Towards reconnecting: creative formulation and understanding dissociation

Sarah Parry, Mike Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The term dissociation can describe a coping strategy to protect oneself against something unwanted in the moment, a disconnection from sensations and experiences in the here and now. Although the more severe experiences of dissociation have been the subject of intense study over the last two decades, much less has been written about clients commonly seen in mental health services with mild to moderate dissociative conditions. Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to attend to therapeutic work with a client who experienced moderate dissociation, which caused disruptions to her autobiographical narrative and sense-of-self.

Design/methodology/approach: This single case design details the therapeutic journey of a Caucasian woman in her early 40s, who experienced moderate dissociation. The report illustrates how the process of creative artwork formulation helped address unwanted dissociative experiences whilst enhancing other coping strategies.

Findings: The client’s personal resources combined with a creative and responsive approach to formulation and reformulation facilitated the process of reconnecting with herself and others through developing awareness of her strengths and past means of coping, finally developing a consistent self-narrative.

Practical implications: The experiences of a creative approach to formulation are discussed in relation to the client’s past traumas and case relevant theory. These preliminary findings suggest creative artwork formulation is an effective tool in terms of developing trust and shared understanding within the therapeutic relationship and meaning making processes throughout therapy.

Originality/value: This case study presents an account of creative artwork formulation used as a method of formulation and reformulation specifically with a client experiencing moderate dissociative experiences following interpersonal traumas. Further, the report discusses the ways in which creative artwork formulation facilitated memory exploration and integration, as well as containing meaning making and healing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalMental Health Review Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2017


  • coping mechanisms
  • therapeutic relationship
  • artistic expression
  • creative artwork formulation
  • detachment
  • moderate dissociation
  • therapeutic alliance


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