Unit 6 – Exploration of Inner Images

This module focuses on the visions and ideas of how the world is made up and how to find one’s way around it. Our world is built from our life experiences and these experiences are located in the brain. Synapses are formed through experiences, resulting in, what we call, inner representations or inner images.

Inner images evoke memories and influence our reality. Pictures become glasses through which we perceive the world around us. Turning these inner images outwards helps young people to discover what is possible in the world, encouraging them to act and orientate action steps. These images help create new perspectives and strengthen young people’s ability to act.


Learners know how to

  • explain the benefits of working with inner images.
  • describe EJO4Youth methods and working with inner images based on memories and experiences.


Learners are able to

  • apply practical methods to make visible their inner images to others in the EJO4Youth sessions.
  • encourage the recognition of new perspectives and the creation of an action plan.
  • motivate clients to implement the action steps, identified through the inner images.


Learners have the competence to

  • carefully advise clients in their work with life orientation and help them utilise their resources and skills.

Inner Images

Inner images are the basis of one’s perception of the world and our reality. By turning these images into external presentations, we discover more possibilities and new perspectives to the world around us. Dominant images not only reflect reality, they can also create a new reality. We see the world in a different light and perceive new possibilities regarding one’s identity and environment.

Visualising these inner images supports the clients in visualizing their own internal views and thoughts and becoming aware of them. They can process these images that are based on experiences and memories and develop an action plan with specific steps to create a new reality.

The materials to be used should be prepared and readily available. The materials of this unit represent different meanings and symbolize various emotions. In the following the meanings of the materials will be explained in greater detail. These meanings are just examples and can be extended or changed by the clients, if they have different associations with a material.

Thorns (barbed wire)

Symbolizes unpleasant feelings such as fear, guilt, grief, etc.

Thorns may also stand for pain, injuries, etc.


Stands for pleasant feelings such as luck, love, happiness, etc. They can also symbolize protection, warmth or affection.


Represents all precious or desired things.


Signifies all things that are literally “trickling through my fingers, which I cannot get a hold on”. It can also mean a path, beach or similar things.

Shit (cat litter)

A shit often used when things do not go as planned in life. It can be interpreted as something the client does not like, is uncomfortable with, or thinks of as something worthless or bad.

Stones / rocks

Represents hardship, coldness, etc. Can also mean protection, walls, etc.

Cotton wool

Symbolizes fog or ungraspable, inconceivable things.

Several white sheets of paper will be used as a base for the materials. At the beginning of the session, the materials will be placed next to each other, easily reachable. The order is not relevant.

Process of counselling with Inner Images

  1. Presentation
  2. Factual questions
  3. Perception
  4. Interpretation
  5. Agreement and evaluation


Before any counselling or discussion takes place, the practitioner welcomes the client, holds an introduction between them and builds a safe space for the client to share their concerns and thoughts, assuring the client of anonymity. To start, the practitioner first asks the client what their issue or concern is, which they want to work on in this session.

This concern should be summarised into one specific sentence, headline, or phrase. After defining the issue, the counsellor explains the different steps and materials of the intervention to the client. If the client has no more questions regarding their current task or the materials, the practitioner leaves the room to let the client to lay out their arrangement of materials. The client’s task is to lay out their concern using the materials, reflecting about their issue and everything related to it.

Step 1 – Presentation

Once the client has completed their arrangement and is ready for the next step, the practitioner asks the client to explain their work. This includes the arrangement overall as well as the meaning the attributed to each material and symbol. In this phase of the session the practitioner only listens to the client and does not comment or ask any questions.

Step 2 – Factual questions

Step 2 of the session is when the practitioner asks factual questions about the client’s work. These questions should not include any interpretation or biased and personal comments.

The questions can be something like

“I did not hear what you said about this symbol” or

“What does this symbol represent again?”

Before moving onto the next step, the client should again repeat their issue or concern.

Step 3 – Perception

Following the factual questions, the practitioner presents the objective observations they made during the client’s explanation of their arrangement. There should be no interpretations, only observations of speech, gestures, mimicry, as well as the work itself.

This can be things like

“Your voice turner quieter when you were explaining this symbol” or

“You touched this symbol when starting to explain” or even

“The blank sheets you arranged all have a different distance between them”.

Step 4 – Interpretation

Only after presenting the objective observations, the practitioner goes into the next step and presents their interpretation of the client’s explanation and work to them. During this phase, the practitioner is acting as if talking to themselves. The client should not interrupt the interpretation during this step but can address them in a later stage. Interpretations in this phase can include the arrangement of the sheets and of the materials and symbols, the meaning attributed to them, and the presentation and explanation by the client from the previous steps. The practitioner should further consider if there was a special meaning attributed to specific symbols or if the client interacted with specific materials while disregarding others.

Step 5 – Agreement and evaluation

Finally, the client talks about their own perception and opinion regarding the interpretation. They can talk about what they thought was something they agreed with or if there was something they disagreed with or they did not know about themselves. They can also add information or perceptions about themselves they noticed while presenting the arrangement. It is important for the client to feel safe and not feel like they need to defend themselves during the session.

Afterwards, the client can add or remove symbols from their work or change their arrangement again, if desired.

Once the changes are made, the practitioner asks the client to identify their concern in the arrangement they made. They should detail the connections between the specific symbols representing their issue as stated in the first step and the other symbols in their arrangement. During the client’s explanation the practitioner is actively listening to them, only afterwards trying to discuss and identify the concerns and problems with the client.

At this stage, the practitioner asks the client if they want to work further on the identified issues in this setting. If the client wants to continue working on this in this setting, the symbols can be interpreted further.

As a last step, the practitioner should agree on an action plan with the client.

This includes specific actions to be implemented in the next few weeks to overcome the identified issues. Sometimes this step is not necessary, this depends on the setting of the intervention. Each intervention might have a different result or outcome depending on the concerns of the client. Some concerns might need further interventions to be fully resolved. The practitioner should always listen closely to the client and find out what they need to resolve their concerns.

Have you completed all the content of this unit? Please take a moment to review. Done? Please proceed to Unit 7.
For any open questions, please consult the Resource tab or contact your course leader.