What if…?

Allow 10-15 minutes for each drawing exercise and plenty of time for sharing, especially if you have many participants.

Introduce the concept of visual metaphor to participants by explaining: “A visual metaphor uses something visible, like a monster, a place or situation, to show something invisible, for instance a thought or a feeling.” Show examples of visual metaphors (as the ones shown below) and invite participants to describe what they see and how they would interpret the image. There are likely to be many different responses, showing that visual metaphors can mean different things to different people.

Visual metaphor – wall represents isolation or some form of barrier

Visual metaphor – fishing represents the search for something (in this case love)

Invite participants to do their own visual metaphor drawings. Introduce this exercise in the form of a question:

“If your ______ was/were a ______, what would it be?”

Use elements from the table below. Alternatively you can give participants the What if…? worksheet so that they select the elements from the table for themselves.

What if your……was/were a
diseasea creature or animal?
physical symptomsan object?
emotionsa place or landscape?
social relationshipsweather?
healthcare experiencesan activity or situation?
you decide!you decide!

After participants have done at least two visual metaphor drawings using the table above, you can also give them more explicit instruction, for example:

  • “Draw how your disease affects your relationship with your partner.”
  • “Draw what pain feels like.”

Participants are likely to use visual metaphors even if you do not explicitly instruct them to do so.