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The Communicube was invented during doctoral research with adults who were all clients of NHS mental health services (Casson, 2002). They were variously diagnosed with mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia. Many were survivors of abuse.
To ensure that clients were not overwhelmed by their experience in therapy I chose to work in miniature and therefore used button sculpting. Since the dawn of human history, shamans and healers have used symbolic arrangements of objects, shells, stones and bones to diagnose and treat illness. Today, dramatherapists and other creative therapists use button sculpting, a projective method, during which clients arrange buttons in symbolic patterns. The button collection can also include coins, a variety of miniature objects such as buckles, a key, a small light bulb (for a torch), a bit of chain, a shell, a hook, a small feather, a diamante broach, stones and other small found objects, including attractive and ugly items. The buttons can represent literally anything: such as, “This pearl button represents the moon” or “This orange button is my brother.”

During my research with people who hear voices (auditory hallucinations), I noticed that they referred to voices being on different levels: above/below, behind or to one side. For example Gloria said the voices enslaved her, taking up ‘many levels’ that she used to think on, so that she could not think clearly. Diane said her voices were on different levels: she pictured them on ‘a ladder’ with the bad voices at the bottom: when she was down there they had control over her.
Other researchers have also noticed this layering of voices, for example:
“After many years of investigating Van Dusen reached the rather surprising conclusion that many of his patients’ voice experiences appeared to be the result of their interaction with a realm of spirits. He found that these spirits could be divided into a benevolent ‘higher’ and a malevolent ‘lower’ order. (Watkins, 1998, 174) Van Dusen (1981) speculated that just as the physical voice communicated between one human being and another, the inner voice may communicate intrapsychically - that is, between one level of the psyche and another.” (Romme & Escher, 1993, 89)
I wondered how to represent the voices being on different levels. I imagined a transparent structure, with several layers. I built a prototype and eventually, after several different designs, had this transparent five level structure manufactured by Crusader Plastics.
Gradually I have developed various methods of using these structures in therapy. These are explained in the users’ manual which comes with the structure.
Jo Christensen, dramatherapist, has also been independently researching the use of the Communicube with adolescents: she concludes, “ the structure offers individuals a very concrete way into assessing how they relate to the world around them. There is huge potential for future research, particularly looking at how the structure may be used with groups of adolescents. The design of the structure seems to be particularly accessible to this client group who are drawn to its clean lines and minimalist impact yet can immediately transform it into a myriad of spaces, times and stages.” (Christensen, 2004)

For further information see:

or John Casson’s book: “Drama, Psychotherapy and Psychosis: Dramatherapy and Psychodrama with People Who Hear Voices”




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