Over the past several years, I’ve attended and taught several sandtray therapy workshops. I’ve learned many techniques, theories, and unique ways to conduct sandtray therapy. Most recently, I attended my second week long training of sandtray work with the sandtray therapy guru, Teresa Keatley, in New Mexico. Watching her in the therapist role was akin to watching painting come alive through an artist’s work. She made it look easy. But, we all know doing real work- hard work- in the sandtray (and therapy) is anything but.
The whole week was intense, heart-wrenching, and wonderful.
When one of my fellow attendees likened what she does to how an artist works, she said she was honored and touched. But, everything, every technique and nuance boils down to one simple fact- that she really has a true desire to know and understand the person through the sandtray process.
All of the past years of sandtray work seemed to be simplified into this simple and profound statement.
If we, as therapists, have a true desire to really SEE and UNDERSTAND the client’s world, most of the work is accomplished for us.
Since I’ve been keeping this idea of acting as a witness instead of being the interpreter, my sandtray sessions have been extremely powerful and rewarding. With this shift, I have gone from experiencing the performance anxiety of knowing to truly enjoying my sessions. My shift from the mindset of explaining to exploring has opened up new, exciting places with each client’s sandtray and has allowed me to really be present with each client.
With this holiday season coming fast upon us, I’m going to forgo discussing all the cool techniques learned in my training for this post (don’t worry they will be in another post). Instead, I want to really instill the importance of just listening, really listening to our clients.
We all have a story yearning to be told. Through sandtray, this story comes alive with all of our senses using words, feelings, and pictures.
My challenge to you- Next time you feel that you aren’t a good enough therapist or have those freak out moments of “Am I really even doing anything??” take a minute. Center yourself. Remember- observing and listening are the most basic and necessary therapy tools. Every client has the resources. We only have to act as a witness to the unfolding.