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SS

ANDPLAY

&&

SYMBOL work

Emotional Healing

& Personal Development

with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Mark

Pearson

Helen

Wilson

SS

ANDPLAY

&&

SYMBOL work

Emotional Healing

& Personal Development

with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Mark

Pearson

Helen

Wilson

SS

ANDPLAY

&&

SYMBOL work

& Personal Development

Emotional Healing

with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Mark

Pearson

Helen

Wilson

First published 2001

by Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd

19

Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, 3124

10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Copyright © 2001 Mark Pearson and Helen Wilson

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers. The material in the photocopy masters may be reproduced by individuals in quantities sufficient for non-commercial application.

Edited by Jane Angus, Writers Reign Cover and text design by Polar Design Cover photography by Lindsay Edwards Sandplay photographs by Helen Wilson and Tess Pearson Printed in Australia by Shannon Books

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

Pearson, Mark. Sandplay & symbol work: emotional healing & personal development with children, adolescents and adults.

Bibliography. Includes index. ISBN 0 86431 340 3.

1. Sandplay – Therapeutic use. 2. Play therapy. 3. Psychotherapy. I. Wilson, Helen. II. Title.

616.89165

Visit our website: www.acerpress.com.au

Contents Introduction The language of symbols 1 Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 4 How

Contents

Introduction

The language of symbols

1

Chapter

1

The development of sandplay

4

How does sandplay work?

4

Differences between sandplay and symbol work

6

The evolution of sandplay as used in ERC

8

Sandplay and symbol work in ERC

10

Basic principles underlying ERC and sandplay practice

11

What supports emotional healing?

12

Sandplay literature and research

15

Sandplay as an aid to counselling in schools

15

Sandplay and multiple intelligences

18

Sandplay and academic improvement

20

Sandplay with abused children

21

Sandplay and grieving

23

Sandplay, symbol work and ERC in Australian group programs

23

Chapter

2

A gathering of wisdom – the Jungian heritage and contemporary sandplay

24

Some aims of sandplay

24

Emotional and psychological safety

26

How can sandplay help clients?

29

The value of play

31

Dealing with aggression

32

The role of the therapist

33

Stages in the sandplay process

34

After the sandplay

36

The contribution of play therapy

37

Sandplay and transpersonal psychology

38

Chapter

3

Sandplay and symbol work methods

41

Elements of the process

41

Some uses of sandplay

44

Trusting the inner healer

45

The free sandplay method

46

Overview of the process

46

Some ways of beginning

48

Gestalt role-play with sandplay figures

50

The focused method

50

Directed methods

50

Stages in sandplay sessions

51

Sandplay for families and groups

51

Sandplay with couples

53

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v

Chapter

4

Symbol work exercises

54

 

The basic steps of a counselling session

55

Relationships

60

Families and school

61

Emotional and physical release

63

Self-esteem

67

Spiritual direction and personal review

69

Chapter

5

Expressive support processes

72

 

Bioenergetics

72

Music to support bioenergetic exercises and movement work

74

Energy release games

75

Drawing after sandplay and symbol work

77

Other media

78

Chapter

6

Professional orientation

80

 

Basic rules and advice for facilitators

82

Guidelines for facilitators

83

Learning to observe

84

Preparing the counselling room

85

Integration

86

Evaluation, review and recording

88

Equipment

88

Sandplay with different age groups

91

Contraindications

92

Sandplay and nature

93

Using symbols in professional supervision

94

Getting started with sandplay – a six-point plan

95

Advice for parents of child clients

96

Training

99

Conclusion

 

101

Sandplay

stories

103

Appendix

I:

Self-discovery worksheet: The different parts of me

115

Appendix

II:

Gestalt role-play exercise

116

Appendix

III:

Record form for sandplay sessions

117

References

 

119

Glossary

125

Index

of

exercises

 

129

General

index

130

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i

The

The authors Mark Pearson Mark has been conducting Certificate Courses in Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) and

authors

Mark Pearson

Mark has been conducting Certificate Courses in Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) and sandplay around Australia since 1989. He was a primary school teacher, then founded a remedial reading clinic. He has worked briefly with handicapped children and conducted individual and group programs for emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. For five years Mark held a senior staff position at the Living Water Centre, Blue Mountains, NSW, as lecturer in Emotional Release Counselling for Children, Breathwork Therapy, Dreamwork and Sandplay, then directed courses at The Portiuncula Centre in Toowoomba for eight years. He has completed further studies in Transpersonal Psychology with Dr Stanislav Grof, and is completing M.Ed. studies, majoring in Behaviour Management. He now works as a psychotherapy and counselling trainer in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney through Turnaround, and for the Australian Council for Educational Research in Melbourne. He regularly runs programs for various welfare agencies and education departments around Australia. He is the co-author (with Patricia Nolan) of Emotional First-aid for Children (1991) and Emotional Release for Children (1995). He is also the author of Emotional Healing and Self-esteem – Inner-life Skills of Relaxation, Visualisation and Meditation for Children and Adolescents (1998) and for adults: From Healing to Awakening (1991) and The Healing Journey (1997).

Helen Wilson

Helen is an emotional release counsellor in private practice in Brisbane. Together with Mark, she also conducts training in ERC, sandplay and transpersonal therapies in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Helen has completed all three levels of train- ing in Emotional Release Counselling and Transpersonal Studies and holds the Post- Graduate Diploma. She has a Certificate in ERC with Children, a Certificate in Sandplay Therapy, and a degree in Human Resource Management. She was, for several years, on the staff at The Portiuncula Centre, Toowoomba. She is the founder of Turnaround through which she and Mark offer personal and pro- fessional development programs. Helen completed training in transpersonal psychology and holotropic breath- work with Dr Stanislav Grof in 1998. She has used sandplay and symbol work in a wide range of applications with individuals, couples, families and groups. Helen and Mark are both recognised as Senior Trainers by their professional body and are foundation members of the Queensland Transpersonal and Emotional Release Counsellors Association Inc. and members of the Queensland Association for Family Therapy.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the many clients over the years who have entered will- ingly – in great trust and faith – into the realm of the symbolic and given us the privilege of witnessing their journey of transformation as well as giving us valuable learning experiences about sand and symbols. We would like to thank our clients who have kindly given permission for photographs and stories of their exploration to be used. Many thanks are also due to our trainees, whose inner journeys, probing questions and generous sharings have enriched our experience of sandplay. Special thanks go to Pru Beatty and Alana Vaney for contributing stories of their use of symbols, and to Kathy Halvorson for the exercise on page 62. We would like to acknowledge the initial training from Patrick Jansen, a student of Dora Kalff, and all the writers on sandplay who have supported and enlarged our understanding.

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Introduction The language of symbols A round the walls of the sandplay room are shelves

Introduction

The language of symbols

A round the walls of the sandplay room are shelves filled with small figurines: little people, animals, fish, birds, trees, buildings, military equip- ment, miniature household items, model cars, trucks, buses, flowers,

jewels, skeletons, funny things, frightening things, endearing things, reli- gious things, primitive dolls and much, much more. In the middle of this treasure trove of figurines – silently waiting to become symbols for our inner world – is a sandtray, similar to the ones we may have used in kindergarten. The sand calls out to be touched, moved, shaped. We may begin our session by arranging the sand – heaping it into hills and valleys, rivers or coastlines. We play and add figurines, gradually seeing them as representing our feelings, thoughts, attitudes, longings and unconscious drives. We may begin to under- stand ourselves more clearly, or we may simply begin to feel better. We share what we wish with the sandplay facilitator, and grow within the warmth of their acceptance. The figurines on the shelves can represent parts of ourselves; they become significant symbols for us as our inner meanings are projected onto them. As we look at the shelves we may feel that some of the symbols reach out. We might feel greatly repulsed or attracted – that’s usually a clue that a symbol is important. The repulsion or attraction can be an expression of the uncon- scious. Sometimes we will choose symbols to represent themes about which we are already conscious. At other times we simply allow the symbol to call us. We take the figurines that we like, and start to arrange them in the sand. We probably do not realise it at first, but the symbols stand out for us because something inside us resonates, recognises itself in them. When the sandplay figurines become symbols they begin to express the language of our unconscious. Connection to what is unconscious in us sup- ports emotional healing and personal development. Sandplay is a hands-on, expressive counselling and psychotherapy modality that has been in use for well over fifty years. It has been used with children, adolescents and adults in schools, hospitals, welfare agencies and private counselling practices. It forms a bridge between verbal therapy and

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the expressive therapies, combining elements of both. Sandplay allows the

deeper aspects of the psyche to be worked with naturally and in safety, and

is highly effective in reducing the emotional causes of difficult behaviours. It

can be used both for diagnosis and as a treatment, and to support the use of

a variety of Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) modalities. In dreaming, our unconscious invents its own symbols, sometimes choos- ing from our memories, sometimes apparently following its own intricate fantasy codes. Dream imagery has been used since the development of psy- choanalysis as one of the main ways of exploring and healing the psyche. In almost every culture throughout time people have sought understanding of dreams and the symbolic language of the personal unconscious, as well as the collective unconscious. Symbols are regularly used in popular culture – in films, video clips, com- puter games. When we see dark clouds in the sky in a movie we know that something gloomy or difficult is about to happen. Another scene with a bright, sunny day usually conveys to us a sense of hope, even though we are not aware of thinking about it. We even hear clients use imagery for describ-

ing their inner processes: ‘I feel as if the sun has just come out from behind

a cloud!’ The language of symbols has been used by poets and writers, who

employ images in an effort to convey exact nuances of feelings, moods and

energy states. Like the ocean, our unconscious is continually washing up both treasures

and less appealing items. This is an in-built mechanism in the psyche that, if acknowledged, listened to and attended to, can support personal healing and beyond, to individuation. Working with sandplay symbols helps us develop language for this inner process and we become more articulate, using meta- phors from our newly forming personal mythology. Sandplay is a unique way to allow form to be constructed around unconscious material. Sandplay and symbol work processes are a little like working with dreams, but the symbols are not stored away in our unconscious. They are outside us, ready to be selected. However, our unconscious emotional state

– if we allow it – selects the symbol figures, arranges them and begins to

make itself known. We can be surprised by what has been created in the sand and the way in which our unconscious, given the opportunity, auton- omously expresses itself with freedom. Each of us has a constant drive in the psyche that wants to make sense of our inner and outer worlds, wants to bring harmony with all parts of our- selves. Working at the sandtray facilitates this sifting and integrating process and exposes much that may previously have been hidden or buried to us. Sandplay and symbol work make time and space for our deeper selves to emerge. Kalff (1980) writes about the need to allow images of the Self to emerge as part of the healing journey for clients. Sandplay and symbol work help create congruence between our inner world and outer worlds. Strengthening this connection is therapeutic.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

Transformation can happen at the level of metaphor, as the figures are related to and arranged in relation to each other. Intrapsychic changes are facilitated which might remain unexplored in a more cognitively focused session. Many clients initially regard sandplay as a bit of a lark and so commence work in the sand with ease and a feeling of safety. They soon begin to con- tact deeper parts of themselves or gain significant insights. The client and facilitator soon leave behind the world of intellect-based labels and descrip- tions and enter a realm where the self-development process unfolds. Because the sand picture can be created without words it is a very supportive medium for clients who may find verbal exchanges difficult or who work best in a visual, non-verbal mode. The ERC method of using sandplay described in this book has evolved from the original Jungian approach and mirrors Jung’s theories. Incorporation of some Gestalt techniques has expanded its efficiency. Greater freedom and healing potential have been gained through use of other expressive ERC modalities such as bioenergetics, art work, energy release games, body focus and emotional release process work. Our particular approach to using and teaching sandplay within a wider context is to prepare facilitators to deal with the range of emerging feelings and outcomes. The multi-modal approach of ERC is ideal for safely allowing the psyche to open through work with symbols. The experiential nature of ERC training creates understanding of the different levels of the psyche, as well as providing comfort and competence in supporting any possible dramatic emergence of emotions. Essential skills to support client integration are also gained through experiential training. Around the world different approaches to sandplay have emerged. The ERC method is client-centred. It does not impose a framework or ideology. At its core are the skills of suspending judgement and interpretation, refrain- ing from imposing these onto the client, coupled with the use of our own inner analysis as a basis for offering the client open-ended self-discovery questions. One aim of this book is to excite the reader’s interest in using the sand- play and symbol work process for personal development: for self-discovery, for emotional healing and for the spiritual quest. From these experiences may emerge a professional interest in training to support others using these methods. This book is designed to help the reader use the language of the uncon- scious. It can help us explore the treasures of the inner world, let go of what is no longer needed and begin to be able to support others more effectively, while constantly expanding our understanding of the psyche.

Introduction

The language of symbols

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Chapter 1
Chapter
1

The development of sandplay

A basic postulate of Sandplay Therapy is that deep in the unconscious there is an autonomous ten- dency, given the proper conditions, for the psyche to heal itself. This work heals wounds that have blocked normal development. It is a prime facilitator of the individuation process.

Estelle Weinrib, Images of the Self, Sigo, 1983

S andplay can contribute to satisfying the soul’s longing to know and reveal itself. This process of revelation cuts through our sense of being trapped in a superficial world. This linking between inner and outer can

bring meaning into the way we live our daily lives as well as supporting us in shedding the inherited emotional loading. Sandplay allows us to drop into a mythic realm of our psyche. Most clients find the process deeply satisfying as it creates clear links between their per- sonal life, the mythic or symbolic realm of the unconscious and an intrinsic spirituality. Creating the symbolic structures in the sand adds the dimension of depth to the process of self-discovery and healing. Problems can be seen in a larger context. The use of symbols allows the unconscious and conscious mind to project multiple meanings. As we work with the symbols our issues, feelings, long- ings, fears and hopes can emerge, take tangible form and become clear to us. The symbols, laden with our meanings, can then be moved about, forming new relationships, new connections. While allowing issues to emerge for clarity and release, the connection between our inner and outer worlds helps us recognise direction in our lives and become more complete. This bond between inner and outer, and between client and facilitator, is often felt as a sacred space; the usual ego certainty and control is gradually suspended. The symbol work acts as an intermediary, opening the way for a sharing of complex ideas and personal issues between client and counsellor.

How does sandplay work?

Acceptance of the concept that the psyche has a self-activated in-built, corrective, healing drive and organising principle (inner healer) means that we are able to regard the contents of the psyche as needing to be released or con- taining dynamic tensions that are seeking expression. With children, this need is manifested in acting-out behaviour. Unpleasant or negative experiences in the psyche that need to be released or healed might include blocked feelings,

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unresolved conflicts, specific and non-specific dissatisfactions, negative beliefs, attitudes and scripts about self, defensive attitudes towards the world, agita- tion, frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness, hurt, disconnection, armour- ing, unfulfilled needs. Much of this unresolved material is contained in the ‘shadow’, Jung’s word for the part of the unconscious to which material that cannot be accommodated or integrated by the ego is relegated. Along with these so-called negative aspects, there are positive qualities, skills and talents that have similarly not been developed or expressed. For our progression to psychological health, it is essential that these positive energies find expression. It is clear then that clients come to the sandtray or the symbol shelves with their own unique blend of therapeutic needs. When they begin to touch the sand or inspect the figurines a recognition and resonance begins, uncon- scious at first, and is felt as either a positive or negative attraction to a sym- bol or sand formation. Next comes some satisfaction with either the sand shaping or the gathering of a collection of figurines – which may at this stage seem to have no connection or relevance to each other. In the free sandplay process clients are encouraged to avoid planning their symbol selections or sand formations. The play element of sandplay is important. The freedom to create any- thing they wish enables clients to drop any defences. For the facilitator this means not having to work or plan a strategy to overcome defences. Sandplay provides visible form for what is already inside the client. This enables the client, with support from the facilitator, to observe, explore, comment, re- constitute and heal destructive and sabotaging tendencies. In the quiet concentration that follows the first steps of shaping the sand, a story or picture emerges as the figurines are arranged. As the client surveys the scene, associations between the symbols begin to appear. Meanings may become clearer at this stage, or the story may seem to the client to be entirely imaginary. Children usually create a story or movie-script type play, whereas adults normally create a static scene rather than act out a dramatic sequence of events in a single sandtray. Sometimes there can be more imme- diate feedback from the picture or story, in the form of insight, enhancing cognitive understanding of self and of the issues expressed in the sandtray. The free sandplay method provides the client with a protected context in which unconscious resolution can take place more freely than in verbal artic- ulation and exchanges. It is a space where there is safety for the relaxation of automatic filtering of inner material and where the client grows more comfortable in trusting that the fantasy, pictures and stories created will bring relief. Forming the sand supports a shift in awareness from cognitive and verbal to kinesthetic involvement. This allows relaxation of defence mechanisms and frees set ways of thinking. The kinesthetic focus on the sensation of the sand and the movement of the hands also opens new ways of communicat- ing and knowing the self. This supports the emergence of emotional issues,

Chapter

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The development of sandplay

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blocked feelings and whatever else may be waiting for resolution in the unconscious. Frequently a process of transformation begins to take place. There is a move from a negative mood to a more positive state. Blocked energy is freed and the client appears more alive and more communicative. The freedom to create, without judgement, enhances self-esteem and is in itself very satisfy- ing. More often with adult clients this process of transformation involves a clearer cognitive understanding of self, often accompanied by spontaneous problem-solving. The sand construction and the arrangement of figurines in the tray express and reflect a strength for the client from which they may have been discon- nected. By making concrete or visible any conflict or tension the client is then able to reconstruct the situation and gain insight and a clearer understanding. This provides the motivation to continue. It eventually develops self-trust, inner resources and creative problem solving and enhances intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, intuition and intellectual clarity. Bradway and McCoard (1997) state that there is a suspension of judgement during the sandplay and during the process the facilitator ‘accepts the uniqueness of individuals and their ways of coping and dealing with their wounds, their problems, their pathology’. The process enhances self-esteem as the client is actively involved in creating the picture. It reinforces a positive sense of self because the client is the creator of their own healing process. The power is with them – or with- in them – rather than being with or in the counsellor. Sandplay activates the self-healing tendencies and so it is the client’s experience of the process which holds the potential for healing, rather than any therapeutic interpretation of the sand picture. Any insights or gains made come from within the client and can be clearly recognised by the client as their own internal power. Sandplay aids metacognition – thinking about thinking. It acts as an aid for reflection, helping clients to think about their own cognitive processes. The use of symbols and sand gives form to the client’s perception of what is happening in their life.

Differences between sandplay and symbol work

Sandplay is an undirected process that utilises the therapeutic benefits of free play. Apart from the opening instructions and interaction in the second stage of sharing the story or picture, sandplay is not directed by the facilitator. It is designed to allow the unconscious to emerge at its own speed and accord- ing to its own readiness. Sandplay allows non-verbal integration, which may or may not be fully understood by the client. Feelings and understanding about the creation in the sandtray do not depend on verbal articulation. Symbol work is directed. It has a specific thematic focus. The aim is to encourage a client to explore and then discuss a specific situation or their

Sandplay and Symbol Work

feelings about it. Symbol work enables the facilitator to gain information and rapport to assist in moving the counselling process forward. Working with symbols gives the client an opportunity to draw upon a universal vocabulary, access to a language that can express their truth with- out the need for immediate conscious understanding. Symbols reflect back the material and images held in the psyche. Their three-dimensional, tangible qualities support a deepening of the counselling process. Through this deeper dimension the client, supported by the structure of a symbol work exercise, can begin the process of transforming a difficult situation. Both adults and children exhibit an ability to understand the meanings of symbols. Symbol work allows a counsellor to guide a client in the creation of pictures and stories that represent their most troubling issues. It allows the gathering of detailed information that can be helpful in suggesting ongoing management strategies both for the client and for carers. In confronting the reality of the limits in the amount of counselling a client may be able to access, we have developed many ways of using symbols that can more directly and simply provide doorways to address important issues. The question is often put: ‘If sandplay is so effective why use symbol work exercises?’. Symbol work is an extension of sandplay that allows a focus on a specific problem or issue. Few counsellors have the opportunity to offer regular ongoing sessions, sometimes due to budget limitations, sometimes due to client preferences. Many agencies which supply a coun- selling service are limited in the number of sessions they can offer and so nat- urally have a problem-solving focus. The symbol work exercises certainly can support clear identification of problems as part of assessment, a first step in seeking solutions. Many adult clients come to counselling with a belief that they should already know or be ready to explain what is wrong, even if they don’t know what to do about it. For them the ‘blank page’ approach of sandplay can sometimes feel overwhelming. Signell (in Bradway et al., 1990) found that some males found it difficult to ‘play in the sand’ and felt a need to focus on solutions. Signell writes, however, that sandplay and the use of symbols are important because they offer ‘a rare opportunity for loosening up and experiencing free-flowing of feelings, imagination and life force that comes with the interplay of conscious and unconscious’. There are many clients who can gain trust in the undirected sandplay process via a structured sym- bol work exercise. Choosing a symbol from thousands of figurines, spread across several shelves, may be a daunting task for a distressed client. A gradual introduction to the value of working with symbols through a simple structured exercise may give such a client enough experience to gain confidence and develop internal trust in the process. Relating to the counsellor, telling their life story with the aid of a few symbols supports outer trust. Many adults have moved far away from connection with the world of imaginative play and creative expression. Play and creativity are ingredients

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The development of sandplay

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for ongoing emotional health and the development of self-knowledge, and the therapeutic process may lead them to reclaim these abilities. Initially, adults who have lost this connection may respond well to structured steps, guiding questions and clear instructions. Symbol work exercises help expose, very quickly, patterns or themes of behaviour or reaction and hence activate or excite interest in self-discovery. Drawing, writing in a journal or reflecting on a personal collection of symbols can support the translation of the experience in the counselling setting directly into everyday life. What can quickly be seen from symbol work exercises is that self-discovery and counselling are not about focusing on or finding faults, even though there may be ‘things’ that a person is doing or responding to that are not healthy or ‘right’. Symbol work exercises focus attention on the contents of the client’s unconscious while the emotional release counsellor offers support in a way that is not intrusive or judgemental. The exercises quickly lead a client to gain an overview of previously unconscious patterns of reaction, behaviour and ways of relating. Gaining this overview is an empowering experience. This overview reinforces the basic principle in ERC that each person has their own inner wisdom, that the expert on who we are and what we need is actually inside us. Gaining the overview also brings a feeling of hope and strength which enables clients to acknowledge their pain and begin the healing process. The symbols mediate between ego consciousness and the unconscious in a way which still allows some gentle guidance from the ego, and results in a more harmonious, balanced relationship between conscious and unconscious. Both sandplay and symbol work exercises can be used to great advantage to work through a normal developmental conflict or to regain a sense of balance after a trau- matic incident.

The evolution of sandplay as used in ERC

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A non-fiction book by H. G. Wells, Floor Games (1911) inspired the creation of what Dr Margaret Lowenfeld called the ‘World Technique’ (1999). Lowenfeld left an orthodox paediatric practice to found one of the first psy- chological clinics for children in England in 1928. She gathered objects to be used by children in their therapy sessions and through the development of her World Technique she used children’s natural inclination to play, helping them reveal their inner life and articulate their concerns. She credited her child clients with the discovery of this method. Lowenfeld hoped to find a medium which would be attractive to children and would give them, and the facilitator, a language to establish communi- cation. By 1930 her clinic was known as the Institute of Child Psychology and had become a research and training centre as well as a clinic. At the Institute they adopted a holistic approach, and provided various play media, such as construction material, equipment that supported movement and

Sandplay and Symbol Work

destruction – clay, hammers, punching toys – and materials for expressing fantasy – such as blocks, dolls and art materials. Lowenfeld’s book, Play in Childhood (1935, reprinted 1999), explains play as a healing modality and is still in use today. Dora Kalff, a student and colleague of Carl Jung and Emma Jung, attended a lecture by Lowenfeld in 1954 and was very impressed. By 1956 Kalff had completed her studies required for certification as a Jungian an- alyst through the Jung Institute in Zurich. She developed an interest in Lowenfeld’s work, sensing it as a symbolic tool that could be used by children. She spent 1956 studying with Lowenfeld, and others, in London. Returning to her practice in Switzerland Kalff spent some time integrating her understanding of the Jungian approach to symbology and consulting with Jung on the process. Kalff named the newly developed process ‘sand- play’, and after some years of using it with children, found it to be equally valuable when used with adults. Kalff had a lifelong interest in the East and found the Asian philosophies supportive of her work with sandplay. She had long-term friendships with Tibetan Buddhists, had several meetings with the Dalai Lama and found support from her study of Zen Buddhism with its focus on one’s own inner resources. Kalff found that sandplay was enthusiastically welcomed in Japan – where it was seen as similar to their tradition of miniature world- making. She taught the process there from 1966 until her death in 1990. Kalff’s approach to sandplay was taught in Australia for a brief time by Jungian analyst Patrick Jansen while he was co-director of the Living Water Centre in the Blue Mountains, NSW. We trained at the Living Water Centre, which was Australia’s first educational and personal development centre to combine Jung’s and Kalff’s work with the experiential modalities of transper- sonal and Gestalt psychology. Based on many of the same principles as ERC, sandplay became a natural component of the ERC approach with children, adolescents and adults. The methodology of Frederick Perls’ Gestalt role-play dreamwork was adapted for use with sandplay symbols, enabling clients to be even more expressive and deepen their understanding of their symbols. Great flexibility in supporting the client also came from extending the process to include emotional release process work if indicated. The symbol work exercises presented in Chapter 4 have been developed since 1990 as an extension of traditional sandplay. We have designed them to be used as a segment of a counselling session. They may be blended with other approaches and can operate at the level of readiness of the client. They have proved to be ideally suited to contemporary counselling, and allow a gentle, but direct focus on areas of difficulty. The symbol work exercises have been created for use within individual and group counselling and personal development programs. Many of our exercises have been used with children, adolescents and adults for more than ten years.

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For a detailed history of sandplay and a comprehensive bibliography on the subject see Sandplay – Past, Present and Future, by Rie Rogers Mitchell and Harriet Friedman (see page 121).

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Sandplay and symbol work in ERC

ERC was introduced in 1987, based on the research, writing and methods of several pioneers in the field of psychotherapy, counselling and consciousness research. ERC is an Australian development and has been described by Pearson and Nolan (1991, 1995) and further by Pearson (1997, 1998). ERC training programs have been in operation around Australia since 1989. Emotional release process work is a central part of ERC. It deals with both the strong and subtle emotions that may be behind our behaviour patterns. It is designed to be used by trained and experienced counsellors. Processing is the part of counselling work where strong reactive feelings can be released directly. Processing may deal with anger, grief, irritation, or jealousy, and it usually involves some physical and emotional expression. An important component of ERC is the development of inner life skills. This involves counsellors in supporting clients to gain the skills to under- stand and deal with their inner life – their feelings, moods, reactions, body sensations, dreams and fantasies, etc. It is the aspect of ERC most rele- vant for classroom teachers, personal development facilitators and spiritual directors. These skills have an educational aim and involve clients, students and seekers in learning new ways of self-understanding, self-discovery, man- agement of emotions, and relating to and supporting others. Recently created family communication exercises (Pearson, 1998) are designed to be both preventative and therapeutic. These are exercises that encourage self-expression, self-discovery and enhanced communication be- tween parents and children. The games are usually modelled by a counsellor, who may support a trial run with at least a child and one parent, but they are designed for parents and children to explore at home. There are several fundamental principles of ERC that are particularly relevant to sandplay and symbol work. The first is that there is a natural, in-built movement in the psyche towards emotional and psychological heal- ing. Accompanying this is an intrinsic interest in self-discovery, even if this interest is covered over by difficult feelings from the past. Another principle relates to the way we can heal through involving body, mind and feelings. The effectiveness of this experiential approach is enhanced by using breath, sound and movement in the counselling process. ERC is a collection of modalities that are coordinated by these main principles. The exercises fall into several broad categories:

• encouraging clients to talk about themselves during the initial consul- tations – encouragement is given via the use of discussion questions, body awareness exercises, journal writing and drawing

• self-awareness, with the use of body focus

Sandplay and Symbol Work

• emotional release processes that may include energy release through sound and movement, bioenergetic exercises, safe anger release and work with reactions

• using symbols through the work with sandplay, directed symbol work, Gestalt role-play and dreamwork

• breathwork, an adult process (not used with children), that allows deep emotional release and self-discovery

• self-esteem work, often using visualisations

• relaxation and meditation.

ERC aims to support a client to release feelings and reveal what is under the surface of consciousness. The emotions contacted are often – though not always – found in layers, as if we were mining down from the surface layers

of personality towards the real self. The following layers can also be observed at times in a client’s series of sandplays:

• chaos, frustration, irritation, resentment

• anger, inner conflicts

• rage, hate

• hurts beneath anger

• sadness, grief

• tenderness, openness, love, sense of order

• self as valuable, sense of own resources, sense of strength

• reinforcement of positive sense of self, emergence of spiritual qualities.

Carey (1999) lists the stages or layers as:

• chaos

• beginnings of integration of the psyche

• conflict

• separation – development of a separate identity

• relating to the world healthily.

These layers may come to consciousness and be expressed a number of times before emotional healing is complete. Sometimes clients may find themselves seemingly stuck in a loop, cycling through the top three layers. Staying angry can feel stronger than feeling vulnerable to hurts. It can be the counsellor’s role to provide a safe environment so that surrender of defences allows the client to contact deeper layers of feeling.

Basic principles underlying ERC and sandplay practice

The following principles apply to ERC generally and to the way sandplay and symbol work are undertaken in ERC.

• Emotional healing takes time and rest just as physical healing does.

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• ERC allows personal exploration to move between the conscious and the unconscious; between the biographical, perinatal and transpersonal levels of our psyche.

• ERC supports clients in rediscovering their own resources and as much as possible refers directorship of the counselling process back to them.

• ERC begins by developing outer and inner trust. Outer trust grows through the personal meeting with a counsellor, with the feeling of total acceptance and a simple and clear framework for the processes. Inner trust develops through inner world exploration that allows strength to emerge.

• The difference between acceptable behaviour in the counselling room and in everyday life needs to be clear. However, if clients feel safe enough to allow release in the counselling room there is usually a reduction in the tendency or need to act out in daily life.

• Safe use of the methods depends greatly on the stage of personal devel- opment, training and experience of the counsellor. A trained counsellor develops a sense of ease with the feeling world that is conveyed to the client, creating a climate of permission for deep release. The experiential nature of ERC training can prepare a counsellor to develop empathy and openness, and to let go of judgemental thoughts and actions. The more personal development work the counsellor has undertaken, the less the risk of unconscious projection and discomfort with any dramatic material from the client.

• The emotional release counsellor should be able to move between modalities in order to meet clients ‘where they are’. This skill supports finding the best ‘doorway’ through which to support entry into the client’s inner world.

• Interpretation of an individual’s inner world and its symbols by an external observer can inhibit self-discovery. It is therefore important not to advise a client about what their inner journey should be or give a set meaning to any sandplay, dream or fantasy symbols.

• It is helpful in counselling sessions to support the reversal of old shallow breathing patterns. Many ERC exercises help breathing expand and this helps a client open to feeling, and may bring a release of held emotions and energies.

• ERC methods aim to free up restricted sounding and movement patterns, so that long-held-in words, statements, sounds and movements can release safely.

What supports emotional healing?

ERC is based on the premise that feeling emotions and energy and express- ing them (in appropriate ways) keeps us mentally healthy, or returns us to health. The natural state of energy and emotions is movement, expansion and creation.

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• Since emotional healing takes place in the body and its energy, ERC works to help clients become more in touch with their body, as well as knowing what they are feeling and thinking.

• We each have an in-built interest in self-discovery. Mostly this has been covered over by disappointment and trauma. ERC methods allow it to re-emerge, forming the basis for cooperation in the counselling endeavour.

• Each psyche has a natural in-built, intelligent movement towards whole- ness. We call this the ‘inner healer’. ERC opens and frees trapped energy and allows the natural inner healing mechanism to direct the emotional healing work. Long-term emotional healing is based on trusting the wisdom of the inner healer. The inner healer can emerge when a client gains trust in the facilitator and their own inner world. This inner force reveals, with its own logic, what the client needs to remember, feel, release or integrate. Problems in the counselling process can arise if the facilitator has a preset notion of what ought to happen and when it should happen.

• In the unconscious there are often links between the causes of strong reactions in daily life and past difficulties. When a client is ready, ERC can support the clearing of unfinished business from the past so that they may live more fully in the present. A natural trajectory of the ERC process is the assisting of clients to heal their inner hurts. There is support for them to become less defended, open to others and to the positivity and creativity of their own inner world.

• Negative feelings and memories in the unconscious are active, having an influence on how we make choices and live our lives. Bringing them to consciousness is the first step in disempowering them. For sustained emotional healing it is vital that the shadow aspects of the personality be explored, released, accommodated and integrated.

• Positive qualities, feelings and memories in the unconscious can be inactive, or overshadowed by negative beliefs and attitudes caused by past hurt. Making the positive material conscious again empowers it to be expressed and to become an active part of the personality.

• In a healthy system the body, mind and feelings work as a whole. Feelings that are too confronting to experience or express bring into play an attempt at suppression. When the feelings are blocked or stuck they are experienced as negative. They are held in muscular tension or ‘armouring’, they cause disruptive or destructive thoughts and they are finally expressed as negative actions.

• Under physical tension and pain there is often some emotional holding and emotional pain. When the physical symptom is given some sustained attention, with the support of some deep breaths and inner focus, the client can often recontact the underlying feelings and express them therapeutically. This usually leads to relaxation. A state of calm and positivity is restored in the body and the mind.

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• Many of us have a part of our personality constellated around the hurts and disappointments of childhood. This focal point of our childhood scripts is a combination of repressed feelings, negative beliefs about self and behaviour patterns connected with defence and survival. Healing old feelings allows separation from any negative legacy of the past. ERC supports the re-integration of all real aspects of a client’s personality. However, clients benefit most when there can be some separation from the hurt inner child constellation, when it is being healed and its impact on the personality is reduced. The power of these scripts is reduced by repeatedly allowing times of deep feeling (in a safe, supported space) of what could not be fully felt in the past.

• Traumas are events so painful emotionally or physically that they have to be separated, or repressed, from consciousness. The impact of traumatic events can build up in the unconscious from as far back as our time in the womb. When there is a protective shut-down of feelings the unconscious material can have a pervasive negative and limiting effect on the psyche.

• Repression is an unconscious mechanism whereby thoughts, feelings and sensations are locked away from our usual consciousness as a protection from emotional pain. Many clients carry significant amounts of repressed material which causes problems in their inner and outer life. ERC aims to create supportive conditions in which a client can feel safe to gradually open to what has been repressed, in order to feel and release it.

• Defence mechanisms are those reactions which tend to come up at times of stronger feeling to protect us from underlying emotional pain. Defences include denial, projection onto others, blame of others, intel- lectualising of feelings, continual argument about details, etc. For a client to begin to let go of defences requires a readiness and willingness to feel what was being defended. This can take time.

• Children often have to turn their frustration and anger inwards. They may have come to believe that they were to blame for what in reality were shortcomings in their early environment. Any patterns of being self-destructive, taking on blame, or being continually self-critical can gradually be healed by being expressed in the counselling room. Directing feelings symbolically towards the causes of emotional containment or self-criticism enhances the therapeutic benefit.

• Angry and violent outbursts and over-the-top reactions come from the backlog of repressed feelings. To help resolve present emotional crises the client may be supported to connect with emotional layers under- neath, to the original hurts. They can come to new emotional freedom through feeling and expressing these underlying hurts in emotional release process work. The main principle in emotional release process work is the support for a client to reconnect with any incomplete emotions in order to begin their release. When mobilised the feelings can release through the body, through movement and through sound.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

• In the psyche there are layers of feelings. Under negative feelings are positive feelings. For example, the energy of anger can hold so much of our potential: strength, authority, aliveness, assertiveness, sense of self. Deep under anger there is often hurt or sadness. When hurt is healed the original underlying state of love and tenderness is again accessible.

Sandplay literature and research

Along with a detailed history of sandplay, Mitchell and Friedman (1994) discuss research and publications on sandplay. In the English language they list 87 journal articles (many from the International Journal of Sandplay Therapy), 24 books, 21 conference presentations, 7 Masters theses and 12 Doctoral dissertations. They also list non-English publications: 72 journal articles (mostly from Japan) and 13 books. In the years since 1994 there have been five new English language sandplay books, including ours. The International Society for Sandplay Therapy holds many papers on sandplay and many detailed case reports submitted by sandplay therapists as part of their certification process (for web page information see page 124). Mitchell and Friedman list a wide range of sandplay applications discussed in the Masters and Doctoral papers. There are research papers and case reports covering sandplay in a classroom with learning disabled children, work with abused children, adults molested as children, rites of passage, the relation of sandplay to art therapy, women’s spirituality, the use of animal imagery, structures for cognitive analysis of sandplay, as well as several exploring its general effectiveness. We are aware of several Australian sandplay research papers, one of which has been authored by a Queensland guidance officer, Patrick O’Brien. His 1998 dissertation is an analysis of using sandplay and associated modalities with children in a school setting. O’Brien draws links between the sandplay and symbol work processes and Howard Gardner’s (1983) theories of mul- tiple intelligence. O’Brien produces some of Australia’s first statistical evi- dence for the effectiveness of these dynamic experiential methods.

Sandplay as an aid to counselling in schools

Canadians John Allan, a professor of elementary school counselling, and Pat Berry, a primary class teacher, reported their use of sandplay for counselling children in the American journal Elementary School Guidance and Counselling (see page 121). They discuss the sandplay process in a way that corresponds to the ERC approach. Their article concludes with the statement that productive per- sonality development and effective learning are enhanced when repressed energy is released and can transform into available positive energy. Allan and Berry found that classroom teachers comment on a student’s relaxed mood and enhanced ability to become involved in school work after sandplay. They note that children seem calmer and happier, and exhibit a sense of humour after the sessions. They recommend student participation

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in eight to ten sessions, after which they note a dramatic improvement, with the child responding positively to normal controls and limitations imposed by teachers. Their case study of a male second grader, referred for counselling due to inappropriate behaviour in both classroom and playground, reported the stu- dent’s gains from sandplay as:

• a reduction in impulsive and aggressive behaviour

• improvement in social skills

• an ability to channel energy into art and soccer. Their findings mirror the many verbal reports we receive from Guidance Officers who have graduated from our courses. Lois Carey (1990, see page 121) reports on sandplay therapy over six months with a nine-year-old boy with speech and language disorders, referred by the school psychologist. While the sandplay sessions did not take place within the school setting, there are reports from teachers that the boy’s concentration in class improved greatly. The teachers also reported an improvement in peer rela- tions, which had been non-existent prior to treatment. Vinturella and James (1987, see page 122) present a case report of an eight- year-old boy with dramatic mood changes and aggressive behaviour that fre- quently resulted in negative consequences at school. Over six sessions this boy worked through some aspects of the recent death of his father. The fifth session also involved his mother, who created a sandplay with the boy. Vinturella and James describe a variety of ways sandplay is used by coun- sellors of different therapeutic orientations:

• Behaviourists use it as a diagnostic tool for obtaining baseline information.

• Psychoanalytic therapists use it to detect unconscious conflicts.

• Jungian analysts monitor and support the individuation process.

• Gestalt counsellors use it as a tool to separate figure from ground and resolve polarities through enactment.

• Child-centred counsellors create a climate of acceptance in which the child’s self-regulatory and actualising tendencies are maximised.

• Family counsellors use it with children and families to explore family boundaries, structure and dysfunctional patterns of interaction in the family system. Vinturella and James also describe how sandplay supports both intro- verted and extroverted clients. The introverted orientation is used in the soli- tary construction of the picture and the extroverted orientation is used in the telling of the story. They also strongly recommend that a counsellor using sandplay use person-centred techniques, such as their restatement of content and reflection of feelings to support the client’s identification of meanings of symbols and sand pictures. They suggest the counsellor might gently offer open-ended questions to help a client tell the story. This is a similar approach to what is called ‘self-discovery questioning’ in ERC, and further supports the link between these two approaches.

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Vinturella and James further suggest that parents could be trained to facilitate sandplay with their children at home. While there are many ways parents can help their children with ‘emotional first-aid’ at home (see page 96), many reports from trainees show that working with their own children does not produce the same therapeutic benefit as working with a neutral counsellor. Parents can show an interest in discussing their children’s sand- plays, and this may support a positive effect on the parent–child relationship. However, many children will not want to discuss their sandplays, having integrated the contents, and may prefer to simply move on to another activ- ity or topic. In their article ‘Jungian play therapy in elementary schools’ Allan and Brown (1993) discuss the Jungian emphasis on activating the self-healing force in a child’s psyche. They maintain that once this is activated the child will act out play themes that are significant to their own struggles. This article clearly relates Jung’s ideas to counselling with children. Allan and Brown’s observations show that the externalisation and projection of con- flicts, in the counselling context, help the child’s ego to deal in a tangible way with painful unconscious struggles and negative feelings. Allan and Brown propose a simple model for counselling in schools where there is a need to balance the needs of the child with the needs of the school. Counselling in this context should have an initial inner world focus, fol- lowed by a time devoted to addressing issues raised by teachers or parents. Successful treatment, they say, is based not only on the positive therapeutic alliance between counsellor and child, but also on the positive alliance with the teacher and parent. They recommend that themes, toys or symbols that become significant for the child be somehow integrated into classroom activities, either through projects, related reading material or a leadership role in classroom discussions on a related topic. In their case study with an eight-year-old male, they report that ‘the opportunity to release his hurt and aggressive feelings freed up the positive, guiding power of the psyche, through drawing and sandplay’. Another exponent of sandplay in primary schools, Carmichael (1994), outlines the role of the counsellor and typical stages in the sessions. She found that sandplay was most suitable for students with low self-esteem or poor academic progress, or who exhibited very active behaviours. She rec- ommends sandplay as a viable, low-risk intervention for school counsellors that has been found to be highly successful. In Australia Helen Tereba (1999), as part of her Masters in Counselling project, used ERC exercises, including symbol work, to create and pilot a primary peer support program called ‘Time Travellers’. This was designed for children affected by separation or divorce. She conducted this in a Brisbane primary school. She found that the experiential nature of ERC and the use of symbols enhanced the degree of self-disclosure and increased the number of times children made and shared supportive comments. We expect this program to be published in the future.

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A growing number of school guidance officers and school counsellors

have trained in sandplay and symbol work with the authors. Through a for- mal research questionnaire, informal phone reports and ongoing supervision, they continue to report great progress and satisfaction with these methods.

Sandplay and multiple intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences was developed by Harvard researcher Howard Gardner (1983). He originally proposed that we have seven differ- ent ways of learning and knowing – seven intelligences. This theory has been effectively used in school curriculum development around the world. An interface between this theory and the counselling process has been researched in Australia by Patrick O’Brien (1998), using sandplay as his primary counselling method. A link between the intelligences and ERC is discussed by Pearson (1998).

From a basis in cognitive psychology Gardner identified seven intelligences:

• verbal/linguistic intelligence – relates to words and language

• logical/mathematical intelligence – deals with inductive and deductive reasoning, numbers and relationships

• visual/spatial intelligence – includes being able to visualise an object and

to create mental images

• bodily/kinesthetic intelligence – relates to physical movement and the knowledge of the body and how it functions

• musical/rhythmical intelligence – includes the ability to recognise tonal patterns, rhythm and beat

• interpersonal intelligence – used in person-to-person relationships

• intrapersonal intelligence – based on knowledge of the ‘self’ (includes metacognition, emotional responses, self-reflection and an awareness of metaphysical concepts). Gardner found that children’s learning increased when more than two or three intelligences were operating in learning tasks. O’Brien asks ‘Does Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences have an application for counselling?’. This question was addressed in his doctoral work based on ten Australian case studies in a school setting. Referrals for counselling were made on the basis of expressions of physical violence and failure to follow teacher directions. The findings support the effectiveness of a counselling approach which utilises multiple intelligences. O’Brien had previously undertaken training in the use of ERC exercises and sandplay, which rate highly in the number of intelligences utilised. He worked with the sample group using ERC and non-directive play therapy, with sandplay as the major modality. The findings, while illuminating the application of multiple intelligences as a foundation theory for counselling, also support the value of sandplay as a modality that can integrate many of the intelligences. He writes: ‘Such is the

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nature of sandplay, that it seems to include the use of all of Gardner’s seven intelligences at various times throughout the play session.’ O’Brien found that all but one client preferred to use the interpersonal intelligence in their counselling sessions, and that the clients came to counselling with their own unique intelligence preferences. The existence of a range of preferences indicated that counsellors do need to accommodate this range. His results imply that counsellors should use more than the traditional verbal strategies. Rather than primarily using the logical/mathematical intelligence – favoured in most behaviour management programs – he found that children prefer to solve problems using a variety of intelligences. As confidence in the use of one intelligence grows, children will more readily move to the use of another intel- ligence. Integration can occur in any of the seven intelligences. Interestingly, silence from the client may allow another intelligence to be used. He also found that the multiple intelligences technique seemed to lower resistance within the child and diminish the impact of ego defences, a find- ing that is in accord with the clinical observations with ERC and sandplay. O’Brien developed and used multiple intelligence questions for his coun- selling practice. These are similar to the ‘self-discovery questions’ that ERC counsellors routinely use. Use of intrapersonal questions was generally effec- tive and caused the intrapersonal intelligence to act as a hub – assisting the children to make sense of the counselling activities in a personal way. O’Brien found that the non-directive and least intrusive interventions were the most effective, just as we have found that non-directive play therapy and ERC empower children by encouraging choices in the use of media (hence intelligence). Baloche (1996) also found that giving clients choices adds significantly to their motivation and creativity. An important finding in O’Brien’s study was that the group (all with behaviour problems) did not tend to use the logical/mathematical intelli- gence. This finding has implications for school-based programs where the reasoning process is most often used as a basis for attempting to change behaviour. Students with significant behaviour problems may find it difficult to engage with traditional behaviour management programs. This study found many links between a proposed multiple intelligence framework for counselling and ERC and sandplay. ‘It would appear that sandplay is the cornerstone of a framework to counselling with multiple intelligences.’ When the freedom of the non-directive approach is offered through sand- play, clients can naturally make choices in their expression and use a variety of intelligences. When the counsellor maintains an attitude of allowing, rather than prescribing, dominance of use of a set intelligence is reduced.

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Sandplay and academic improvement

Noyes (1981, see page 122) presents evidence of the value of sandplay in enhancing the teaching of reading. Noyes began to use symbols, then later added a sandtray, allowing students in her remedial reading classes to access a private space to create pictures and stories. She offered no direction or interpretation and did not draw out her students about their stories or the issues behind them. She felt that the two most important elements were the privacy of the play and her silent acknowledgement and acceptance of what- ever pictures they made. These elements resulted in a feeling of security and freedom in the students – two elements identified by Dora Kalff as essential for successful sandplay therapy. Not surprisingly, Noyes found sandplay to have a calming effect on the stu- dents. It engendered an ‘immediate and deeper rapport between teacher and child’. She attributed the increase in academic growth in her students partly

to this rapport and partly to the fact that the pressure of their inner life was decreased by engaging in sandplay. Students’ minds were clearer and they were able to focus on academic tasks with greater vitality and motivation. Noyes also points out that the sandplay process draws on the right side of the brain and that this helps the student to make ‘leaps of insight necessary to become a “top down” reader’. Working in the sand trains and activates the creative right brain in the visual skills needed to connect the graphic infor- mation on the reading page. Noyes observed that types, and times, of changes in students varied. Sometimes change occurred immediately, sometimes after a few weeks of sandplay. One significant change she noted was more academic improve- ment than she had been accustomed to in her many years of teaching chil- dren with learning and reading disabilities. Other staff reported a decrease in the number of these students being sent to the office for bad behaviour. Attendance also improved. Noyes compared the average growth in reading age of her pupils over the two years before using sandplay, as well as the year when it was used, as measured on the Woodcock test. The improvement averages were:

• 1st year – nine months

• 2nd year – eight months

• year when sandplay used – one year and six months. She found her sixth graders took to the sandplay with the most enthusi- asm and their scores showed the greatest improvement. Alana Vaney, a special education teacher in one of our training courses, has been using symbols with great success as an aid in teaching literacy. She writes:

The little hands hover excitedly over the basket of symbols I am handing around. Kay really wants the glistening, snow-white fairy and Robert hopes no one takes the roar- ing dragon. Hands are itching for the missile blaster and others for the little green alien. ‘I want the house!’

Sandplay and Symbol Work

‘The army tank’s mine!’ These are the responses of a small group of seven-year-olds who are finding it hard

to enter the doors of literacy. What they have so tantalisingly before them are all sorts of

creatures, from little dogs to magical wizards and a myriad of objects, from trees to fur- niture. These symbols are kept in my cabinet with glass doors, arranged somewhat like Grandma’s china cupboard. They are taken out for the special occasion of learning. When, for instance, a child selects a family of dinosaurs, trees and little people, a story naturally unfolds. The toys are manipulative, kinesthetic, stimulating and fun. They can be arranged in the sand in a group story or on large pieces of paper as individual ones. The children tell the stories as they move the symbols. A tree becomes

a forest, a mirror a lake, and the sand is often desert or beach. I help the structure of their storytelling by providing cards saying: BEGINNING: ‘Once upon a time in the

middle of the night

AND THEN: ‘A wicked little snake came along’. This goes along until the END card.

A HOW DID THEY FEEL? card adds the emotional aspect.

Young children also love to arrange the alphabet tiles in sequence and then find the right place for their symbols according to beginning, middle or end sound. This process naturally leads to stories as ants crawl over astronauts, wizards and witches work magic and frogs crawl into flowers! I’m discovering new ways to use the symbols every day. Sometimes I arrange a few

symbols in the centre of a circle at the end of a class and invite the children to choose one favourite. We can Gestalt that symbol or just say a describing word about it. This strengthens self-esteem and language skills simultaneously. Even Grade Seven spellers have latched on to symbols, finding it a challenge to pick a few to spell! Often in schools it’s hard to find time to work with children individually in ERC but I’m discovering many ways for the numinous magic of symbols to infuse learning with

a sense of wonder.

’,

AND THEN: ‘The little dinosaur was all alone in the desert’,

Sandplay with abused children

Miller and Boe (1990), describing their ‘Tears into Diamonds’ program, achieved great success using sandplay and storytelling in a hospital setting with children who had been extremely traumatised (see page 122). The ward housed about fourteen children between the ages of four and twelve years. After a year of research, they designed a program using two treatment modalities that communicate on a deep level through metaphor: sandplay and storytelling. For the storytelling they used fairy tales and children’s stories matched to the child’s sandtray and history. They discuss the treatment of two girls, aged ten and eight, who were seen twice a week for sandplay therapy over an eighteen-month period. They felt that addressing the trauma in a non-threatening way was vital as children are vulnerable to developmental disturbance from trauma and have a crucial need for ‘consistent attachment to an interactive, resonating adult figure’. They note that traumatised children may experience massive numbing, emotional

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withdrawal, and/or aggressive behaviour, and found that sandplay helped reduce these symptoms. They comment that children in a highly disturbed emotional and cogni- tive state can hardly begin to describe the trauma, let alone deal with it. So verbal therapy offers very limited use in these cases. They found that non- directive play was particularly useful for traumatised and abused children, as through the play the child can finally be in charge. They quote research showing this type of imaginative play decreases anxiety and aggression. They found that the stories gave hope by introducing the concept of psy- chological transformation. A sandplay therapist who specialises in sexual abuse treatment, Grubbs (1994) has found sandplay to be highly effective with these clients. Working from a Jungian background, Grubbs describes the process of twelve sandplay sessions with a twelve-year-old boy who had been sexually abused. He observed a development in this client from a chaotic, self-destructive and hostile world expression, to sandtrays revealing a resolution of inner chaos, internal ordering and creation of clear boundaries. There was a confrontation and symbolic killing of the perpetrator and the discovery of a safe and enchanted world within himself. An American researcher, Ruth Zinni (1997), working with fifty-two chil- dren, found that there were clear differences between the contents and themes of sand pictures, and the approach to the sandplay process, between children referred by a clinic (who had been emotionally, physically or sexually abused or neglected) and a control group. There were clear differences between the children who were experiencing emotional stress and those who were not. She concludes that sandplay is a useful assessment tool in therapeutic work with children. Research on the use of symbols in a sandtray with forty physically and sexually abused children has been conducted through Macquarie University, NSW. Juliet Harper (1991) reports on her study with children aged three and a half to ten years. She used a modification of Lowenfeld’s World Technique, observing four sand pictures by each child. She found that the themes of nur- ture and protection significantly defined the play of the sexually abused group. The group who had experienced physical abuse displayed themes of conflict and aggression and were closed and disorganised. She found that two striking characteristics of the sand worlds of the sexually abused chil- dren were a lack of fantasy and a reluctance to provide narratives. Harper noted that the play of the sexually abused children was compliant and well organised. However, Harper felt that beneath the surface there was a ‘subtle and pervasive emotional disturbance which would perhaps not become apparent until triggered by developmental crises such as puberty, courtship, marriage, or childbirth’.

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An experienced social worker who trained with us is now using sandplay as a regular part of her counselling work with children in a Queensland com- munity health centre. She reports:

Sandplay and symbol work now has a central place in my practice. I have noticed when using it, that children and adults can make what seems like a quantum leap in understanding of themselves and their situation. It seems to allow people to access strengths and knowledge which were previously inaccessible, and the positive change in their emotional state can be quite profound. My experience of using sandplay and symbol work has been exciting and rewarding – and a little bit like magic!

been exciting and rewarding – and a little bit like magic! Sandplay and grieving Heather Teakle,

Sandplay and grieving

Heather Teakle, who trained in sandplay with Patrick Jansen at the Living Water Centre, wrote about the use of sandplay in helping her two young daughters work through the grief of losing their father. Her moving and prac- tical book, My Daddy Died – Supporting Young Children in Grief (1992), describes many ways of working through loss. Heather used both directed symbol work exercises and sandplay and writes: ‘In playing out the issue, energy related to the difficulty moves and there is partial or often complete resolution’. She also describes dramatic behaviour changes in a young hyper- active male client after just one session.

Sandplay, symbol work and ERC in Australian group programs

A group program for children of parents with a mental illness was created by an agency in Victoria. Along with other activities, the ERC and symbol work exercises have been incorporated to enhance the group communication. A Turnaround trainee, who works with another Victorian agency support- ing children with a terminal illness, uses symbols and other ERC exercises with a sibling support program.

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A gathering of wisdom – the Jungian heritage and contemporary sandplay

I am deeply moved again and again at the discovery of how close the child’s psyche is to spiritual and healing forces.

Dora Kalff, Sandplay, Sigo, 1980

F or contemporary Western counsellors and therapists who have worked from a cognitive or behaviourist perspective, and have not explored Jung- ian psychology, understanding the benefits of sandplay and the client-

centred, self-discovery approach may call for a paradigm shift. For those working in an educational setting in Australia, rational behaviour modification approaches based on the assumption of supremacy of the intel- lect may have to be set aside in order to understand the therapeutic benefits of working with the imagination and with ERC approaches. At present there is little research data generated in Australia that focuses on the benefits of the ERC and sandplay methods. Happily this is changing. Deciphering some of the Jungian-based literature may be a challenging task. However, there is value in expanding our conceptions of what can happen therapeutically with clients, while gaining a new language for creation of effec- tive counselling interventions. Experiencing the paradigm shift required to empathically support the full range of emotional release modalities including sandplay, symbol work and imaginative play therapy is empowering for the therapist. Some components of the paradigm shift are discussed in Chapter 3. This section provides a brief survey of key concepts of the traditional Jungian approach to sandplay and their links with contemporary ERC. This material was first described by Dora Kalff, and introduced in the German language in 1966, and then in English in 1971, with a second edition in 1980 with her book Sandplay – A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche. In this section we have used the work of Kalff (1980), Weinrib (1983), Ammann (1991), and Bradway and McCoard (1997) and others to clarify the Jungian framework for use of sandplay therapy.

Some aims of sandplay

In considering some of the aims of the Jungian approach to sandplay, we move away from the contemporary focus on dealing directly with behaviour.

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Several basic assumptions from Jungian psychology inform the free sand- play method:

• There is an in-built force in the psyche that moves us towards emotional and psychological healing.

• The psyche is moving towards emergence of the Self.

• The unconscious has more power over behaviour and attitudes than the conscious.

• The shadow side needs to be explored and safely released.

• Imagery is the primary language of the unconscious, and these images need expression.

• The psyche has an innate spiritual component.

• Emotional and psychological problems can arise if this spiritual component is ignored or denied. It is a feature of Jung’s approach to the psyche that spirituality is considered a vital ingredient. In working with children and adolescents, Kalff repeatedly noticed that in puberty, besides the physical development, spiritual deepening occurs. This tallies with our own observations and those brought to our group supervision sessions by school counsellors and guidance officers. Many adult clients report a broadening of their own understanding and experience of spirituality through sandplay. Sandplay allows some expression of the spiritual impulse – even if the client does not recognise this in their cognitive understanding. Kalff aimed to provide opportunities for the spiritual impulse to emerge. She believed that since rites of passage have largely disappeared from Western culture or have lost their deep meaning, it is especially important in therapy with adolescents – as well as with adults – to deal with the questions of god, spirit and the divine. She says: ‘only in the relationship to the archetype of the Divine in man can the juvenile really accomplish the transformation to adult- hood’ (1980). Jungian analysis aimed to develop the client’s maturity so that the client could separate from the unconscious and then reconnect to it and continue a relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. An important aspect of psychological health was that there should be some choice about the time needed for the unconscious to express, rather than being at its mercy, or driven by its unreleased contents. According to Weinrib, an aim of Jungian analysis and sandplay therapy is ‘to relativise the ego’. This means that the ego relinquishes its seeming dominance and the person’s psyche re-establishes a connection and continuing relationship between conscious- ness and the unconscious. In the process of what Jung called the ‘sacrifice of consciousness’ the con- scious ego is called to give up its control in order to move into connection with the unconscious. The energy release that many clients report when there are shifts and transformations in the psyche is connected with this process. This release of energy can give that special feeling of gentle excitement and

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expansion that is connected with an experiential state which Jung so often referred to as ‘numinous’. Sandplay therapy enables a different way of knowing, allows a more feminine encounter with the inner self. Estelle Weinrib (1983) writes that the primary aim of sandplay is ‘the re-establishment of access to the feminine elements of the psyche in both men and women, elements that have been repressed in Western Judeo-Christian culture’. Part of this process involves the emergence of what Jung called ‘the Self’. Dora Kalff writes: ‘I want to emphasise that the manifestation of the Self, this inner order, this pattern for wholeness, is the most important moment in the development of the personality’. This recognition and valuing of a connection with something beyond the ego in the psyche is in opposition to some contemporary therapy and coun- selling approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and behaviour management strategies. Emotional release counsellors – and those with a Jungian orientation – aim to reduce the need for ego dominance, which is so often a defence mechanism against hurts, lacks and attacks. This reduction of defensive ego dominance takes place through releasing unfinished busi- ness from the recent and distant past so that the old defences have less to do. Reducing defences can also support reconnection to basic transpersonal or spiritual impulses. Because many clients begin to experience a spiritual or numinous state during sessions, sandplay can be a valuable support in spiri- tual development as well as personal healing. The principles underlying the Jungian approach have many similarities to the approach to self-discovery, self-development and therapy studied in transpersonal psychology. Writers of the Jungian school assume that we have an unconscious and propose that the personal, individual unconscious drives outer behaviour and is a motivator for the apparently more conscious actions. In addition, the individual unconscious is seen as connected to and strongly influenced by the collective unconscious, a realm of the psyche in which we are all linked. The collective unconscious is influenced by the archetypal dimension, where basic human patterns are linked to cosmic forces. Most importantly Jung’s psychology recognises that humans have what we would call transpersonal needs. The field of transpersonal psychology has moved far beyond the Freudian notion of the compensatory nature of spiritual or religious impulses, or that they represent a sign of pathology. Our own clinical observations show that the individual psyche is rarely content with simple ego-consciousness. Jung described many sessions with clients during which apparent neuroses vanished once their spiritual impulses were recognised and given some framework.

spiritual impulses were recognised and given some framework. 2 6 Emotional and psychological safety Central to
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Emotional and psychological safety

Central to Kalff’s model of sandplay therapy is the concept of the ‘free and protected space’ which has both physical and psychological dimensions.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

While recognising that it took many sessions, Kalff found that once this sense of safety was established it allowed deep emotional healing. In some counselling contexts today there is often an urgency, due to limited time or budget requirements, to help clients feel comfortable and ready to disclose. However, the sense of the ‘free and protected space’ may not have been fully established and self-exploration can remain at a superficial level. Sometimes there is an assumption that interpretation by the counsellor is an important element in helping clients release what is troubling in the unconscious. Bradway and McCoard (1997) refer to research at Mount Zion Psychiatric Centre, in 1982, that investigated Freud’s early theory that ana- lysts had to interpret repressed mental contents in order to make those con-

tents conscious. The research did not support this theory. Further they found that when patients felt safe and trusted the therapist the material could flow. Kalff writes with conviction about the need to develop this sense of safety for real healing to occur. She suggests that sandplay provides the con- ditions of ‘a womb-like incubatory period that makes possible the repair of

a damaged mother-image which, in turn, enables constellation and activation

of the Self’ (1980). She observes that this allows subsequent healing of the wounded ego, and the ‘recovery of the inner child’. Kalff is here describing the natural healing potential that a child-like freedom to play can support. This child-like freedom can be seen in both adults and children who move from timidity about using the symbols to deep and serious engagement that is also playful. This freedom depends in part on the sense of safety established. Kalff used the term ‘mother–child unity’ to describe the ideal atmosphere of the counselling room and the ideal relationship with the therapist. She points out how a child is born out of the protecting enclosure of the womb into the world, and still requires the protection of the mother for a long period. The care and love a mature parent can give the child implants a basic feeling of security. An atmosphere of security is necessary for the child to develop fully according to its own potential. If bonding and security are absent then a child may retreat to an inner world, and begin to build defences. Kalff claims that behind these defences fear is hidden, which, when it becomes too great, changes into aggression. If aggression is repressed it consumes so much inner energy that ‘little remains for anything new in life’. It is the loving atmos- phere of counsellor and counselling room that begins to allow an opening for

a client – child or adult – to come out from behind their defences. Kalff describes the complexity and delicateness of the psyche and points out that it is exposed to a wide variety of influences. The development of its strength comes when the free, and yet protected, space is established. She claims the psyche has an inherent tendency to heal itself, and it is the task of the therapist to prepare the path for this tendency. Provided it is happening within the free and protected space, symbolic active fantasising by the client stimulates the imagination. Imagination is directly linked to the unconscious and so its stimulation is a support in helping the unconscious make its contents

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known. Weinrib says that the stimulation of the imagination supported by the active fantasising ‘frees neurotically fixated energy and moves it into creative channels, which in itself can be healing’. The experience of a safe ‘shelter’ is created through a personal connection between therapist and client, through the sense of order and beauty of the workroom, and unconditional acceptance of the client’s degree of participa- tion in the session. Often a child’s – and sometimes an adult’s – sand picture will reflect a seeking of their need to feel sheltered, as well as reflecting a need to work through feeling endangered. The equipment used in sandplay supports feelings of safety. The physical dimensions of a sandtray, which are limited and containing, give a sense of boundaries that protect the sand world. The entire area can be seen at a glance, without moving eyes or head. The tray has the effect of focusing on and then reflecting back inner vision, thoughts, feelings and unfinished busi- ness. Weinrib says that the figures serve to ‘incarnate archetypal images in a manageable size and shape in a protective environment’. Safety is also experienced when the client is given unconditional acceptance and freedom from any imposition of the counsellor’s will. There is no con- frontation, and no intellectualisation or interpretation. A premature demand for rationalising in such a womb-like space can disturb, if not destroy, the spontaneous healing process. Safety is also provided through many subtle elements in the process. Throughout Kalff’s writing there is an emphasis on meeting the clients where they are and allowing time to develop a trusting connection. Her own case stories point to the importance of following the client’s interests and finding as many ways as possible to bring forward their creative expression. Her methods include allowing the client to leave the workroom, explore the garden, play games and explore various craft media and even ritualistic destruction that allows emotional release. In our practice today we try to allow the same freedoms. It can be valuable to punctuate a session with a brief walk in the garden, a brief dip in the swimming pool on a hot day, a few minutes to stroke the cat or even time to chat about seemingly irrelevant topics brought up by the child. Being with pets or animals will often allow a softening in a defended child. Times of informality and ordinary play can greatly support the overall sense of safety and freedom, thus adding depth to the work. Recently an eleven-year-old boy, after his sandplay, asked if he could go for a swim. He was surprised to learn that certainly that was okay. While he was swimming in the informal, relaxed setting of the pool, he released information which was both useful for the therapist and a relief for the young boy to talk about at last. At this point playing in the pool sparked his enthusiasm to commu- nicate – like an unstoppable current. During these apparent diversions from the formal structure of the counselling session it is essential that the counsellor maintain emotional and physical connection with the client and

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be available for listening, encouraging and drawing out any expression that is ready to emerge.

How can sandplay help clients?

‘Sand pictures represent figures and landscapes of the inner and outer world, and they appear to mediate between these two worlds and connect them’ (Kalff, 1980). Cultures in the Western industrialised world appear to have lost this natural connection, and the existence of an inner world has been denied, ridiculed or de-constructed. The patience and care that goes into creating a sand picture can help reclaim or rediscover the inner world. These qualities help foster inner con- nection and relatedness to the depths of the psyche. No special training is needed for a client to create a sandplay; age and gender have no bearing on the outcome; the process is not dependent – as in verbal therapy – on the client’s capacity to accurately recall incidents and issues. The process involves a kind of concrete active imagination that leads to inner trans- formation and new creativity in outer expression. The effect of transformation within the psyche is much wider than sim- ply a modification of behaviour considered to be inappropriate. Generally speaking, there is one aspect of ourselves that is more strongly developed than other aspects. A healthy psyche and therefore emotional well-being are the outcomes when the inner world is allowed to complement and augment ordinary everyday consciousness. Weinrib suggests that transformation includes significant changes in a person: how they perceive their attitudes, their value systems, their behav- iour, their self-image and their perception of the inner and outer worlds. A person who has begun transformation has increased their relationship with themselves, with others, with society and with the transpersonal dimension of their psyche. Transformation is often accompanied with a feeling of rebirth. In trying to clarify what a range of therapists mean by psychological transformation we conclude that it contains highly individual elements, some general patterns and much mystery. The fact that it has taken place is evident from a client’s state of well-being, clarity, energy and purpose. Sandplay and symbol work provide a bridge between a person’s inner and outer world. One of the greatest contributions sandplay and symbol work can bring to contemporary counselling and psychotherapy is the means for sacrificing the dominance of the cognitive, intellectual power which alone cannot engineer emotional or spiritual healing, let alone build a sense of wholeness in the client’s personality. Throughout the ages, myths, legends, parables and fairy tales have repeated this theme of surrender of the domi- nant ego so that reconciliation, union and well-being can emerge. The landscape formation in a tray of sand, the choice of figurines, the story or the arrangement of the picture can become for the client part of their

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personal mythology. The images have meaning – even if this meaning is not immediately obvious to the rational mind. The images may continue to reveal meaning, providing insight, a sense of order, and a structured means of dealing with some of the conflicts of the inner world. Clients have reported carrying the image of the sandplay and symbols in their head for some time, even making imaginary new pictures which might emerge in future sessions. The act of making a story or picture, or identifying a story that links chosen symbols, is in itself a creative act. Working in the sandtray gives a space for the exploration, design and creation of images that correspond with the inner world. But the sandtray, by its very nature, also means that the creation can be altered and reshaped during the process, and that outer transformation becomes an inner experience. The involvement of body, mind and feelings transforms the inner experience into an outer reality. Many clients report that this process enhances their creativity. This sense of approaching life more creatively improves self-confidence and self-esteem. Weinrib suggests that the mere act of creation in itself provides a good deal of satisfaction and release of tension. Growth in self-esteem is evident in clients after this creative process, which has involved the body, mind and feel- ings. This therapeutic expression is quite different from the disruptive or destructive acting out that has been the cause of entry into counselling. The client rehearses, with each sandplay, new possibilities relating to something outside themselves. For some, the sandtray (or the large circle drawn in the artpad for symbol work) becomes the focus of attention in a way that encourages centring, com- ing into a quieter more focused state, just as a candle or particular spiritual or religious image might be used in meditation or prayer. It is also similar to the way an altar has been the focus of attention in sacred rituals throughout time. The delineated space of the sandtray keeps out distractions. In a similar way intricate mandalas have been used in several Eastern traditions as an aid to concentration and contemplation. The sense of centring may seem to be entirely absent in new clients whose sandplays may more closely resemble a war zone than a sacred space. However, as issues are worked through and as trust in the facilitator develops, the client finds feelings of both calm and excitement, as if the burdens of their inner life have been lifted. This pro- gression towards centredness is frequently reflected in a series of sandplay pictures which typically develop from chaos to order and sometimes from order to expressions of the sacred. This focusing effect offers the client the opportunity to open to the transpersonal level of the psyche. The need for accessing the spiritual dimension was extensively explored by Jung and is more and more evident in counselling work today. Kalff constantly emphasises the need for the psyche to have experiences of centring, to come into balance. As the healing process takes place over a number of sandplays, circular forms, shapes or arrangements of symbols are more often seen. Kalff found that there was frequently a significant symbol at the centre. This may initially appear as a creation of a protected space in

Sandplay and Symbol Work

the sand, and evolve to be an expression of a centred emotional state or even an expression of the Self. Kalff suggests that this centring experience may have a numinous quality. This energetic and emotional transformation depends on the client’s deep trust and sense of safety with the therapist. Weinrib says that ‘some inarticulate patients turn to the sandtray with relief since self-expression through language is so fraught with anxiety for them’. Many clients may not speak at all for extended periods during their sandplay. Others are stimulated and gain release through a steady stream of verbal expression that supports energy release and psychological relief.

The value of play

In addition to the concrete, three-dimensional aspects of sandplay and symbol work there is the therapeutic experience of playing. Weinrib explains: ‘Sand- play is not a game of rules. It is free and encourages playfulness. Its value lies in its experiential non-cerebral character’. Developmental psychologists have analysed the extreme importance of play in the development of a child’s personality and ability to relate to the world. Play therapists, sandplay therapists, emotional release counsellors and facilitators of many other counselling forms see daily with their clients that supported play in the counselling context can also facilitate deep emotional healing. In fact, for many clients the very act of recovering the ability to play can provide them with the tools they need for an autonomous processing of their conflicts. In sandplay, the adult plays as does a child, with seriousness. Weinrib says that the ‘playing aspect seems to provide access or an initiatory rite of entry for adults into feeling, affect and the world of childhood. Lost memories are found again, repressed fantasies are released and possibilities for reconciliation occur’. Sandplay helps overcome conscious and unconscious defences through the fact that the first activity most closely resembles play. This can be a relief from the challenge of dredging up memories, personal details or data that may be required by traditional therapeutic methods such as verbal therapy. In beginning with play and allowing the unconscious contents to be projected onto the symbols, the focus is removed from immediate behaviour problems, emotional dysfunction and physical symptoms. This quickly opens the door- way to release the underlying causes of problems without reinforcing any notion of the client’s state as proof of having – or being – a problem. Occasionally a client who has developed strong cognitive control may at first resist sandplay as either too threatening or too childish. Naturally this resistance is respected. A client is always met where they are and in ERC a range of alternative supportive modalities can be offered, such as drawing, body focus, storytelling, or movement work. Offering choice and respecting the individual’s inner guidance also has an empowering effect that supports the client in feeling some control.

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Some clients may begin the process with diffidence, scepticism, conde- scension, embarrassment or resistance. Soon some play emerges which may be conducted in a ritualistic atmosphere. The client becomes absorbed in the activity and works with great concentration. The ritual aspect is evident in sandplay with clear geometric arrangements in the sand or with the figurines. Circles marked in the sand, or as islands, mountains or lakes, often appear. Sometimes the client’s energy and movements while creating the sand picture and selecting the figurines reveal a sense of ritual.

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Dealing with aggression

Sandplay encourages a creative regression that enables healing. There can be a great relief in not having to come up with answers, not having to be rational or sophisticated, being allowed to have exaggerated feelings and hav- ing the ‘process’ of heightened reactions accepted and dealt with respectfully. Frustration, anger, aggression, jealousy and revenge are all frequently released using symbols in the sandtray. Sometimes this is accomplished by squashing down the sand formation, burying symbols, upending symbols or removing symbols. Traditionally the movement is contained within the sandtray. However, in ERC we extend this safe and protected space with cushions to provide release for large motor movements such as jumping, hitting, kicking and tumbling followed by relaxation. Discharge of destructive impulses allows a new, relaxed mood and fre- quently leads to clearer more fluent verbal communication, creative problem-solving and a positive commitment from the client to their own therapeutic process. Allan and Berry (1987) refer to the value of clients releasing repressed energy. In Virginia Axline’s account of her work with Dibs (1971) the expression of the boy’s hostility to his father – when the father doll is upturned and buried in the sand – seems to be a major turning point in the therapy. Weinrib (1983) writes that the free and protected space of sandplay ‘pro- vides a safe and sealed container where unredeemed demonic energies can be transformed by enabling the expression and playing out of repressed aggressive needs’. Sandplay offers the possibility of acting out an inner impulse in a safe way. The sandplay is contained in clearly stated space and time boundaries. It provides the dual benefits of containing the process and allowing movement forward. Frederick Perls (1969) says ‘the way out is through’. Generally, we see that clients will more readily go through their issues, conflicts and unfinished business, moving gradually into the depths of their personality, then open to the transpersonal. After this progression they typically emerge with a stronger and clearer engagement with the here and now. Many will come up with new strategies for more effective living and even report that some of their difficult behaviours seem to have dropped away as a result of journey- ing into their psyche.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

So, while the facilitator is not focusing on problems in the session, the symptoms, the difficult behaviours gradually disappear once the underlying causes have been safely addressed. In the case of Dibs (Axline, 1971), he made his first verbal communication with his father after the doll-burying session. Parents regularly report that they have observed, or the child’s teacher has observed, significant positive changes in behaviour after a few sandplay ses- sions. In many cases we have observed a change in the sandplay, a movement from chaos and battles towards happier ordered scenes, indicating the reduc- tion of emotional turmoil that has been responsible for aggressive behaviour.

The role of the therapist

In general, the role of the therapist using sandplay is to listen, observe and participate empathically. Weinrib (1983) states clearly that the success of therapy depends on the therapist’s familiarity with the developmental stages in the process reflected in the sand pictures. These stages include:

1 at least partial resolution of key complexes

2 a sense of the depths within – referred to as the ‘Self’ – and the special energy connected with these depths

3 the balancing emergence or recognition of the anima or animus (Jung’s terms for what he saw as the contrasexual balancing forces within the psyche)

4 a new ego attitude to the transpersonal and to daily life (Kalff calls this the emergence of the ‘relativised ego’ capable of relating productively to both the inner and outer worlds). Weinrib recommends that a collective interpretation of a series of sand pictures be left until a solid sense of self emerges and a renewed ego, in relationship to the inner world, emerges. This way there is less chance of the client being unduly influenced by the therapist and also less need for any defensive rejection of new insights. We have found that intruding rational interpretations – whether correct, or projections by the therapist – divorces the client from the healing connection with their inner material. Ultimately, the greatest benefit is derived by the client from their own experience in the sandtray rather than the counsellor’s intellectual understanding and feedback of what they think happened. An effective therapist using sandplay should:

• have undertaken deep personal psychological transformation and healing through experiential work

• have had adequate clinical training, including familiarity with symbolism

• have had many meaningful personal experiences as a sandplay client

• be familiar with the stages of development as they appear in the sand- play process

• have studied and compared many sand pictures

• have a capacity for acceptance of the client

• respect the individual nature of the process

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• not intrude their own agenda during the process

• have adequate knowledge of the principles of ERC and transpersonal psychology

respect clients whose sexual, cultural, religious or social orientation differs from those of the therapist. The therapist must have the ability to empathically participate in the client’s act of creation and in so doing develop a deep, wordless rapport. This silent accompaniment can help repair the feeling of isolation from which many clients suffer. The ability to be very present, without intruding, main- taining a reassuring interest, is linked with an attitude of discovery or study of the psyche, rather than an attitude of expecting preset outcomes and directing the process to achieve these set goals. The therapist must be able to help create a supportive atmosphere for sandplay as it can take on a kind of ritualistic aura. The sandtray can be seen as sacred ground where a physical symbolic ritual enactment takes place. This may be reminiscent of the ceremonies and atmosphere of some tradi- tional tribes and the early mystery religions.

tradi- tional tribes and the early mystery religions. • Stages in the sandplay process Several writers

Stages in the sandplay process

Several writers have attempted to delineate stages in the sandplay process:

Kalff (1980), Weinrib (1983), Allan and Berry (1987) and Bradway and McCoard (1997). They seem to agree that there is no strictly defined order or distinct linear trajectory to the process. Weinrib describes it as being more like a spiral with ‘various elements of the personality appearing in symbolic form at different levels of development’. Generally sandplay is experienced with a sense of suspended analysis and gradually emerging cognitive understanding. Most typically cognition catches up with behavioural and emotional changes rather than preceding them. This seems to allow emotional and psychological healing rather than simply gaining insights. The motivation and goals of clients can vary greatly and this will impact on the stages of the process and the depth of the process. Some clients ask for sandplay and symbol work only in times of crisis. Some begin that way and then develop a taste for more ongoing healing work. Some have limited goals and limited time and may come with a particular problem to solve. Many clients feel clear benefit even after one or two sessions with the sym- bols and there are many reports of children exhibiting major behavioural changes after only one session. However, some of the extraordinary cures and emotional healings that we see with clients – similar to those reported by Kalff (1980) – occur when a client works regularly over a period of time. There is no theoretical defini- tion of what completion means in terms of the inner process. Completion can relate to one specific issue, general positive adjustment to the world, or a long-term healing and growth goal. It is not the number of sandplays or

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symbol work sessions that is significant, but the sense of completion with an issue which both client and counsellor come to recognise. Offering weekly sessions, Kalff considered that it took some weeks for unconscious issues to appear and be worked out in outer life. She says: ‘From my past observations, I know that at least 6–8 weeks are needed before a situation that is just becoming visible as it emerges from the unconscious, can push through into the outer life. It is as delicate as a newly sprouting blade of grass that needs attentive care’. According to Weinrib’s (1983) overview there are eight main stages in the traditional sandplay process with adults. These stages may often merge and overlap.

1 The first sand pictures are usually realistic scenes and may give indications of the problems and their possible resolution.

2 The pictures often show that the client has dived into deeper levels of the personality, particularly into the shadow and personal unconscious. These pictures may have a chaotic quality and express ‘untapped raw energies’.

3 As the process moves on there emerge varying degrees of resolution of problems. This seems to release energy which allows deeper work on the psyche. This can lead into the fourth stage where sometimes the Self – or the totality of one’s self – can be sensed and touched.

4 This stage appears with images of centring or unions of opposites with religious or spiritual symbols and mandalas. At this point the client may have experienced a sense of the sacred. Patients report a sense of having touched ‘home’.

5 After this connection with the larger Self there is evidence of the trans- formed ego in the sand pictures. The client may choose a single figure of the same gender with which they now consciously identify and this may appear regularly in the ongoing process. Sandplay pictures now appear more creative and better organised. Whereas in the early stages the client unconsciously projected onto the figures, at this stage there is more energy, awareness and assurance around the meanings. The figures are more clearly metaphors for aspects of the self.

6 Figures or symbols of the opposite sex begin to appear regularly and in an orderly fashion, indicating connection with what Jung called the animus/anima. This has a balancing effect. At this stage, clients tend to more actively seek constructive outlets in life for their renewed energy.

7 As the process draws to a close, spiritual figures or abstract religious symbols may reappear or appear for the first time.

8 For some, a final stage of the process will be a session of review – frequently accompanied by photographs and drawings from previous ses- sions. This gives a client time to allow the threads of insight and the terrain that the psyche covered to come together with new meaning and fresh impact, although the images and sand scenes may continue working in the

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client’s psyche for many years. Bradway and McCoard (1997) suggest that this review could be offered years after the end of a sandplay series.

Weinrib points out that at the eighth stage the conscious ego, having expe- rienced something greater than itself, gives up some of its autonomy and

paradoxically at the same time experiences itself as stronger. A client may have a sense of being supported now by something deeper or stronger – the transpersonal dimension of the psyche – and may have a new sense of worth. Allan and Berry (1987) summarise the common stages they have observed in children’s work, commenting that these stages appear in cycles:

• chaos – many figurines dumped into sandtray, no apparent order, vast upheavals and mingling of sand and figurines

• struggle – battles between monsters, robot men, armies, knights, ‘anything that moves is shot!’, often no winner

• resolution – order is being restored, there is more balance. Animals are in their correct habitat, fences are in place, roadways are ordered, crops and trees bear fruit.

In contemporary sandplay with children over three or four sessions we recognise a sense of progression, if not distinct stages. This is expanded in Chapter 3 (page 51).

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After the sandplay

After the sandplay is finished Weinrib suggests that the therapist may:

• ask the client to tell the story of the picture

• ask relevant questions

• elicit the client’s comments and associations about the picture

• speak of matters suggested by the client. Working from a Jungian perspective these comments, in the light of Jungian symbology, may be used to evaluate the picture. Sometimes arche- typal amplifications – that are evident to the therapist – have been offered. Amplification is used primarily with adult clients and is simply a way of sharing with the client helpful information that may enable the client to investigate further traditional meanings of their symbols. The therapist, while not imposing their analysis, may suggest aspects of the sandplay that the client could reflect on and possibly research further. However, emo- tional release counsellors, when using sandplay and symbol work, use their private analysis as a basis for creating questions that might support further self-discovery by the client. Sandplay therapists whose training includes Jungian analysis and who use sandplay in the model of Dora Kalff used to take photographic slides of com- pleted sandplays and these were shown weeks – sometimes years – after a period of work seemed complete. Reviewing the sandplays with slides is valuable for clarifying and formulating the experience of the unconscious. The slide show reinforces change and understanding.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

the experience of the unconscious. The slide show reinforces change and understanding. Sandplay and Symbol Work

The ERC approach differs in that a Polaroid photo is taken of the com- pleted sandtray which the client keeps as a record of the process. The events that took place and the outcomes are ‘at work’ in the psyche without the person having to do anything. Review then takes place after several sessions – usually after about six or eight sessions. Reviewing the concrete expression of the client’s inner journey is often very supportive. During the review connections between the images in the sandtray and what is happening in both the inner and outer life can be made. Sometimes the counsellor can support the client to make these connections. Often new insights emerge during this review time. Weinrib considered the slide show a valuable tool in supporting ego strength.

The contribution of play therapy

Virginia Axline (1971) describes the use of toys in a large sandtray as part of her therapeutic work. This inspiring classic shows the way work with sym- bols and sand can be integrated into another compatible method of therapy. The attitude of the therapist and the interactions detailed in Dibs provide support for the way a sandplay therapist could behave. Axline explains that her method of interacting scrupulously avoids suggesting any desire for a particular behaviour in the client. She says she tries to ‘communicate under- standingly and simply, recognition in line with his (client’s) frame of refer- ence. I wanted him to lead the way. I would follow’. In her work with Dibs, Axline felt it was important not to offer any behaviours or physical mannerisms which could be construed, by her client, as implying a judgement on her part of good or bad, right or wrong. Clearly she felt that to imply anything which could be interpreted by the client as a way to proceed would put the counselling process at risk of going off track and actually missing something important for the client. Without using ERC terminology, she was endeavouring to allow the inner healer to direct the play therapy. This client-centred approach fits well with sandplay. An aspect of the ‘free and protected space’ is freedom from suggestion by the therapist and freedom from the need to comply. Axline sums up a way of being with her difficult client that strongly mirrors a way of being for which a sandplay therapist would aim:

If I could get across to Dibs my confidence in him as a person who had good reasons for everything he did, and if I could convey the concept that there were no hidden answers for him to guess, no concealed standards of behaviour or expression that were not openly stated, no pressure for him to read my mind and come up with a solution that I had already decided upon, no rush to do everything today – then, perhaps, Dibs would catch more and more of a feeling of security and of the rightness of his own reac- tions so he could clarify, understand, and accept them.

This way of being echoes Carl Rogers’ person-centred approach. It assumes basic goodness, intelligence and trust in an inner healing mechanism. Axline

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gave her client the space, freedom and emotional support to play out his

troubles. It took a long time, but when he felt there was no need of defence he stopped defending and allowed the damned-up emotions to flow out and then moved into a happy state.

A study of Axline’s mirroring technique in communication with this client

provides a good basis for learning how to keep the channels of communica- tion open with a sandplay client. Some behaviour management programs conducted in Australian schools aim to teach social responsibility and respect for the rights of others. It is often assumed that this can be learned via the intellect alone. Axline’s approach in her play therapy is to deal with intrapersonal experiences, espe- cially emotions, and trust that this will flow out in improved interpersonal connections. She says: ‘The child must first learn self-respect and a sense of dignity that grows out of his increasing self-understanding, before he can learn to respect the personalities and rights and differences of others’. Sandplay and symbol work allow in-depth exploration and recognition of the intrapersonal domain. The ‘way of being’ of the therapist supports the development of a sense of dignity in the client – who often is brought to the sessions under the label of having a severe problem, or being problematic in the school, social or home setting. In commenting on the growth of her young client, Virginia Axline says of Dibs: ‘I hoped that he would find experiences in the playroom that would help him know and feel the emotions within him in such a way that any hatred and fear he might have within him would be brought out in the open and diminished’. She echoes the hopes of many emotional release counsellors. The Dibs case study describes how the young client has ‘poured out his hurt, bruised feelings, and had emerged with feelings of strength and security’. In sandplay we often see this process unfold before our eyes in the sandtray, often without the need for many words.

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Sandplay and transpersonal psychology

Transpersonal psychology, with its roots in humanistic psychology, has

developed a strongly client-centred approach with emphasis on supporting positive aspects of a client to emerge. It acknowledges that the human need and search for higher meaning is a sign of health, rather than the compen- satory or pathological symptom assumed in early Freudian theory.

In transpersonal psychology the hunger for meaning, for something more

than the usual level of consciousness, is seen as normal and natural and part of the journey of life. In many traditional cultures this search is widely accepted as healthy and a foundation for lifestyle orientation. Transpersonal psychology recognises that part of our task in life is to deal with emotional healing, expand our awareness through self-discovery and investigate a spiritual path. The discovering of a spiritual identity is seen as healthy, and open to exploration in a balanced and earthed way. There is

Sandplay and Symbol Work

recognition of the developmental stages in what Ken Wilber (1980) refers to as the outward and the inward arc – the journey from subconsciousness to self-consciousness, and from there to superconsciousness. Most child clients are participating in the outward arc of their psyche, in an attempt to reach out to the outer world, know the world and find their place in it. The inward arc is of interest to many adolescents and adults who develop an interest in deep- ening contact with their inner world and discovering their spiritual identity. Some adolescent clients are ready to begin the inward arc, to turn within, to know more about their inner world and to explore levels of consciousness. The lack of support for adolescents in our culture to begin the inward jour- ney accounts for some of the suffering they report in counselling sessions. They respond well to a counsellor who is familiar with transpersonal con- cepts and who can accept and support their interest in spiritual enquiry. Jung guided his patients to look within to the Self, the totality of what they could become. He supported them in exploring their deeper wisdom, which transcended the demands of their ego. Jung considered that symbols were the language of the unconscious, and that a deeper level of the psyche could often only communicate important messages via symbols. Symbolic language, whether in dreams, fantasies or sandplay work, allowed messages which might be too powerful or too painful to face, to be acknowledged and integrated over time. Some of those involved in the transpersonal movement have researched and developed Jung’s observations on the psyche’s in-built drive towards healing and wholeness. Grof (1988, 2000) calls this mechanism the ‘inner healer’, and recommends time spent in non-ordinary states of consciousness as the most effective way of allowing this mechanism to do its work. Several of the Jungian writers on sandplay refer to this healing force in the psyche and agree that it needs supportive conditions, especially the ‘free and pro- tected space’ – the ‘temenos’. To sit back, wait and support this force to manifest may require a para- digm shift from traditional training in Freudian, behaviourist or cognitive approaches where significant direction may be given by the counsellor. The art of being able to allow the psyche time and emotional space to express and grow brings more sustainable well-being than attempting to direct the process from the ego. Through our own inner exploration with sandplay and symbol work, through clinical observations, and through work with many hundreds of trainees, we have seen the extent of the innate logic of this inner healing mechanism. As we work with a client our minds may be attempting to understand the inner guiding force in the client’s sandplay so we can work in harmony with it. The harmony and trust that develop with the client as we follow the process of inner healing enhances their feeling of being supported and trusting their inner self. From the theory of transpersonal psychology behaviour is seen as a symp- tom of forces within us. Difficult or neurotic behaviour is seen as a sign that

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healing is trying to happen, not necessarily as a sign of ill health. When a safe and protected space is provided by the counsellor this healing can occur more effectively and directly, making attempts at release through difficult behaviour no longer necessary. Psychology that deals primarily with the ego may ignore the notion of hierarchy in the psyche. In our culture the ego has often been regarded as the leader, the supreme director of our personality. Transpersonal psychology and the framework which Jung developed acknowledge various levels, stages and parts of our psyche, that should ideally work in balance. A predominance of the ego as the director of our life may restrict our development. Deeper and more subtle parts of ourselves may not have a chance to develop and contribute to our life. While it may be true that many of us need to strengthen the ego, there is also a stage in inner growth at which the ego is ready to surrender its controls and find support from deeper forces within. This is where a counsellor with transpersonal training can accept and nurture the newly emerging spiritual questioning of a client. Modern consciousness research has explored the impact of perinatal experience in setting up a pattern for how we deal with life. Researchers such as Grof, Janov, Verney and Leboyer have begun to detail the impact on our psyche of the womb time and the birth experience. While it would be unusual for sandplay to open experiences in the psyche relating to the perinatal domain, it can happen, and perinatal themes do emerge in sandplay and symbol work. Understanding and training in recognising these expres- sions and supporting clients who may be in an ongoing process of healing and resolving these areas of the psyche is extremely valuable for counsellors.

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Sandplay and symbol work methods

In sandplay, the adult plays as does a child, with seriousness. The playing aspect seems to provide access or an initiatory rite of entry for adults into feeling, affect and the world of childhood. Lost memories are found again, repressed fantasies are released and possibilities for reconciliation occur.

Estelle Weinrib, Images of the Self, Sigo, 1983

I n this chapter we introduce concepts important to the application of the

sandplay and symbol work methods. The basic elements of the sandplay

process are discussed, with an emphasis on the support the counsellor’s

attitude and workspace can provide. The client-centred approach of trusting the inner healing mechanisms of the client is described, with both the free play and directed sandplay methods outlined. The use of sandplay with families and groups is introduced along with some practical stages observed with counselling clients.

Elements of the process

There are seven main elements involved in the traditional sandplay process:

• the sand itself, contained in the sandtray

• the symbols, arranged along the shelves

• water, often used to help shape the sand and add another tactile sensation to the process

• the client’s personal mythology, imagery and unconscious – the driving force behind sand pictures and stories

• the client’s hands: their sensitivity, their movement – building, shaping and breaking down sand formations – offer many possibilities for self- awareness and expression beyond verbal exchange

• the facilitator, whose main role is to observe and at times participate with empathy – the client can bounce ideas off the facilitator and through sharing the inner world gain deeper access to it

• a calm, supportive environment in the counselling room, which is like a protective womb encouraging motivation and supporting the opening and resolution of inner tensions. The sand, symbols, tray and water become a malleable tool that takes on the contours of the psyche as it is constellated at the time. Sandplay integrates body, feelings and mind. Through the sand picture the client releases old feel- ings, concepts and memories, and embodies new insights. Sandplay is used to

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resolve personal problems, reclaim forgotten qualities, open up to inner guid- ance and direction, expand self-knowledge and explore personal mythology. The play aspect is vital – this method brings up less resistance than more confronting processes. The look, the texture and the smell of the sand can bring a link in the memory to times spent at the beach. The feel of the sand is likely to elicit pleasant childhood memories. There is a link to the ocean – which is so often a symbol for the unconscious – and carefree times. For a few clients the sand can evoke a yearning for these experiences. Using their hands, the client shapes the sand. Energy begins to release through the movement. Fingers flowing through dry sand leave ripples. Wet sand is shaped into hills and valleys. For the client, being connected to the sensations of their hands means becoming more aware of their bodies. Touching the sand may evoke emotions about touch. A client who is tactile defensive may, at first, find the sandless symbol work more agreeable. Involving the body allows the analysing mind and its diverting tactics to be left behind. Connection is rapidly made through the kinesthetic and visual senses rather than the organising of the intellect. This inner connection allows more material from the unconscious to be safely revealed. The qualities of the sand are managed and manipulated by the client. The sand can be dry, soft, or made wet and clinging together. Two sandtrays may be available as contrasting mediums – one with dry sand, one with wet sand. The transformation of sand from solid matter to malleability can mirror the process for the client. As stories unfold the client’s inner transformation is represented visually. The past recedes, leaving space for a hopeful future. Dry sand can be blown, creating delicate formations or shaped into gentle, rounded formations. When water is added the sand turns darker and begins to take on the quality of earth. It becomes firm and can be easily formed or shaped. It can represent dark, mysterious depths of the shadow side, the volcanic eruptions of conflict or the higher levels of experience. It provides a terrain on which the whole psyche can portray all its colours, with both shade and light. The sandtray presents a safe place to explore issues that the unconscious is ready to release. Within the boundaries of the sandtray the client makes a visual representation of the inner world. The sandtray becomes a sacred space, with a special representation of inner reality, at a safe distance from the everyday world and everyday concerns. To support this, the sandtray and the symbols are not treated as everyday toys, but as objects dedicated to exploration of the inner world. In this way the sandplay experience is not the same as spontaneous play times. The sandplay equipment is set up specifically for counselling and self-discovery. For children this makes it different from the sandpit at school, the bath at home, or the toy box under the bed. All these can provide space for the unconscious to naturally work out some of its issues, but the dedication of the sandplay to inner exploration gives the unconscious security, permission and encouragement to open up. It also allows the cognitive processes an

Sandplay and Symbol Work

opportunity to function more clearly, make new connections and formulate new strategies. What has been unknown, out of sight or perplexing becomes clarified as the symbols are arranged. Through the symbols a client explores many aspects of the psyche, and even touches deep into their essence. What was intangible inside can be externalised, brought to consciousness, made clear and explored. Ryce-Menuhin (1992) writes that sandplay gives a non-verbal image within the therapeutic setting, the meaning of which may not at first be clear or fully understood by either the therapist or the client. As the client relates the meanings or the story of the sand picture the client feels a sense of freedom and has the opportunity to understand what is happening in their life in terms of the symbols and the sand picture. The search for wholeness and metaphysical understanding has always drawn on society’s myths. Myths link us to the basic patterns of the psyche, the archetypes and the collective unconscious. This creates a link-up bet- ween personal healing and the collective unconscious. A transformation, a healing, takes place, and this is freed to manifest at a later time in another sandplay and in life. Sandplay allows us, and the people we work with, to discover and develop personal myths. What has been abstract becomes more concrete. What has seemed like random events takes on the shape of a story or journey. The client’s unconscious, when supported with an attitude of respectfulness, freedom and self-direction, presents what is ready to be dealt with. The coun- sellor’s conclusions or interpretations are not expressed. The self-actualising, self-regulatory principle of the client-centred approach is at work here. The counsellor becomes a co-traveller on this journey; one who supports the client’s wish to explore. Ideally, the counsellor is aware of their own per- sonal need for inner work, for ongoing clearing and journeying, in order to avoid projection onto the client. Regarding inner work as an exciting journey develops a stronger foundation for growth than a focus on simply managing problems, although in all forms of counselling there is a stage of problem orientation. For depth of understanding of this aspect the counsellor’s own inner journey through sandplay training is an essential prerequisite. As has been said, interpretation is not part of this method. The vital role of the counsellor is to support the emergence of meaning from within the client. The effectiveness of the sandplay does not depend on the counsellor’s or the client’s intellectual understanding of the process, although many clear insights will be evident. At the end of the session the counsellor invites the client to do a drawing depicting their emotional state or write down their insights and share what they have learned. This might be a time to draw out any particular implica- tions for the client’s current life. In working closely and empathically with clients the counsellor will want to create an attractive and supportive healing environment. This will be a space which supports the client to feel at home, safe, attended to and special.

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The work room is colourful and exciting, although orderly. The symbols on the shelves are presented so that they can be clearly seen and grouped in themes. Water is made available, either in a sprayer to lightly wet the sand, or in a jug to enable mixing and the forming of rivers, lakes coastlines or moun- tainous terrain. For further discussion on sandplay equipment see page 88.

Some uses of sandplay

New language

Symbols support the development of an extended vocabulary to help expres- sion of inner feelings, hopes, divisions and urges. Acquisition of inner world language helps the client express, unload, share and gain relief through the interpersonal nature of counselling sessions.

Resolution of a specific crisis

Some clients feel immediate benefit from one or two sessions in which they explore the dimensions of the most immediate life issue, feel relief and begin to deal with that aspect more constructively.

Surfacing of an old wound

Some clients may be dealing with the activation of an old hurt, triggered by

a change in life or an emotional shock.

Shadow release

Many of us have been brought up to behave well and hide any negative feel- ings or destructive urges. Sandplay can be used for acting out what is not acceptable in real life. We can construct in the tray scenarios, actions and out- comes that we would not generate in our daily lives, but which can be fan- tasised. The containment of these actions may be causing some stress. Safe space for portraying what is inside allows for integration of disowned aspects and energies.

Self-image

Both sandplay and symbol work allow the collection of information about unconscious self-images. Exploration of causes of an underdeveloped sense of self is possible, as well as the gaining of a new viewpoint on self.

Personal mythology

A client can gain language and images that help them describe their inner and

outer world. Resonant symbols are often introduced into new sand pictures and may appear throughout a series of sessions. These symbols become the client’s personal mythology. Often symbolic of newly discovered energies or qualities of character, these symbols form personal stories or myths which inevitably support connection to the client’s innate world of hope.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

An alternative to self-revelation

For a variety of reasons some clients feel threatened by the counselling process. Some clients may take several sessions to relax and trust a counsel- lor. They may be wary of self-disclosure. Any requirement to verbalise their deepest concerns will activate resistance. However, using sandplay these clients can begin their healing process simply by playing!

Support for feeling and intuition

All of us have preferred modes of operating at different times in our lives. In some cases the tendency of Western society to communicate predominantly through verbal/cognitive processes leaves a client enmeshed in a world of thought. The development of emotional, kinesthetic and intuitive modes of experience may not have been fully developed. For those who are used to operating on a thinking level, sandplay supports a breakthrough to the intuitive and feeling levels.

Trusting the inner healer

‘Inner healer’ is the shorthand name Grof (2000) has given to our in-built psychological healing mechanisms. From his lifetime of psychiatric and psychological research Grof concludes that, given appropriate support and the means for release through surrender of ego control, we have an inner radar that knows what issues, in what order and what timing is required for the healing of our psyche. In sandplay and symbol work we have found that supporting a client in a quiet focus, with direction to increase the connection to their inner world, enables the client to surrender to deeper states of consciousness. This state empowers the inner healer. Grof writes that to ‘support the experiential pro- cess with full trust in its healing nature, without trying to direct it or change it in any way’ allows the ‘radar function’ of the inner healing mechanism. This concept of the ‘inner healer’, in association with all the dimensions of emotional and spiritual healing, is very much in line with concepts put forward by Dora Kalff, Virginia Axline and several of the Jungian-oriented sandplay writers (see bibliography). The training of sandplay facilitators emphasises the importance of allow- ing this inner wisdom to emerge. Learning to trust the way each psyche presents its healing can occur only through direct personal experience and careful observation of clients over several sessions. Trusting the inner healer requires a paradigm shift for counsellors and therapists who may have been trained in approaches that presume it is the counsellor’s role to determine both the issues to confront and the most direct route to psychological health. Developing and nurturing trust in the inner healing process allows greater objectivity on the part of the counsellor. The order and timing of the issues to be dealt with remains aligned to the client’s

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process. Counsellor and client present a team approach as co-journeyers. The confrontational aspect is superseded by the empathic presence which allows the natural unfolding of their process.

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The free sandplay method

In learning to facilitate sandplay the most important skill is to reclaim an ability to play. The ability to play and support play is vital for developing trust in the value of play for the client. Through play – which can become quite serious in sandplay sessions – the imagination can express its contents. Imagination is linked to the personal unconscious and its way of expression is guided by the inner healing mechanism of the psyche. This organising principle selects what is necessary for healing and growth within the client. It determines which story or picture needs to be expressed at any particular time. Through the extensive experiential training needed to become a facilitator we learn to respect this inner wisdom in the client. To play is to suspend rules, to suspend the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’, to let go of analysis and the requirements of logic. For adults it may include taking the risk that the story will work itself out without being preplanned. To play is to agree to let the story emerge from our unconscious without interference. Of course, becoming conscious of defensive rational interference will also be part of our healing process. In developing her World Technique, Margaret Lowenfeld (1999) felt that unless the need to play had been adequately accommodated in childhood, then the adult was driven by those same urges, which then pro- jected themselves into the person’s adult life and masqueraded as reality. In playing, children surrender to the forces within them. Their play can be active or passive, reactive or responsive. Young children at play in the school playground often demonstrate a high degree of seriousness and focused attention when they are interested. When we let ourselves surrender from strictly rational plans and simply play, we cross the threshold from the adult, fixed world, to the childlike, fluid world of feelings, images and energies. This is a world in which the inner self can express itself through the stories we create in the sand and with the figurines. The experience of crossing this threshold, many times, prepares us to be relaxed and open sandplay facilitators. This, then, will cre- ate the best environment for clients to make their own healing journeys.

Overview of the process

Before the sandplay

• Trust and connection between the client and the counsellor are built through meeting, and the counsellor listening. The process is then out- lined and the client introduced to the sandtray and symbol shelves.

• The counsellor observes the client and assesses their current emotional state and needs.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

• The counsellor reviews the previous session outcomes (if there has been a previous session).

• The counsellor and client discuss significant current life events.

• The counsellor provides opening instructions and initial directions for the sandplay. These will depend on the presenting problem, assessment, personal history and client’s aims. The opening instructions can range from ‘Would you like to play with the sand?’ to more specific directions (see page 49).

During the sandplay

• The facilitator’s role is to be a loving presence, to observe carefully and occasionally ask questions that encourage self-discovery. These questions are based on the counsellor’s observation and analysis of the sandplay.

• Usually the client begins by meeting the sand. They play with and shape the sand, eventually creating a landscape. This is a time of ‘crossing the threshold’ to meet the inner world.

• The client is encouraged to take occasional deep breaths to support emotional opening.

• The client is encouraged to focus on self – body awareness, awareness of mood, etc.

• The client chooses symbols, usually with no analysis or discussion. Any initial interpretations by the facilitator are not shared with the client.

• A story or picture emerges. This may take place either in silence or with the client telling the story as they create. The facilitator may ask some questions to extend the client’s experience.

• During the sandplay the facilitator observes the client’s facial expressions, posture, emotional expressions – observing clues to their inner state.

• The facilitator looks for the main themes. This will allow for follow-up discussion that may connect the play to the client’s life.

• Significant spatial relationships in the sandtray may give clues to emotional states and issues, and can be cues for supportive questions.

• Supporting deeper exploration:

1 Ask the client about the symbols or story.

2 The client tells the story from the point of view of each main symbol.

3 Ask about any buried, hidden, isolated or non-concrete symbols.

4 Role-play with most significant symbols – I am …’. (see page 116)

5 Dialogue between conflicting or connected symbols.

6 Allow the client to change the picture around. (Any change in placement is always done by the client.)

7 Emotional release work.

8 Draw out links between the picture/story and client’s life.

After the sandplay

• Begin the integration processes. These may include:

– writing the story or a summary of inner experience – journalling

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– dancing the story

– resting – simply invite the client to lie down quietly for a few minutes

– discussion, including client’s feedback on themes, connections to life events, new directions or aims, future session plans.

• Discuss recommended follow-up and homework.

• Client does completion drawings:

1 ‘Draw how you feel now – use body outlines, mandala circles.’

2 ‘Record the sandplay through drawing the symbols.’

3 ‘Take a Polaroid photo.’

• Include in the evaluation awareness of the story; the possible unconscious meanings, as well as connections with current life; the emotional expressions; the client’s body posture, energy state, emotional state and self-awareness. (see Record Form, Appendix III, page 117)

• Normally the facilitator puts away the symbols after the client leaves the room. This leaves the final picture of the psyche intact. However, some clients prefer – for a sense of closure or privacy – to put their own symbols away. The counsellor would ask the client which they prefer. Always let the client know that their sandplay will be dismantled after their session.

Some ways of beginning

Meeting the sand

• The client sits (or stands) in front of the sandtray, closes their eyes, if comfortable, and brings their hands slowly into contact with the sand.

• The client might share any sensations experienced or memories that come to mind. Ask:

‘How does it feel?’ ‘What is the texture like?’ ‘Tell me about its temperature.’

• The client might allows hands to move, explore. Ask:

‘Is there a story that goes with the hands meeting the sand?’

Mixing the sand

For those who are new to sandplay or just hesitant, invite them to pour some water over the dry sand and suggest they mix it in. The movement will soon engage their interest, ready for the next stages.

Formations in the sand

• The client continues on from mixing the sand, allowing the hands to make shapes and formations.

• Observe if the form created is:

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– abstract

– an expression of feelings

– an actual scene

– a story.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

• The client may talk about what they are doing or be silent. They may choose to talk after; or they may choose not to talk at all. Inner transformation takes place even if the facilitator does not know exactly what is transpiring during the formation process in the sand. Sometimes clients burrow to the bottom of the tray very quickly, turning over every grain. Others meticulously smooth the surface or pat it down

firmly. Still others will not relate to the sand as a medium for exploration and will immediately choose symbols and simply place the objects in the tray

as it is presented to them. An adult client who operated earthmoving equip- ment always chose an implement with a straight edge with which to shape and flatten the sand.

A young client (eight years old) created complex and amazing battlefields in

the sand. There were ‘camps for the good guys and the bad guys’ complete with foliage to act as camouflage, battle zones where fighting happened and hidden areas where treasures were stored. Two sandtrays were used at first because there was too much to contain in one tray. Interestingly, despite the complexity and diverse nature of the structures the sand in the trays was never disturbed. The young client never actually touched the sand. When invited to do so this client obligingly created a very small indentation in one

corner of one tray and said, ‘There, is that okay?’ The facilitator then returned

to simply observing the action rather than suggesting something different.

Adding symbols

Invite the client to choose objects to add to the tray and make a picture or story. Some possible opening directions are:

• ‘Would you like to play with the sand and then choose symbols from the shelves and place them in the tray?’

• ‘Make a picture or story:

– about your life

– about you when you were little

– about what is going to happen

– about yesterday

– about all the people you know

– about a pretend story with you in it

– with all your favourite things in it

– with all the most frightening things in it

– about the future.

• ‘Make up a pretend story that happened in a far off place, a long time ago,

with you in it.’

• ‘Make up a story – or create a picture – about your life in the future.’

• Remember that:

– it is important to allow and encourage any sense of progression, change, freedom or absorption into the client’s own world.

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– there are no rules for the client, apart from respect for the materials and the counselling environment.

– the client is always right in their choices and arrangements.

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Gestalt role-play with sandplay figures

If you notice a particular attraction or repulsion for one of the figures in the

sandtray, or you suspect a significant symbolic meaning in a figure that seems to be ignored, the exploration can be deepened with role-play. This method was created from Frederick Perls’ dreamwork method, and it enables older clients to integrate specific meanings and messages from their inner world. Gestalt role-play can also be used if there are only sand formations and no figures. See Appendix II, page 116, for the Gestalt role-play exercise. Often the figure will symbolise some aspect of power or energy that the client has disowned. The client can be invited to role-play either one of the symbols chosen from the collection or one of the symbols created in the tray, such as hills, caves, volcanoes, graves, etc. By becoming it, they can become more

themselves – own the positive qualities, or have permission to release any- thing negative. The role-play exercise works best with clients over nine years of age. Role- play with younger clients may take the form of a game, with an emphasis on movement and sound, and only a few of the structured questions.

The focused method

This slightly more directive method of sandplay has proved effective for cli- ents who may be challenged by so many choices or who may exhibit a very short attention span. Too wide a choice, instead of enhancing a sense of free- dom, may increase scattering of attention, and sometimes feels threatening. When working with these clients, close blinds and doors to eliminate out- side disturbances. Every effort is made to reduce visual or noise distractions. Offer the client specific parts of the symbol shelf to choose from or direct them to choose from one shelf at a time. The client selects symbols and sits at the tray. From this settled position the figures are arranged.

Directed methods

Sandplay is usually play with minimal direction or intervention from the facilitator. However, at times we use the symbols and sand as a tool in order to help a client evaluate and express an issue or open to positive parts of themselves. Sometimes there is a place for playing around with a theme, or

a task, or a story that becomes the starting point. Essentially, this method points the psyche in a certain direction that may be required to deal with an immediate serious problem. The symbol work exercises that follow in Chapter 4 are a form of directed sandplay. They are best used with clients who have already experienced the free play method.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

Stages in sandplay sessions

In individual counselling using sandplay and symbol work we often observe several stages that the client moves through.

1 On the first visit there is some initial reluctance or reserve as the client begins to establish trust. This trust relates to the process, the counsellor and the counselling environment. Intellectually, the client may trust more after some time of getting to know the counsellor and the environ- ment and after a brief rationale for sandplay is given. Adults sometimes suggest that their problems are serious and they couldn’t imagine how ‘play’ could help. Clients may take time to overcome any sense that there are explicit expectations of them. This is more evident when child clients may have already undergone various psychological assessments and may have already seen a number of counsellors.

2 As the client relaxes into serious play, a sense of excitement often emerges. Some clients will want to fill the sandtray with figurines. Their focus grows and they feel more at home at this stage.

3 Often chaotic pictures or stories appear. In children’s sandplays battles are common. Death, opposition, threat, isolation, danger and relation- ships are also some themes in the early stages.

4 Some discussion of the stories usually follows, during which the client may be projecting their emotional problems onto the figurines, and experiencing some relief and relaxation in the process.

5 Some acting out of the feelings that arose in the sandplay may follow through emotional release process work. There may be some role-play of the characters as a way of further expression of negative aspects, discovery and reclaiming of positive aspects.

6 In discussion with the counsellor, the client may make links between the story and their current life problems. The sandplay scene may suggest helpful strategies.

7 Integration and rest may follow next. Recording through journal writing, drawing or taking photographs would complete the session. Often on the second and third visits the client moves more easily and quickly into the work, and needs less presentation of framework or reasons for doing the sandplay.

Sandplay for families and groups

An advantage of working from the systemic approach, inviting the family or a group to participate together in a sandplay, is that it removes the focus from one member – usually a child – being the problem. Families working together on a sandplay, can come to some valuable insights about their dynamics. Group sandplay can be an opportunity for more real expression and listening to each other. The shared experience of working in the sand

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opens broader communication within the family. Lack of shared communi- cation can be a major cause of acting out behaviour in the children. Family members do become actively engaged in the group healing pro- cess. The group sandplay can bring to the fore the resistance of one family member to healing, growing or changing. The counsellor will need to be vigilant that the group sandplay does not become an opportunity for further dominance by any individual in the group. There is a need for awareness of any habits of expressing hostile reactions within the group. It is best if the counsellor has worked on a one-to-one basis with at least some of the individuals before progressing to group work. Usually we would invite a family – which is commonly a child client and one or both parents, or two siblings – to work together after they have par- ticipated in at least one solo session. It is ideal to have several sandtrays available, just in case the family finds that they cannot work together in one

tray. In this case their difficulties would provide an opportunity for reflection and communication.

It is essential to have commonly agreed upon boundaries and rules. There

has to be a good level of commitment from each member in the group to attend the session and abide with the agreed rules. If all have experienced sandplay previously then direct them to decide on, and make a contract to agree to, their own rules. If they are new to sandplay, the counsellor could

set the rules. Clients need to agree that the action of the session takes place inside the sandtray and, if there is a need for time out or problem-solving during the sandplay, time be taken to do this. The rules usually used in group or family sandplay should cover:

• how the sandtray is divided spatially

• who can move whose symbols

• whether permission is needed to change the landscape

• whether turns need to be taken. Sometimes the participants will change their minds and decide not to have rules. This needs to be brought out and discussed.

A vital ‘rule’ or intervention by the counsellor will be the invitation for

participants to express how they feel about what is happening in the sand. It is usual for this rule to be discussed before commencing. Parallel sandplay can also be used. For this two trays are placed side by side and two people work in their own space, but with awareness of what the other is doing. Sometimes this can be achieved with a dividing line down the middle of one tray. The counsellor attempting family work is advised to spend a significant amount of time exploring their own family of origin issues. This will sup- port the energy needed to follow the action in the tray and deal with any members who may be overwhelmed with feelings or reactions to others in the group.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

Family sandplay should not be attempted if:

• the level of trust within the group is very low

• interpersonal conflict has reached the point of physical expression

• abuse or aggression has been the primary tool for dealing with problems

• the counsellor suspects there may be an agenda in some members that is not supportive to the family well-being.

Sandplay with couples

Work with couples proceeds with many of the guidelines suggested for work with families. In the ERC framework there is a focus on self-exploration that

can lead to clearer interpersonal communication. The counsellor is not there to give advice or referee. The focus is on intrapersonal discovery and clearing, that then enhances clarity, honesty and compassion in interpersonal discovery. Usually a couple work independently for their first sandplay or symbol work session. This enables the counsellor to be sure that there is no acti- vated hostility that could be acted out through the sandplay, causing emo- tional wounding. Some time is spent by each of the pair choosing, creating and arranging the symbols, or creating the sandplay. Then the couple may be invited to come together, in the presence of the counsellor, and take time to view the scene created by the other. Each talks about their own creation, the partner listening without comment. Then once both parties have shared their experience, the counsellor can extend the dialogue and explore how each felt as they listened. The coun- sellor might invite them to express how they felt about:

• the process of their own sandplay

• listening to the other

• the other’s perspective

• things they might see differently

what they see in a similar way. After exploration individually a couple may feel comfortable enough to work together in the sandtray. It is important to work in a field of mutual respect, independent of outcomes for the relationship. Partners do not displace the other’s symbols, choose or suggest symbols for each other or change the arrangement made by the other. For the facilitator, the images created in the sandtray act as a psychological and emotional guideline about the nature of the individuals in the relationship and the relationship itself. One of the benefits of couple work in sandplay or with symbol work is that rational thinking is suspended long enough for each person to explore their inner self to some degree. They can explore their contribution to the relationship and their personal focus, direction and aims in the partnership. The symbols actively reveal aspects and subtleties of themselves which may not have become evident through any other means.

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which may not have become evident through any other means. • Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol
Chapter 4
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Symbol work exercises

Awareness is the capacity to focus, to attend. Thinking is not awareness, feeling is not awareness, sensing is not awareness. I need awareness to be in touch, to know that I am sensing or feeling or thinking.

J. S. Simkin, Individual Gestalt Therapy, 1970

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S ymbols create an easy doorway through which both counsellor and client

can travel together. They can be utilised in every stage of the counselling

journey whether that lasts for one session, a dozen sessions, or more.

Working with symbols appears quite simple: accumulate a variety of sym- bols, have plenty of art paper and crayons available, build a sandtray, fill it with sand, include the element of play and then follow the client’s logic. However, exploring the individual’s psyche at depth is not a field in which inexperienced or untrained players flourish. Learning about the power and depth of symbols and sandplay can continue for a lifetime. The process is a dynamic one, although the principles of emotional release which underpin it remain constant. In this chapter we have included a small number of exercises to illustrate the possibilities for including symbol work within each stage of the coun- selling process. Over the years we have developed and created an extensive and highly effective range of symbol work exercises and ways to explore the sand world. These exercises vary in degree of difficulty and outcome, from exploring tentatively through to working at depth with unconscious material. To employ these exercises we believe it is essential, however, to have undergone relevant training in the frameworks, perspectives and methodology of the way in which sandplay and symbol work is util- ised by an emotional release counsellor. Every therapist must ultimately find the way of working which, in their heart, feels right for them. Working with the broader cartography of the human psyche that underpins the emotional release perspective allows a person to shift ground from doing, helping and managing, in a strategic way, to being present, allowing, guiding, supporting and acknowledging in an empathic way. Although we present one or two exercises in each category, usually only one exercise would be offered during a single session. Although, it is quite common for young clients, say from 6–10 years old, to do more than one exer- cise. Once they have established trust, they want to explore every possibility.

Often a simple introductory exercise followed by some discussion will be immediately followed by something a little more challenging.

The basic steps of a counselling session

There are six basic steps we recognise in planning an ERC session and the sandplay symbols can be useful in each step:

1 ‘Breaking the ice’, developing trust, hope, inner strength

2 Self-exploration, self-discovery

3 Emotional release processing

4 Integration – discussion, drawing, writing

5 Support for creativity and positive use of energy

6 At home after the session – homework or home play. Following are some useful examples of ways in which each step of a typical counselling session could be extended with the use of symbols.

1 ‘Breaking the ice’, developing trust, hope, inner strength

Symbols can be very helpful in the early stages of counselling sessions. They can support the client to find language for feelings, memories, events and conflicts. They support clients with limited verbal skills. The use of their concrete form and flexibility as a base for projection of the inner world can help counteract confusion and reticence.

Introduction exercise

Starting discussion with a new client

Suitable for children 10 years through to adults

1 Select three symbols from the sandplay collection that you like most, or feel most attracted to.

2 What are some reasons for your choices?

3 If the client seems ready, attempt a brief role-play. Focus on any positive messages that the symbols present during the role-play (see page 116).

4 Follow the role-play with some discussion about any symbols the client does not like and would not choose.

Symbol work exercise

How do you feel about counselling?

Suitable for children 9 years through to adults

1 Prepare a large circle on a page in your drawing book (or in the sandtray).

2 Tune into yourself, relax and take a few deep breaths.

3 Think about the following questions and then select one or two symbols for each:

What activities would you like to do rather than come to counselling?

Do you have any negative feelings about coming to counselling?

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What are the hopeful, positive feelings you have about coming to this session? For children 9 to 15 years, deal with one question and symbol at a time.

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Arrange the symbols in the circle drawn on a page in your drawing book. Encourage conversation about hopes, fears, needs and negative self-talk they have noticed, and attitudes about the need for counselling. The client may also bring forward any questions about the processes being used.

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Create a dialogue between the symbols (see page 84).

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Offer the possibility to role-play the symbol for the third question (see Gestalt role-play exercise, page 116).

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Write down any messages from the symbol and any insights or summary statement.

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Draw the symbols on a page in your drawing book, if time permits.

2 Self-exploration, self-discovery

Symbol work has a supportive role in establishing a positive attitude in the client towards counselling. Once an interest in self-discovery is awakened, the client begins to feel that the counsellor is with them ‘on the same team’, rather than in opposition in some way. The following exercises are designed to activate the client’s interest in self-discovery and support the shift from apprehension to interest.

Introduction exercise

Free exploration of the sand

Suitable for all clients

1 Sit comfortably at the sandtray.

2 Explore and shape the sand with your eyes closed.

3 Focus on the feeling of the sand on your hands.

4 Observe the shapes made. What memories do they trigger?

Symbol work exercise

What is inside me?

Suitable for children 8 years through to adults

1 Draw a large body outline in the sandtray.

2 Sit or lie down in a relaxed way and tune into your body.

3 Focus your awareness on your head, chest, belly, legs.

4 Become aware of any physical sensations, tensions, emotions or excitement that may be held in these parts of the body.

5 Select a symbol that in some way matches how each of the four areas of the body feels.

6 Arrange the symbols in the body outline in the sandtray.

7 Ask the client to discuss:

• the choice and location of the symbols

• the feelings of each symbol

• possible reasons for the feelings or sensations in each part of their body

• anything else in their body for which they could select a symbol.

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Ask the client:

• what each symbol would say if it could speak

• what each symbol would say to the other symbols

• what the symbols might want to say to them

• if there is anywhere in the body outline that the symbols would like to move to.

9 After a brief relaxation, discuss any strategies the client could use to deal with the tensions, emotions or excitement.

3 Emotional release processing

Emotional release process work is the province of counsellors who have com-

pleted training in this approach. It allows and supports the direct expression of emotions held by the body which, in turn, creates more emotional space inside for growth and for a steady, healthy progression of the emotional maturing process. The exercises given here are merely a sample of what is available to use in this stage. Some of the basic strategies that help clients deal with the expression of feelings are:

• externalising the person or situation they are reacting to, through drawings, appropriate symbols, or an empty chair

• visualising the person or situation that they have strong feelings about as smaller than themselves

• selecting one or more symbols that convey characteristics of the person or situation they are reacting to and addressing their release work towards the symbols

• visualising themselves as being larger than the person or situation that they have strong feelings about

• identifying with one or more symbols from the sandplay collection that portray power and strength as they begin their release work. Guidelines on emotional release work and preparation for it can be found in Chapters 3 and 5 in Emotional Release for Children (Pearson and Nolan,

1995).

Symbol work and movement exercise

Exploring my feelings

Suitable for children 7–14 years

1 Stand in front of the symbol shelves and, with your eyes closed, relax and take a few breaths.

2 After a moment of tuning in to self, open your eyes and select symbols that go with:

caution

‘You’ve got to be very very careful in life’

‘I just want to have fun!’

play

‘There are so many scary things in the world’

courage

fear

‘I’m not afraid of anything’.

3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book or in the sandtray.

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Ask the following questions:

How do the symbols relate to each other?

Which ones stand out for you?

4 Direct the client in movement work, role-play or dance, asking them to pretend that they are the symbols for a short time. End with the courage symbol.

5 Give the client time to rest or draw and discuss how they feel after the move- ment work.

Symbol work exercise

Beginning to talk about my feelings

Suitable for children from 7 years through to adults

1 Divide the sand in the sandtray in two halves. Create a dividing line by making a long ditch, or a mountain range, or find a fence on the shelves.

2 Collect a symbol for each of these categories:

something loving

something needing love

something angry

something that ought to be angry

something sad

something that ought to be sad

something wise

something needing wisdom.

3 Arrange the symbols opposite each other on each side of the dividing line.

4 Ask the client the following questions:

What do you think the symbols are thinking or wanting to say to each other?

How do you think they came to feel this way? Can you imagine a bit of their story?

Are there any symbols here that are like your life right now?

If you were in the sandtray, where would you be? Find questions to support self-discovery and emotional release in the client.

5 Give permission for the client to change the arrangement of the symbols at any time.

6 End with an invitation to the client to draw how they feel.

4 Integration – discussion, drawing, writing

Integration takes place within the counselling setting, although the images created with the symbols and sand stay with a client long after the session has formally ended. Integration involves both an active element using movement or dance or a quiet focus using drawing or writing tools. Symbols can be used to represent quickly a visual overview of issues that have been dealt with and feelings that are currently present in the client. The following exercise would be used after a series of ERC sessions. It uses both symbols and writing as ways of externalising so that progress is made tangible and visual.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

Symbol work exercise to support decision-making

What should I do now?

This exercise helps clients to achieve clarity about decisions, choices and new directions that may arise after counselling work. Suitable for children 10 years through to adults

1 Divide a sandtray in half (or more).

2 Gather symbols for one option and arrange them in half the sandtray and then gather symbols for the second option and do the same on the other half.

3 Discuss the symbols in each half. Ask some supportive questions, such as:

Which symbols seem to stand out to you as being most important now?

Which symbols do you feel good about?

Do any of the symbols worry you?

Which half of the sandtray seems most exciting?

4 A written summary about each half could be helpful.

5 Support for creativity and positive use of energy

Symbol work exercise

What would I like to do?

Suitable for children 9 years through to adults

1 Select symbols in these four categories:

You in your life now

What creative activity you would most like to do

What, or who, helps you do what you want to do?

What, or who, stops you doing what you want to do?

2 Arrange the symbols in the sandtray, or in a circle drawn on a page in your drawing book, in any way you feel the symbols relate to each other. (This may take some time.)

3 Invite the client to discuss how they have arranged the symbols. Offer simple questions to encourage the self-discovery, for example:

How is this figure like you?

How long have you wanted to do this activity?

How do you feel when you think about this activity?

Have you ever actually done this activity?

Is there anyone who helps you?

I wonder if there is anything inside you that stops you doing it?

4 Ask the client to suggest:

• new approaches to expressing their creativity

• strategies for dealing with what stops them

• reminders about finding help or support for this activity.

6 At home after the session

Parents may sometimes not understand what happens when their child chooses alien figures, spiders, dinosaurs, jewels. Some parents – and partners

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too – may hasten to interpret the picture of the sandplay or the drawing as negative towards them or the current home situation. Some parents report that their child is very capable of creating lots of wild and wonderful stories from their imagination. Homework – or homeplay – is geared to the context of sup- port the client has available. It could involve a simple journal exercise, a com- munication activity, a drawing about strong feelings or a physical exercise. If home is a supportive environment, young clients can be invited to select symbols from home and bring them to be used in the next session. They can also be invited to find an object to keep at home to remind them of symbols that were empowering in their work in the counselling session. Occasionally, to remind them of the work they have done in the session and to remind them of positive qualities that have been discovered, the child might ask parents to buy a similar figurine or poster that reminds them of a significant symbol. Parents of child clients are encouraged to provide plenty of expressive play activities at home that use toys and symbols, for example a sandpit, long bath times with plenty of toys, model-building, Lego. In consultation with parents, suggest some family communication games (see Chapter 10 in Emotional Healing and Self-esteem, Pearson, 1998).

Relationships

Working with couples using sandplay and symbols can be very rewarding for both the counsellor and clients (see page 53). Partners can work together with their own sandtrays, or in separate sessions.

Relationships symbol work exercise

Beginning to talk about my relationship

Suitable for adults

1 Select several symbols from the shelves that correspond to these areas:

your hopes for the relationship

what it is you most love in the other person

what you find difficult in the other person or in the relating

your feeling about the other’s expectations

any fears you have about the relationship.

2 Arrange the symbols on a large sheet of paper in some way that represents how you perceive the connections.

3 Invite the client to discuss what they have chosen.

4 If appropriate, suggest a role-play of the significant symbols. Note: It might be helpful for the client to write a summary of their insights.

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Symbol work exercise

Relationships review

Suitable for adults

Sandplay and Symbol Work

1

Stand and stretch your body, shake it a bit to wake it up, take a few deep breaths.

2 Select three symbols from the sandplay shelves – one for each of these categories:

the best quality you have to offer in relationships

what you find most difficult in relationships

the feeling of significant relationships during your childhood.

3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book. Think about the way you arrange them:

Are they close or distant?

Which ones are facing each other, or facing away?

4 With your crayons, add any shapes, colours, lines or words as background, to denote

the relationship, or energy, between these elements.

5 In your journal:

find a word or phrase that sums up each symbol

write any insights you gain from the arrangement

record any personal meanings of the symbols.

6 Discuss any insights or reasons you suspect may be behind this choice of symbols.

7 Invite the client to role-play the first symbol – the one for their best qualities. (See Gestalt role-play exercise, page 116). Record the message from the role-play.

8 Suggest to the client that they complete the drawing in their drawing book, maybe drawing the symbols onto the page, or capturing the energy of them.

Families and school

Family counselling requires particular skills (see pages 51–53). The symbols and sandtray offer a valuable media for group members to express, commu- nicate and reveal, and learn about others. The school setting is a place where a group of people come together for a large part of their day but who may, in some instances, have little reason to want to spend time with each other. Many interactions happen, some plea- sant, some unpleasant and some stressful – for both young people and adults. Exercises that give the client an opportunity to express and sort through their feelings offer the possibility of positive action, resolution and integration of difficult events.

Symbol work family exercise

Family portraits

Suitable for children 10 years through to adults

Future

Present

When a

When a

baby

small child

1 Ask the client to set out the sandtray like this, marking dividing lines in the sand:

2 Stand at the side of the sandtray.

3 Select sandplay objects to make four pictures about each period of your life – beginning with ‘When a baby.’

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Encourage the client to talk about each picture – either while it is being created, or after.

5 Ask the client to note any similarities and differences between the pictures, and talk about these.

Symbol work family exercise

The people in my family

Suitable for children 7–14 years

(Contributed by Kathy Halvorson)

1

Draw a large circle on a page in your drawing book. This circle represents your family and can be labelled ‘My Family’.

2

Place a dot in the middle of the circle.

3

Discuss the meaning of ‘family’, that it could mean extended family and include pets.

4

Choose a symbol for each member of your family, without disclosing who the symbols represent. Then choose a symbol for yourself. Place the symbols on the floor – or table – beside the paper with the circle.

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Say: Don’t tell me who is who. We are going to play a guessing game. I am going to try to guess which family member is represented by each symbol.

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Place the symbol for yourself on the dot in the centre.

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Say: Now I am going to ask you questions about each of the other symbols. At the end of the game I will try to guess who they are.

8

Ask questions about each of the other symbols and their relationship to each other and to the child. The aim is to extend the discussion, inviting the child to share more about their family relationships and their feelings.

9

Finish asking the questions about each symbol, then instruct the child to place the symbol in the family circle. Ask the child to consider how close the symbol/person feels to them and then ask them to arrange the symbol in a way to represent that. Ask them to consider which way the symbol should be facing.

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Once each symbol has been placed in the circle, guess the identity. Ask the client

to confirm or correct your choice.

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Invite the child to guess what each symbol might be thinking or wanting to say to the others.

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Ask the child to review the final arrangement and discuss what they learn from it.

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Support integration of the session through:

• discussion of any changes the child would like

• drawing the symbols onto the page – or if drawing skills prohibit this, making a circle for each symbol and writing the names of the people they represent in it.

Symbol work school exercise

Me and my class

Suitable for 7 to 17 years for individual or group work (with older children)

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1 Draw a large square on a page in your drawing book. Call it ‘My Classroom/My School’.

2 Place a dot at the centre. Name it ‘Me’.

Sandplay and Symbol Work

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Close your eyes. Take a slow full breath and breathe it out slowly.

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Feel yourself coming home inside your body.

Open your mind to this picture: ‘Your friends at school and people you don’t really

like at your school’. See them clearly.

Find a figure from the sandplay collection to represent you. Let it choose you. Don’t think too much about it.

Choose a symbol for each person you thought about at your school – as you pictured them in your mind.

Place the figure that represents you on the dot at the centre of the square.

Arrange the other symbols in or around the square.

As you arrange the symbols think about:

how close or distant from you each one will be

whether or not they connect with each other

one will be • whether or not they connect with each other • they are facing

they are facing you, or turned away from you

if

they are inside or outside the circle.

if

11 Talk about:

how you arranged the figures

who likes who, and who dislikes who

each person, and the symbols you chose for them

anyone who is not on your page

how you would really like it to be.

Now become the figure called ‘Me’. Pretend you are it.

How does it feel to be this symbol?

What qualities does it have?

Is there anything it would like to say to anyone on the page, or to you or to your parents?

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13 Integrate through:

drawing the figures onto the page, writing a brief description of them or taking

a Polaroid photo

writing a few lines in your journal about the most important things you felt or learned from this exercise.

Emotional and physical release

Movement and symbol work exercise

Breaking free with dance

In this exercise symbols are used as a stimulus to movement and dance as a way of

supporting physical and energetic release of frustrations. Suitable for children 7–14 years and adults from 20 years onwards (adolescents are too self-conscious)

1 Select three symbols:

one that seems stuck or imprisoned

one that is breaking free or escaping

• one that is flowing, relaxed and playful.

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2 Arrange them in a circle on a sheet of paper or in the sandtray.

3 Role-play and dance as each symbol.

4 How do they relate to each other?

5 Invite the client to talk about how these relate to their life’s journey.

Dance and role-play release exercise using sandplay symbols

Understanding my moods

This exercise aims to allow emotional release and to encourage children to talk about

their feelings and triggers for feelings in their lives. A selection of music for move- ment work to go with the energies of angry, sad, happy and powerful are needed to complete the exercise. Suitable for children 10 years through to adults

1

Draw a large circle or oval shape on a page in your drawing book, with a dark crayon.

2

Visualise or remember these moods and energies:

angry

sad

happy

powerful.

3

Take a symbol for each mood or energy. (All at once or one at a time.)

4

Arrange the symbols in the circle on your book. Think about how they relate to each other. Make a picture of how they go together.

Would you put them close together? Far apart?

Are they facing each other? Facing away?

Would you like to put any of them outside the circle?

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Let yourself remember any times when you have felt like these symbols. Think about this for a moment.

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Stand up now and take some big breaths, give your body a stretch.

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Looking at your arrangement of the symbols, concentrate on the symbol for ‘angry’. I’m going to ask you to pretend that you are that symbol for a few minutes.

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Breathe in all its qualities.

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Get ready to role-play this symbol, to dance and act out its feelings.

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Take a stance with your body that goes with the feeling.

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See what your arms could do to look a bit like the symbol. What is happening in your back? In your legs? On your face?

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Exaggerate this stance; make more of the feeling show.

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When the music comes on let yourself move like the symbol, or move like the feel- ing the symbol shows you. You can make sounds or say words.

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Dance for about two minutes. (Play music.)

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Look again at the arrangement of the symbols on your page. Do you want to change them around? Do they seem different now? Which one would be closer to the front? Which one might you want to move to the back?

16

Continue this dance process for all four symbols.

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After the fourth symbol has been danced look again at the picture the symbols make together. What have you learned about yourself from this dance work? Is there a statement you could make about your discovery, your growth, your inner journey?

18 Write this onto the page (or tell me).

19 Draw the symbols in your drawing book now, or write a few words to describe each one.

20 Discuss the drawing and the words.

Emotional release process work

Reactions with family of origin, workplace and personal life

Suitable for adults (can be easily adapted for use with adolescents)

Stage one: Preparation and reviewing reactions

1 Select one, two or more symbols for people or situations you react to (or reacted to in the past):

in your family when you were a child

at work – boss, colleagues, etc.

in your current close or intimate relationships.

2 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book, in their groupings. Add colours or lines that might help express your feelings and connections, or which add

meaning.

3 Discuss how you feel as you look at the symbols. You can say who the symbols represent or keep this information to yourself.

4 Sit and look at the symbols and:

tune in to your body and deepen your inner contact

take some deep energising breaths.

Stage two: Confronting reactions and emotional release

Stage two: Confronting reactions and emotional release 5 Using the following guiding questions as a starting

5 Using the following guiding questions as a starting point, see if you can speak a response directly to the symbols – as if those people were here now. Allow yourself to express anything. It may surprise you what needs to come out. Keep taking deep breaths as you work with the questions.

Were there any times when you couldn’t speak to these people, when you couldn’t tell them your real feelings? Could you tell them these feelings now? Was there any anger or grief you had to contain?

Is there anything unsaid? Are there any missed moments of relating? Could you talk about these now?

Were there any expectations of you? What did you feel was expected of you, or is expected now? Tell them.

Tell them about how you see them dealing with their reactions.

Is there anything you want – or wanted in the past – from them? Could you tell them now?

Was there an essential truth about yourself that you couldn’t tell them? Were there any qualities, skills or talents that were ignored, or you had to hide?

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Focus on yourself now. How could you support a feeling of strength? Is there any way you need to claim back your strength now? Is there any way your body needs to move to help you do that? Stage three: Integration

Feel the point where you are finished with these issues for the time being. Let your body lie down and rest. Take some time to be very gentle with yourself.

When you are ready, take some time to write about your feelings and insights in your journal. You may like to draw a mandala of how you feel now, or add to the drawing you made with the symbols, perhaps drawing some of the symbols onto the page.

Discuss your insights and any new directions or strategies that might be relevant.

Inner world review exercise with symbols

The different parts of me

Suitable for children 14 years through to adults

You will need the worksheet ‘The different parts of me’ (see Appendix I, page 115), enlarged to A3 size, for this exercise.

1 Label the four quadrants of the chart, writing outside the oval:

my feelings

my self-image

my relationships

my hopes and dreams.

2 Use crayons to colour in, shade or illustrate each of the sections in a way which

goes with or represents the mood or feelings of that particular aspect of your life.

3 Relax by lying down or reclining on cushions. Take several deep, slow breaths. Watch what comes into your mind as you review your feelings during the last few weeks.

What do you remember about your feelings, your inner life?

How have your feelings made themselves known?

Who have you had strong feelings towards?

Can you identify the dominant feeling of the last few weeks?

4 When you are ready, select two or three symbols that remind you of your feelings and arrange them in the first quadrant.

5 Relax your body again and take a few deep breaths. On the out breath see if you

can let your body sink deeper into the carpet or cushions where you are relaxing.

What has been your image of yourself over the last few weeks?

Have you felt good about yourself at any point during this time?

What are the main criticisms you’ve had of yourself?

How do you think others see you?

What is your main self-image?

6 When you are ready, select two or three symbols that go with the images of yourself over the last few weeks and arrange them in the second quadrant.

7 Relax, breathe deeply, allow deeper physical and psychological surrender. Really ‘let

go’. Watch what comes into your mind when you think about your relationships over the last few weeks.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

Who are the people you have related to?

How have you felt about your connection with others?

What have been the high points?

What have been the difficulties?

How has it been with your main or most important relationship?

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When you are ready, select two or three more symbols that remind you of your rela- tionships and arrange them in the third quadrant. Relax again, breathe a few deep breaths and let go even more on the out breath.

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Have you been in touch with any hopes and dreams for your life over the last few weeks?

What are they?

Do they feel possible? Difficult? Impossible? Near or far?

Do you feel you are moving closer or further away from your hopes and dreams?

Has there been time in your life to reflect and dream and plan and hope?

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When you are ready, select two or three more symbols that remind you of your hopes and dreams and your feelings about them. Arrange these symbols in the fourth quadrant.

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Starting with the first quadrant, look at the symbols you have placed in that section. Allow words and phrases to come to you now. Around the outside of that section write the key words and phrases that go with the meaning of the symbols for you.

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When you have written about that part of you, turn the page around and repeat the writing process for each of the remaining three quadrants on the chart.

Talk about the meanings of the symbols and the words that go with each part of you.

Let’s talk about practical strategies for beginning any changes that you want.

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Assess and discuss any areas that the client may need to work on further.

Self-esteem

The ERC approach to self-esteem work is to release what has been covering self-worth in the psyche, then to draw out and recognise the sense of value with self-discovery. Much lack of self-worth is connected with an overload of held-in emotions. Lack of self-worth also comes from self-blame for negative circumstances, even for abuse. A step in reclaiming self-worth is for the client to discover the source of any negative or limited beliefs and poor self-images, or even that there was an external source! Visualisations and Gestalt role-play exercises, along with sandplay and symbol work, can help clients recognise and feel their own value. They also develop personal imagery and new language for understanding and remem- bering of self-worth. It is ideal to avoid creating any dependence on external valuing for self-worth (although unconditional regard and a sense of safety from the counsellor are vital elements in successful therapy).

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Symbol work exercises

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Symbol work exercise

The most beautiful symbol on the shelf

Suitable for children 9 years through to adults

1 Select the most beautiful symbol from the sandplay shelves.

2 Say what you like about the symbol.

3 Follow this activity with the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) to support the client to identify similar positive qualities they have.

4 Discuss when these qualities would be most useful.

Exercise using sandplay symbols

Storytelling through sandplay

Suitable for children 9 years through to adults If no sandtray is available, use a large drawing book and crayons.

1 Ask the client to sit beside the sandtray (or drawing book), close their eyes and relax.

2 Let your imagination picture a landscape of a far-off mysterious place. Is it on

land? In outer space? Underwater? Are there hills? Valleys? Rivers? An ocean? Make (or draw) this landscape in your sandtray (or drawing book) now.

3 Pause while the client plays in the sand or draws, then discuss the scene.

4 Choose three symbols from the shelves:

one for you in your life now

the one that is the most scary or ugly

the one that is the most beautiful.

5 Return to the sandtray (or drawing book) and arrange the figures on the landscape.

6 Make up a story about these figures going on an adventure together:

Tell it as you make it up.

• You can move the figures around as the story goes along.

You can get more figures from the shelves if you wish.

7 Ask the client to answer these questions as the story goes along (or at the end):

How do the figures feel about each other?

How do they travel together? Happily? Angrily? In harmony?

What are the qualities and feelings of each figure?

What is the purpose of their adventure? To discover something? Overcome an obstacle? Solve a problem?

How would you like the adventure to end? Throughout the story support the actions to be played out and allow any moods or feelings to be expressed. Also make up questions that encourage the story to progress, for example ‘What happens next?’; ‘Show me how that moves’; ‘How did they feel about that?’.

8 At the end of the story, support the client to explore possible links between the story and their life. Some possible questions include:

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Have you ever felt like any of these figures?

Has this ever happened to you?

Is there anyone in your life like this?

Sandplay and Symbol Work

Would you like this to happen to you?

9 If time and attention span permit, allow the client to role-play each figure. See the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) and add these two questions:

What is it you want to say to the other figures in the story?

What do you want from the other figures? Tell them now.

10 Draw the landscape and symbols in your drawing book and write down any important insights.

Sandplay exercise

My life’s journey

Suitable for children 14 years through to adults

journey Suitable for children 14 years through to adults 1 Spend time playing in the sand

1 Spend time playing in the sand with your eyes closed and taking some deep breaths – playing, smoothing, shaping etc.

2 Visualise your life, things that have happened, events, places you have lived or visited, people you have known and different activities you have done. Could you make a picture or map of your life?

3 Go to the sandplay shelves and find one or two symbols to represent the starting point of your journey and place them in the sand.

4 Ask the client the following questions:

• Does the journey change its form?

• Does the journey change direction?

• Does the landscape or vegetation change as you go along?

Express this in the tray now.

5 Close your eyes, take three or four deep breaths and connect to yourself again. Think about your future. What comes to your mind? Select two or three symbols for the future and arrange them in the picture of your journey.

6 Take some time to review the journey. Discuss any insights.

Spiritual direction and personal review

Symbol work exercise for spiritual direction

Exploring my connection to the sacred

Suitable for adults 18 years onwards

1 Reflect on three aspects of your inner life:

your connection with the sacred in nature

memories, images, feelings of the sacred in other people around you in your life

your connection with the sacred deep within yourself.

2 Select one or two symbols that go with each aspect.

3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book.

4 Draw lines of connection, using line, colours, shapes and shading. Add words that describe the connections. You can either do this in silence or discuss what you are doing.

5 Draw or write the names of the symbols.

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6 Give the picture a title.

7 You may wish to discuss the following questions in your journal:

How did the exercise make you feel?

What would you most like to remember?

8 Create a summary statement about your connection to the sacred.

9 You could either quietly reflect on this writing or dance out some of the feelings about it. 10 Invite the client to share the summary statement.

Sandplay and visualisation exercise

Inner treasure

Suitable for children 8–12 years onwards

For this exercise you will need to have an assortment of beautiful items (for example crystals and jewels) buried in the sandtray.

1 We are going to take a special journey – crossing over water to a deserted island. On that island, one special treasure is waiting to be discovered by you.

2 Invite the client to make a large boat with cushions. Imagine sailing on the ocean … boat is rocking gently … excited about discover- ing this treasure … suddenly the waves get bigger … clouds become dark … rain starts to pour … The wind howls … the boat is being tossed from side to side … thunder … lightning. You want to go back home, but something in you wants to keep on going … suddenly the rain stops. Clouds drift away … sun comes out and starts to dry you … water becomes still and the boat drifts ashore on the island.

3 You see the sand dunes (sandtray) where the treasure is buried. One special treasure is waiting for you. Find your treasure now.

4 Use the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) to explore personal meanings of the treasure.

5 What is one special quality you have? This special quality or treasure is always in you. Write about it in your journal and draw the treasure.

Self-discovery exercise

Movement, drawing and symbol stories

Suitable for children 7 years through to adults First stage: Movement

1 Stand up. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax on the out breath.

2 Imagine you had a paintbrush attached to each wrist, elbow, big toe and ankle. Start making movements in the air as if you were painting circles, squares and triangles. Try making all those shapes.

3 Imagine which colour goes with the left elbow, right elbow etc. (Pause between suggesting each body part.) Second stage: Drawing Have a large sheet of butcher’s paper and thick jumbo crayons.

4 Choose a crayon you like the look of then take it in your hand.

5 Make contact with the paper.

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Sandplay and Symbol Work

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Close your eyes and imagine that your hand is free, alive, energised – perhaps like a sports car on an open stretch of beach or an eagle soaring.

7 You are aware inside your hand. Start letting it roam, moving freely – bending, twisting, rushing, zooming – so that it is drawing freely on the paper. The client chooses a second and then a third colour, repeating the free drawing.

8 Keep drawing until you feel like the energy in your arm has completed its creation.

9 Looking at the ‘pathways’ that have been created, see if there are any other lines or images you wish to draw onto the paper now, or areas you would like to shade in. Third stage: Self-discovery and symbol work

10 Look at what you have created.

Are there any pictures that you have created without realising it?

Does it mean anything to you?

How does it make you feel when you examine the drawing?

11 Select some symbols from the sandplay shelves that seem to belong in your drawing. See if the symbols would like to select you. Arrange them on or around

the drawing.

Is there a story that goes with these symbols? You could tell it now.

Does each one have its own story, or do they make up a story together?

What would each symbol like to say?

If you were in this story somewhere, where would you be?

Is there anything in your life like this?

12 Integrate through discussing:

• how it felt doing the movement work

• how it felt doing the drawing

• what each colour feels like

• memories that go with the pathways

• the symbols chosen and their stories.

13 Write down any important insights.

14 Help the client plan any strategies for new directions or activities that have emerged out of the discussion.

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Chapter 5
Chapter
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Expressive support processes

It is impossible to live life at the highest level unless you get rid of your negativity, your unfinished business.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, The Wheel of Life, Bantam, 1997

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I n the ERC approach to emotional healing and personal development

expressive therapies are offered to clients to support the release of unfin-

ished business. There is quite a range of expressive processes used as an

adjunct to sandplay and symbol work, both to enhance energy activation and symbolic expression and to facilitate resolution and integration. Expressive methods are ideal with voluntary clients, where trust and involvement have been developed. Inviting the body to express the feelings and integrating this with the mind leads to resolution and long-term emo- tional healing. Physical and emotional release also clears the way for creative problem-solving and a reduction in emotional reactivity in relationships. This chapter outlines some ways of using bioenergetics, energy release games, artwork and drawing, and briefly outlines exploration with other media.

Bioenergetics

When using bioenergetics for emotional release, the client should not focus on a particular individual or situation. The primary aim of these exercises is to tap into body energy that has been diverted or is stuck. Accessing that energy and restoring its flow is the goal.

Basic bioenergetic exercises

Suitable for children 9 years through to adults Begin with a warm-up, then select three or more exercises to precede sandplay or symbol work. It is important that you acknowledge and accept any resistance or embarrassment and invite the client to talk about this the first time they do these exercises. Clients should not do any exercises or assume postures that are painful, or require endurance. Practise the exercises and model them enthusiastically.

Warm-up

Stretch, take full breaths, and shake your body. Make some loud sounds such as sighing, groaning, growling.

Bound and free

Standing, cross arms and legs and hold everything tight. Then release all at once and run on the spot, shaking any tightness out of the limbs and making sounds. Repeat this several times.

Freeing the face

1 Close eyes tightly, suck in a deep breath, hold for a moment, then release and open face, open eyes.

2 Open eyes wide. While leaving the head still, make large circular movements with the eyeballs.

The arch

Place feet about 30 cm apart, bend the knees, and rest hands lightly on the lower back. Gently lean back until your eyes are facing towards the ceiling. Do not let the head fall back. Breathe deeply. Hold this for a minute, then release and go floppy. Repeat.

Kicking

Kick a cushion around the room finding some power sounds that go with the kicks. Alternate legs.

How strong is the wall?

Press with flat palms against a strong wall. Gradually engage your ankles, legs, lower back, shoulders, arms, hands, then the whole body. Keep the breathing full and free. Then relax for a moment and repeat three times.

The walk

Walk in a large circle around the room, allowing your hips to be free. Exaggerate this movement for a while then move into walking with strength.

Stillness

Lie on the carpeted floor for a few minutes keeping as still as possible. Direct the awareness within. How does it feel inside now?

Bioenergetic exercise

Brief head-to-toe sequence

This exercise aims to give permission, rehearse making sounds and movements and free up armouring in order to feel more easily. Suitable for children 7 years through to adults

1 Warm up by running on the spot, then shaking the whole body.

2 Alternate imitations of crying then laughing.

3 Make horrible exaggerated faces.

4 Stretch arms and hands wide open and back taking in big breaths:

hold tense for a moment

release and exhale with a groan.

5 Face the wall, tighten fists, start stamping and growling. Add the words ‘I won’t!’

6 Have a tug-of-war with a folded towel with the counsellor. (The rule is that you must not let go.) Alternate saying to each other ‘Yes!’ then ‘No!’

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7 Jump around the room – like a kangaroo.

8 Lie or sit down.