Mine the Unconscious with Projective Exercises

Projective exercises are excellent therapeutic tools, designed to delve deeper into a person’s unconscious.  According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of approximately 5 percent of our cognitive activity.  This suggests that most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.  Very often, beliefs, emotions and experiences have been compartmentalized or hidden over time.

Psychologists, such as Freud, have stated that discovering why we do what we do, and the origins are foundational to self-awareness, growth, and personal well-being.

Projective exercises can increase self-awareness, and accelerate the therapeutic process by uncovering some of what has been unseen in the unconscious. More self-awareness and better understanding contribute to resolving unwanted reoccurring patterns.

Perhaps one of the most familiar types of projective exercises is Rorschach’s inkblot test, but there are numerous versions used frequently in counseling rooms. Some other types of projective exercises include Squiggles, sand trays, art therapy, and film and story book cards.

Most often, the therapist will work with a single client, but projective exercises can be used with couples and groups as well.  For example, soul collage therapy involves a group of people who project and create a visual representation of their lives.

The idea behind these tests is that the client projects his or her impression and states what a symbol suggests. This begins a more detailed investigative process, as the therapist and client collaborate to mine for greater understanding.  Exploration of a person’s unconscious can add great wealth to the counseling process and a client’s progress.

While the projective exercises are designed uniquely, the end game is the same: to lift the veil between the unconscious to the conscious.  Clients often report the exercises to be interesting, revealing, and helpful.

Sheri Schulze, LAPC