The People Therapy Cards

Images made from clay, photographed for assessment and therapeutic dialogue in therapy sessions.

The cards can be used in therapy sessions, supervisors, teacher, with clients, pupils and any interaction that wishes to evoke communication.

The cards have been tested and found to be helpful; they have been introduced to Art Therapy students at “Seminar Hakibuzim” Israel, and other institutes of Psychotherapy for therapists and councilors.



The structure of the pack of the therapy cards:

The pack of therapy cards: “People” contains 30 cards. Each one presents two images or more with an interaction between them.

The positioning options of different visual figures in front of the client enable him to have an internal and external dialogue. In the meeting of client and therapist a dialogue through work with the cards enriches them and increases diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities. The exposure to figures for whom the client is not responsible: what they consist of, their condition, physically or emotionally, where they stand (the space they consume), and who made them, enables the client the freedom to relate to himself and the therapist and reveal his inner self in a non judgmental manner, as far as he is able and to expose himself to the extent he wishes and understands himself.

Therapy cards “People” present figures in different conditions and situations with one another: people positioned close to each other or far away from one another, one holding the other, or turning her\his back to the person beside them, a person leaning on the other or ignoring him\her. The figures are diverse and some of them appear in more than one card. I have tried to create figures that express warmth, restraint, authority, lightness and heaviness. They are young, old, heavily built, slim; there are men, women, children and one image of a dog. All figures are presented in different relationships with one another, whether it is between a couple, or an individual in relationship within a group of people.

The cards have been numbered to enable the client and therapist to easily document any comments the client has given on the cards. The numbers of the cards were chosen randomly and I did not entitle them because any diagnosis or interpretation can only be according to the individual concerned. A man standing upright might seem to one observer to be an aggressive person and to another as assertive. One will have an inner dialogue observing the relationship between two people in a card and another will have an inner dialogue from one image out of all the images that are presented in a card.

Ways of using the cards:

The ways of using the cards in a therapy session are divers:

All the cards can be given to the client to whom the suggestion can be made to look for a card that has caught her\his eye, and then we can invite the client to talk about it.

The cards can be placed as a gallery and the client can relate to the series as a whole.

We may feel it is appropriate to suggest to the client to create a dialogue between one figure and another, whether the figures are from the same card or from different one.

The way the cards were made:

I have chosen to create the figures from clay. Out of all the materials, clay is considered to be a very basic and primitive material since clay is made from earth.

Many theories have been written about the capacity that clay has, such as its potential to reach a regressive stage when using it in therapy sessions; the fact is that clay can be associated with feces as opposed to food especially with young children; the clay’s structure which enables us to create pots and sculptures from it, the plasticity of it that allows repeated alterations to the creation, and the beauty of it that it can be recycled or preserved. In conclusion clay work enables a projection of the physiological process of deconstruction and construction, of change in different forms.

Observing clay, or a figure made of clay, creates within us a feeling through the visual interaction we have with it, consciously or at times unconsciously, (as we have with any material), and that it also counts even if we are not aware theoretically of the clay’s abilities as described above, and the influence that the clay can have on us, even just by looking at it, or a piece made of clay.

The figures were photographed once they were made, without letting them become dry which would make them hard and durable. It was done in this fashion because a clay image that is wet and has a raw feel to it enables the person looking at it to have the impression of an earthy, primitive image, which is flexible, and which technically can be bent or squashed; we can also “fatten” or make the image more “beautiful” or ugly”.

The images are all photographed against a plain background which avoids any environmental distraction, such as a background of a forest or street behind them, or a particular light or dark shade. This allows the observer to concentrate on the images themselves and the interactions between them.

Choosing which cards were suitable was partly done with the help of some of my clients. They are the ones that at times told me which card was a “good” one, and which one was not. I was surprised by the differing comments some of the cards evoked, for example, card no. 27 represents a man sitting with a woman beside him. One client said that the man doesn’t look pleasant, another client referred to the fact the man was sitting, hence at a state of rest, which was a position the client was longing for.

In every interaction with a human being we are influenced by visual language such as the person’s posture, shape, size, colour, complexion, his movements, all of which are presented to us. We first experience a feeling, an impression and then to some extent an opinion about the subject who faces us.

The people I have created have only vague facial features, and they are located in unclear situations in order to eliminate specific interaction or drama. All figures are clothed and have realistic proportions. Except for one figure there is no reference to skin colour and there are no explicitly violent or exceptionally intimate depictions of interactions between the figures. It is generally considered to be wiser not to present an extreme stimulant or a specific story that would overwhelm the client’s inner thoughts, but rather to offer the client figures and situations that are partly unclear, or ambiguous, which would enable him to create an inner dialogue and evoke his thoughts and feelings, so that he can express the peace and or drama of his life, and to the measure that suits him.

When a client sculpts or draws a figure that is distorted, or creates a figure that is placed in an extreme situation, we can state that he has the ability and need to create a mirror of his inner self and which he might in addition want to present to us. In most cases the inner mechanism of the creator/client creates a figure that he can handle. In other words, the unconscious knows that the soul can handle it and only then can the person create it. Naturally there are other situations where the client deliberately decides to create a peaceful image that will not stir up any uncomfortable feelings, where the piece is “only” nice, aesthetic, a creation that does not have a very deep or disturbing message, a creation that will calm the creator. But when we present the client with figures and scenes which he himself has not created we must offer him a stimulus that is not a complete story, or has a fixed outcome. We also do not want to create a feeling that will overwhelm him. We would prefer to create a scene which would open up a field for interpretations, where he can project his inner world and fantasies.

At times, when a client observes a card, it is not the story that he is describing that is the most meaningful inner dialog he is telling himself or us, but the way that he is telling it, and the meaning behind what he is telling, for example:

Does he tell us facts or feelings?

Does he refer to the figures in the cards or does he refer to himself via the cards? (Clearly, in both cases he is talking about himself).

Does he elaborate and describe his thoughts and feelings at length, or does he give out a short statement, rather like a headline?

There are clients who will talk hesitantly about the figures; others will talk about them more fluently. Some will describe them in a decisive manner while others will explore possibilities the figures might project.

Some will “skip” from one card to another while others will become engrossed with only one.

Any interaction and its attributes, or lack of interaction can help in understanding the client or the therapeutic process.

On relationships and parts of the self:

I placed more than one figure in each card because of the importance and significance of the personal relationships we all experience. Each one of us was born to live within a group of people. Therefore each card presents a scene depicting two or more figures.

Our primal instinct is to connect to the other and through the relationship that we are experiencing we understand ourselves and develop, both functionally and emotionally.

In most cases our ability to express feelings is based upon the manner in which we were treated in our infancy. Our interaction with our inner world is influenced and shaped in most cases through our initial experiences- the early experience we had with the people who were significant at that time. Consciously and unconsciously our subjective understanding of the position we hold within our family, or any other significant group, influences substantionally our personality and the concepts we have about our lives.

Yet, although the cards describe relationships between two figures or more, it is possible that what will pre-occupy the client’s feelings will be mainly the way he experiences himself and the interactions of different parts of the self.

In the therapy process we often go back to the ” Crime Scene Investigation”, we question the problematic experiences that we have had in the past, whether they were specific short term experiences or on-going ones. In therapy we will try and work out the problematic inner conflicts, and, as there were often people who were present at the earlier time, or people whose absence was felt, they can through the cards in this series mirror our personal stories, and the interactions we had with them. Alternatively we might have a feeling, for example, that we were hurt by someone in our early childhood; the absence of evidence of that feeling might be stressful and a picture that might echo that feeling could give us reassurance, and validate what we felt; such validation could begin a constructive inner dialog that will eventually give us more clarity and reassurance.

Leora Sotto,

BFA specializing in sculpture, ” Bezalel” Jerusalem, Israel,

Art Therapy- Haifa University, Certificate of Approval by the Israeli Health Department.

Leora has lived in Israel for most of her life and has been working for the past 25 years as a professional Art Therapist. She has been working as an Art Therapist in schools, a health centre and a private practice, working with abuse issues within the family.

For the past 11 years Leora has been a Lecturer in Art Therapy for trainee Art Therapists (Seminar Hakibuzim-Tel Aviv). In addition, she presents courses and seminars to the General Public and other art therapy programs.


Sotto has written and illustrated a children’s book: ‘Fear, Anger and loneliness went out for a walk’ and has had a book, ‘Being in Touch’, published on Art Psychotherapy, in which she discusses the subject both theoretically and from a personal point of view and experience.

(Both books are available in Hebrew).


Sotto has sculptured all her life mainly with clay, exhibiting in five different group exhibitions in Israel and USA.

Therapy Cards:

‘The tree’ 2012- sotto publication

‘People’ 2013- sotto publication



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