Associative Cards – Awaken Your Unconscious Mind

Guadalupe Jimenéz

Barcelona, Spain

Translated from the original Spanish article “Cartas asociativas: Despierta tu inconsciente,” in Dietética y Salud magazine, No. 157, October 2011, Barcelona, Spain.

Associative Cards – Awaken Your Unconscious Mind (English Translation)

More than just a game, associative cards, also known as OH, Kesem or projective cards, are a device that can be used to accomplish a task while stimulating personal and professional development. They are a therapeutic tool to enhance, among other abilities, communication, introspection and awareness. The first deck of cards is known as OH, a name inspired by the exclamation of surprise of those who first witnessed their effects. In 1975, as an attempt to bring art to the general public, Mexican artist Ely Raman created the cards. But it was not until 1983 that the Canadian psychologist Moritz Egetmeyer got to know them and sensed their therapeutic utility, enabling his patients to exteriorize their true “self” and feelings. Initially there were two decks of OH but over time other artists have contributed with their work to the creation of new decks, covering a variety of subject matter and therefore applications as well.

Their origins

The associative cards have nothing to do with the esoteric world, and certainly not with the Tarot. Their foundation is based on several psychological theories, among them the projectionist principles of psychoanalysis, the figure and ground principle propounded by Gestalt therapy. However, they also rely on other concepts such as those provided by Winnicott on playing, or the opposition principle of causality-synchronicity by Carl Jung.

What a session is like

Whether in a session guided by a therapist, in a group, between couples or individually, the subject matter of the various decks are used as a tool to allow people to exteriorize their true thoughts and emotions. They are a gateway to the unconscious mind. These guided sessions are carried out in a friendly way through card games, picking the cards one by one and giving them an explanation and meaning. Throughout each session the participants progress in their personal discovery as they tell their stories in their individual ways, without the interruption, reinterpretation or suggestions of others, if the session takes place in a group.

Therapeutic creativity

Specific applications of the associative cards, of which there are many, can help:

  • Educators: in all education matters, such as environmental awareness, intercultural learning, special education or personal student coaching.
  • Therapist: as a tool to promote self-awareness, expression and communication.
  • Artists: to stimulate natural creativity.
  • Social Workers: to prevent and treat addictions or traumas, to assist elderly people, employees, etc.
  • In business circles: in management consulting, team building processes and even in human resources.

They are effective in trauma treatment. After the tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand a group of Israeli psychologists, led by Dr. Ofra Ayalon, used the associative cards “COPE,” designed especially to treat trauma, with the disaster victims, proving their effectiveness.