Just published in Counseling Psychotherapy Research

Searching for safety: Building meaning bridges using digital imagery in school counselling with a female adolescent, ‘Sally’

Biljana van Rijn  William B. Stiles 

First published: 24 March 2020


Contributing authors: William B. Stiles (stileswb@miamioh.edu), Evi Chryssafidou (e.chryssafidou@metanoia.ac.uk).


According to the assimilation model, psychotherapeutic progress involves building semiotic meaning bridges between disconnected parts of the person. Previous research with a young male client, who was diagnosed with ASP, showed that digital imagery can serve to build inter and intrapersonal relating during counselling. This project aimed to further elaborate that theory with a client of a different gender and with different presenting issues.


This was a qualitative theory‐building case study.


The client was a 16‐year‐old teenager seen in school counselling for 10 sessions who presented with a range of issues: problems with eating, depression and anxiety. She self‐harmed and had suicidal ideation and continued using counselling services after the end of the research project. Assimilation analysis used screen and accompanying voice recordings of the ten sessions, during the research project where she participated in an evaluation of cybertherapy software designed for therapy and coaching.


The client created three main digital scenes. The first scene represented difficulties she experienced in her everyday life; the second scene represented a longed for experience of safety, and the third her attempts to connect the two. The imagery and meanings evolved across this segment of treatment, providing a channel of interpersonal and intra‐personal communication.


Observations showed how digital imagery can serve as meaning bridges between client and counsellor and between internal parts of the client.

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