As a volunteer counsellor I am always on the lookout for techniques that may help my work with clients.
My supervisor suggested this technique.
I have used it with several clients. On each occasion I find out something new and/or interesting.
This technique enhances my awareness of the client. Frequently it enhances our relationship as well.
Discussing people (and tasks) and their relationship to the client can create insights. The life space diagram makes visible people and tasks in the client’s life.
It also teaches me a great deal about how they are thinking.
The process is as follows:
Encourage the client to draw a circle for their life – encourage them to make this as large as possible. Ensure that it uses as much of the paper as they are comfortable with (as there will likely be a lot to put in it).
Suggest the client put themselves somewhere in the circle. Where they put themselves might be important – it might not. (It is also a starting point for conversation.)
For example, many people seem to put themselves near to the centre of their own world. However I saw one client who put himself in the top left hand area of the circle.
It might be that this can be a discussion point – what made them choose there? Was there a reason?
Ask the client to put in anyone else who is important. The positioning is usually important – is their partner close to them in the circle? Is somebody else closer? What is the relationship like with those furthest away?
One client fenced himself in with people tight up against him as if he had no air to breathe. We discussed this and he did feel that he was responsible for everyone and everything. He also felt it was more than he could cope with.
Ask if there are other people. (This may include people who have died). Get them to include these extra people in the diagram. Observe where the client puts the new people. Is it close to them? What caused them to fail to include them in the first place?
Are there people that occur outside the circle? What is it about them that causes them to be outside the circle?
Review the diagram – how much space is there? Is life pretty full or pretty empty? How does the client feel about that? (This might be a starting point of future goals for example.)
Put in squares for work, hobbies and tasks – how does this look in comparison to the number of people? (In nearly-all life space diagrams I have seen these squares outnumber circles [people]). How does the client see these areas? Are there enough activities? Is there too much responsibility? How balanced is their life? Is there too much work/too little work?
Put in triangles for things that concern the client.
How many are here? Does the client have too many concerns? Are they weighed down by them? Is there enough challenge in their life? Are they bored?
Quite often aspects of the client that have not come up will appear after this activity. (Every time I have done this I have learned something beneficial).
Representing things in pictures makes the process more accessible to the client. They may never have considered their life in this way before.
It may increase their awareness of areas in which they would like to make changes.
I hope that this is also a useful tool for you. Whether you are receiving counselling, performing counselling or curious about your life.
There is nothing to stop you completing a diagram for yourself. See if you learn something.