After months of being shut-in, sheltered-at-home, sitting still...things are starting to move.
States are opening back up. (With restrictions) people are now being allowed to eat at restaurants, peruse TJ Maxx for non-essential items, get their hair cut, and I even heard a rumor that movie theaters were re-opening soon!
....so what now?
As we inch slowly toward normalcy, what does this look like for your therapy practice?
When is it safe to practice sandtray again in a post-quarantine world?
We have developed some guidelines to help you navigate, so that when you decide it's time to get your clients back in the tray, you can do so with confidence!
1. Know Thyself. If you are uncomfortable with re-integrating sandtray, or having second thoughts about safety, chances are, you're probably not ready. And that's 100% OK. Only YOU can determine the best, and safest, practice measures, considering factors such as the population you treat, your geographic location, your state's rules and regs, and the exposure risk of your clients, colleagues, and yourself. Here in Arkansas, we have been extremely fortunate that COVID hasn't completely hindered our ability to have in-person sessions, but in many other areas in the US and abroad, this is not the case. Best practice is to work at the pace you are comfortable with, and can ensure the safest and most therapeutic experience for your clients.
2: Avoid Comparison. There is a lot of information out there, and a ton of practitioners posting on social media about their experiences and opinions regarding re-integrating face-to-face sessions and incorporating sandtray. While discussions about these topics are great, it's important to remember that every clinician is speaking from their own experience, through the lens of their own environment. Someone in Georgia is unable to know how COVID has impacted clients and practitioners in Northern California. Similarly, practice will be wildly different in New York City than it would be for us here in rural Arkansas. A therapist or client's age, medical history, or current employment environment/exposure risk may also factor into decision making. That being said, refer to #1 and move at the pace you are comfortable with, and avoid comparing your practice situation with what you see others are doing. This is not a race, but a slow crawl back to normalcy.
3. Purge the Germs. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it's still important information to consider! If you're thinking about re-integrating sandtray into your practice, it's going to be important to have a plan in place for how you will maintain a clean and sterile environment. Perhaps increase in hand-washing/sanitizing before and after the session? Will you both wear masks or gloves? How often will you sanitize your sand? Will you schedule fewer sessions per day with more time in between sessions to allow for extra cleaning and sanitizing, and to limit client exposure? Some of our therapists are using smaller trays, using cheaper quality sand (so that it can be disposed of, if necessary), limiting the number of miniatures available for use (to make it easier to sanitize), and significantly reducing the number of sandtray sessions available per day. We've even seen some really cool UV-C sanitizing lights that could be handy in-between sessions! Scroll to the "treats" section for more tips on disinfecting and sanitizing your workspace!
4. Manage Expectations. If you've been keeping up with the Ally, you know that there's a ton of neuroscience behind the "pandemic brain-drain", as we have so affectionately coined our current state of being. We KNOW that we are not currently operating at our max-potential, and may be unable to provide the same quantity and quality of therapeutic care that once seemed effortless (or, at least easier than it is now). That being said, it's OK to schedule fewer sessions per day, or schedule more time in between sessions to give your brain a break. You may not be able to jump right back in to the back-to-back, all-day practice that was the pre-COVID norm... Now, we understand that if you're in agency work, or have expectations and productivity to make, that this may not be possible...so for you, this may look like practicing self-compassion when you're feeling tired or not able to give 110% in every session of your 8+ hour day. We see you, and we see that you're doing your absolute best for your clients during these times. And it's ok if 3 out of 7 no-show...maybe you needed that time to yourself or your family, and maybe they needed it too...managing expectations is VITAL in the ~new-normal~, because things are just going to be different for awhile, and that's ok.
5. Give Yourself some Grace. That's it. Be gentle with yourself during these uncertain times. During days when you feel like you could have shown up "better" or differently, or when you could have scheduled more sessions but chose to take a walk or a nap or play with your children/pets/partner, when you chose your own well-being over productivity, when you said the wrong thing in a session because you were foggy and stressed and worried about your own circumstances instead of being fully present. When you are doing the best and the most that you can to keep the clients you love afloat, while also trying to keep your own life intact. Give yourself some grace. Talk to yourself like you would have your client talk to themselves. Remember Maslow? This is a great reminder of where we are at, collectively (thanks for this graphic).
All of these minis were selected by different members of the Southern Sandtray team, as representative of aspects of the pandemic and current state of our lives as we experience this thing together. Instead of us naming and explaining, I challenge you to explore the powerful symbolism of these miniatures, what feelings these bring up for you, and how they might be utilized in your clients' trays in the weeks, months, and even years to come.
With thoughts about moving forward and the possibility of re-integrating sandtray therapy into your face-to-face practice, we thought it would be helpful to provide some resources for cleaning and sanitizing your sand and space! Check 'em out below!
Jurassic Sand's 3 Part Series on how to properly clean and maintain your sand:
Til' next time, keep on keepin' on!
- The Southern Sandtray Team