The Somatic Inkblot Series (SIS) is a structured, projective, diagnostic procedure and is an adjunct to psychotherapy and counseling. The SIS is structured by a sequential presentation of intentionally designed and field-tested inkblot-like images. These images demonstrate typical and atypical response potentials. The SIS procedure is projective because it is based on spontaneous, individually generated responses to semi-ambiguous figures, which elicit intrapsychic associations specific to the person presented with them.
The SIS is a diagnostic procedure as a consequence of the interaction of structure and stimuli. These stimuli evoke symbolism and meanings unique to the responding individual. These can be differentiated from typical and atypical peer norms, and can be analyzed according to internationally recognized diagnostic criteria. The procedure is an adjunct to therapy because responses can be further explored to create a more effective treatment plan, and can be re-addressed in later discussions, providing opportunities to elicit deeply defended material. During the administration of the SIS procedure, clients, patients and students may abreact emotional conflict raised to consciousness by the images, which can be a therapeutic experience in itself.
What is Somatic Inkblot Series?
The Somatic Inkblot Series (SIS) was originally conceived in 1959. After years of research and field-testing on SIS-I, the SIS-II (62 image Booklet Form) was developed in 1980. Encouraged by the tremendous success of the booklet form, the SIS-Video (video version of 62 images booklet Form) was launched in 1984. It provides diagnostic and therapeutic aid. The SIS-Video is a self administered test consisting of five segments:
1. A series of beautiful flowers to reduce test anxiety.
2. An instructional section in which a “subject” illustrates how to give free associations to a video inkblot.
3. An induction period in which semi-hypnotic relaxation suggestions are given.
4. A test section in which 62 specifically-designed images having color, structured form and, at times, movement are presented.
5. A recovery portion in which a series of non-threatening nature scenes, combined with upbeat music, bring the viewer back to the time and space reality of the test situation.
The viewer writes responses on an answer sheet. Most of what is included in the ambiguous structure relates to specific life situations and post-traumatic dream content that has been found to have clinical significance. Viewing the SIS has both diagnostic and therapeutic applications that are far reaching.
The SIS Video is highly innovative and, in a sense, a “time machine.” It takes the viewer away from present reality. If there is unresolved painful material in the past memory storage, through the magic of television, the projected responses will tend to be shaped by this material. This can emerge even though the viewer may have long forgotten the buried traumatic images and their associated affect. It facilitates the expression of feelings and earlier forgotten life events underlying many forms of mental illness and conversion pain. When the viewer rates those images which are the most threatening, the examiner gets a quick psychological overview of the subject. The technique enables the professional to more readily empathize. The administration of the SIS is designed to maximize the pulling power of inkblot projection. The subject is given an answer booklet. The first section includes a health questionnaire. The process of filling out the health questionnaire creates an immediate perceptual set to project images related to medical and psychiatric problems, for themselves or for loved ones. The space/time dimensions of the viewing situation are subtly altered by the video presentation of mesmerizing flowers. These are electronically transformed so the viewer experiences a magical feeling of traveling through a mental garden of beautiful flowers. This draws the subject away from the present reality, back in time, to episodes of previous illness or trauma. Following this sequence, a photograph of a beautiful mountain, followed by an artist’s rendition of the same scene, heightens the hypnotic effect.
Next, an example of a person responding to a typical inkblot is cited to show the viewer how to fill out the answer booklet. After this presentation, audio suggestions to relax set the stage for slipping further back in time and re-experiencing images of illness or post-traumatic dreams. During the initial viewing, the subject is entirely alone-just as in dreaming. This eliminates the inhibiting effect of another’s presence.
By writing responses, rather than verbalizing them, just like in hypnotic writing, the subject may more readily access and release painful material. In addition to the cathartic, therapeutic response, the person may gain some insight and sense of mastery of the traumatic material by the act of drawing and labeling the images. Also, when the procedure is assigned repetitively over time, the experiencing of the healing flowers, in association with the threatening, anxiety-laden images, may serve to desensitize the viewer.
In many instances, there is a sufficient richness of material elicited by interviewing the subject concerning the “threatening” images, that little more needs to be delved into. In this sense, for the busy clinician or interviewer, the procedure readily serves as what has been referred to as a “quick and dirty” test. Occasionally, an insightful subject may, after having completed the procedure, or having experienced previously repressed post-traumatic dreams, open the interview with a statement about how helpful it was. This person may simply wish to elaborate on memories of past upsetting experiences such as an emotionally unresolved abortion, a miscarriage, past psychological, physical or sexual abuse, or the witnessing of an accident, etc. Given the power of the technique, it is rarely necessary to review associations to the entire 62 images. However, the psychologist, who becomes sophisticated concerning content analysis and symbolic interpretation, may glean much additional information from an overall scrutiny of the responses.
Applications of this procedure have proven to be far-reaching and international. The use of graphic images, rather than words, allows the SIS Video to cross both cultural and language boundaries. The number of uses in medical diagnosis, psychological assessment and psychotherapy is rapidly growing. It is anticipated that in the 21st century, all students of the healing arts and psychology, during their training will have the opportunity to be introduced to this technique. Currently, a complete data bank is being developed where individuals from various SIS Centers around the world may submit data and access information via modem or facsimile communication. This could truly be a comprehensive artificial intelligence system to be employed for good in a world beset by evil.
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