    • Thank you for your comment. You have some good feed back. It is appreciated.

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