Hiding and being seen: the story of one woman's development through Art Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy in a forensic context

Kate Rothwell, Lisa Hutchinson


Key Words: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), child abuse, containment, emotional literacy, forensic, joint working.

This is the story told by the patient in her own words. She was engaged in joint therapeutic work in Art Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and her story includes both her art work and descriptions of her therapeutic process in DBT. This patient was incarcerated for 24 years for murder but is waiting to have her sentence changed to diminished responsibility. Having served her sentence in prison and latterly in a Medium Secure Unit (MSU), the patient has just moved to low secure accommodation and will soon be released into the community where it’s hoped she will start living her life, making her own choices. Her images and her process in DBT show her development through therapy from a place of hiding to being seen, not least through her imagery, which shows her extraordinary ability to symbolise her internal world. The joint work was vital for this patient who used the combination of approaches to begin to acknowledge her experiences of being sexually abused by her father from 3 - 15years old, only ending when she gave birth to their child. With a BPD diagnosis and an obsessive self-harmer this woman now talks about freedom for the first time in 56 years.

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