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Visual Shortcuts

Visual Shortcuts Explained


The main impetus behind Visual Shortcuts comes from the well known: ’a picture paints a thousand words’. If that is true, then why do we, in our visually advanced society not use this knowledge more, especially to communicate complex notions?


Forgotten Realisations

Have you ever had a realisation, an idea, a thought, an epiphany - that filled you with a sense of fresh excitement but that was difficult to keep hold of? It felt like a huge and important thing at the time you discovered it but it was so tough to keep in your mind - it just got occluded by all the other stuff rattling about in your head? How frustrating was that? Very?


So, what have you done to try and keep hold of that idea? Perhaps you’ve immediately got some paper and written it down? Or found a sympathetic ear to tell? Or drawn a diagram to express it? All excellent ways to earth the discovery, and rather similar to ways of trapping the essence of a dream so it can be recalled later. 


In therapy, clients often come to an awareness that is new and different; perhaps a new way of seeing the same old situation, or a new way of handling a relationship or of how we can behave in a more authentic way? How do we help our clients earth that new awareness so that they can keep it in their mind? As before, an obvious way is for it to be written down etc.


But, perhaps there is something else we can do? Perhaps we can help the client create a visual shortcut - an image that sums up the idea?


Earthing Realisations with an image

Within my own counselling practice, I’ve noticed that clients reach a variety of different places of new awareness but that they are often similar (possibly because of my own preferences or outlooks onto the world?) .


For instance, a very simple concept that several of my clients have reached is the awareness that they need to surround themselves with people (and situations) who they feel good around and to try and lose those who they feel are toxic. It’s not rocket science, but to some clients this new awareness can have a huge impact, especially when they start implementing their new insight.


To help earth this insight, I have an image that is a visual shortcut to that awareness.  The image is of a plain blue glass sitting on a patterned plate. Ordinarily, the both look ‘ordinary’ and nothing special. But, in the photo both are bathed in bright sunshine and the colours from each reflect onto the other and the result is shiny and beautiful. Obviously, the light represents the people and situations that allow the person (the glass) to really shine and to realise their potential.


So, if a client comes to this realisation, I can reach into my pack of cards and show them the card that for me represents this concept. I explain what it is and how I see it.  I have some greetings cards with the images on too - so if I sense that the client really connects to the image, then I can give them the image for them to keep.


At this point, I want to make it clear that any image can be a shortcut to a concept - and anyone can create the connection. In the Lovelli Therapy Cards, I have created my own shortcuts for all the images which can be used by you. But, of course, the concepts are not fixed in stone, but merely examples of how the idea of visual shortcuts can be created and used. My dream is that the idea of Visual Shortcuts is understood and applied by whoever wishes to use it.


Visual Shortcuts - A new Vocabulary?

I have used this Visual Shortcut idea to create a new type of vocabulary that we can use in therapy. But, (and this is the exciting bit) the idea can stretch way beyond our profession to almost any situation.  Visual shortcuts are like Emojis or symbols, as they are a visual interpretation of something - a visual vocabulary. However, unlike emojis and symbols, the ‘thing’ they represent is often something much more complex. Visual Shortcuts are more analogous to proverbs. For instance, simply saying ‘A stitch in time…’ leads us to the nugget of wisdom about doing a job now and not later when the job will be much more difficult.

Concepts - Epiphanies - Reallisations etc

As my sphere of work is counselling, I am on a mission to collect a long list of concepts relating to therapy and to create my own visual shortcut for each. I have seen how helpful the images are for my clients - and for me to get a grip on their achievements - and my own. 


Further Developments of the Visual Shortcut idea - in therapy

The next step with client work is to support clients to create their own visual shortcuts - either finding an image already taken in a magazine perhaps? Or to take their own photo or create their own image.


Interestingly, during workshops with other therapists, I have discovered that perhaps the most fruitful way of developing the Visual Shortcuts idea with clients is to work the other way. What I mean by this is allowing the clients to create their own realisations, their own concepts by first choosing an image that they connect with and then through exploration with their therapist, the client comes to a new awareness. (See diagram below - Path B).


Developments beyond Therapy

Another, and feasibly more useful development of the Visual Shortcut idea would be to collect other concepts or nuggets of wisdom in other fields and find images for them. For example, some of the laws in physics could be expressed as images.  An obvious one is an apple to link to gravity.


I hear you say that that is nothing new.  Not in itself, no it’s not. Many physics textbooks may have an image of an apple on the page relating to gravity.

But what about a physics revision exercise? Link the image to the concept exercises? 


Poetry (e.g. Rumi) may provide another source of wisdom. As with so many things, the limit of our own imagination is the ceiling here. 


Ultimately, it may be only me that uses Visual Shortcuts  with my clients, but I invite you to join me on the start of this exciting journey with the first pack of Lovelli Therapy Cards. 


Sue Nyirenda

23 April 2018


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