Art therapy has been used in psychology, counseling and physical therapy and works among individuals in any age group. This treatment has been successful among children, adolescents/teens and adults in a number of therapeutic sessions ranging from individual to group or community settings. One part of art therapy is the Diagnostic Drawing Series, or DDS.
What is the Diagnostic Drawing Series?
The Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS) is one of the four major art therapy assessments and is a standardized art therapy evaluation tool. It relies on the use of art materials to express emotion, combining a deep understanding of the creative process and how it works, with other psychotherapeutic techniques to help increase insight and awareness of the issues, help improve the patient’s judgment, cope with stress, work through events that have been traumatic, and embrace creativity to become familiar with the art of self-expression. This is one of the most commonly used art therapy assessments and is the most concentrated area of research in the field of art therapy.
History of the Diagnostic Drawing Series
The DDS was developed in 1982 by two art therapists: Barry M. Cohen and Barbara Lesowitz. It was first presented at the annual American Art Therapy Association conference in 1983 as a pilot study but was granted the Research Award by the association the same year for its multicenter collaborative design. This series was the first art therapy used for adults that was in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) through research.
Methods of the Diagnostic Drawing Series
This is a three-part assessment where patients use pastel-colored chalk and a piece of 18”x24” paper. Each part of the assessment has a fifteen-minute time limit. In the first part of the assessment, patients are free to draw whatever comes to mind to let them become comfortable in the setting and in drawing. The second part of the assessment involves the patient drawing a tree, and in the third part of the assessment, the patient is asked to draw how they feel by using color, lines and shapes.
Understanding the Therapeutic Process
The therapist uses the drawings in the DDS assessment to help gain insight into the mindset and level of awareness of the patient to evaluate, interpret, diagnose and select treatment plans that will work most effectively for the patient.
Knowing how to use the DDS assessment to work collaboratively with patients in assessing their condition to help them overcome emotional, physical and psychological issues can be an effective form of treatment. Drawing tends to calm patients, giving them the freedom to express their thoughts and feelings in an unbiased and non-threatening environment. Used individually, it can provide a much-needed outlet for the patient, while used in a group or community setting can assist in the improvement of social skills and in learning coping mechanisms on a larger scale.
Using this form of treatment can be beneficial to both the patient and therapist in forming an open and trusting relationship to help the patient move forward.