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In my blog last week I started describing my experience at a workshop on using sandplay in therapy. A workshop that emphasised the experiential can be powerful on many levels, and last week I hopefully got across how inspired the workshop has left me to use this creative process more often in my therapy and also, how it touched me deeply. It felt like a timely reminder of some of my experiences on retreat, reminding me of what I ‘know’ deep within but needed reminding of.

Day 2 of the workshop was equally profound: we created another 2 trays. We also discussed some of the theory behind the sandplay process, considering as to why it might take clients deeper than conventional talking therapies.

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sandtray roomLast weekend I attended a workshop on sandplay therapy run by the Association of Integrative Sandplay Therapists. Sandplay, which can be used in therapy with children and adults alike, is a process self discovery using a sand tray, small objects and play figures. Originally created by psychiatrist Margaret Lowenfield and later developed by Carl Jung and jungian analyst Dora Kalff, the sandplay method is said to “release blocked psychological energies transforming restrictive narrow world views and opening up creative capacities.” In my case, this certainly seems to be true! It felt like a perfect weekend to aid my transition back to ‘normal’ life post-retreat; a chance to re-connect back inwardly and re-remember many of the experiences on my retreat.

The weekend was mainly experiential: we created four different trays, a mix of ‘directed’ (we were given a question to work with) and ‘non-directed’ trays (no instruction given). Through this, group processing and discussion of the symbols emerging in the trays, our facilitator helped us understand the map of the psyche that sandplay work can bring forward and how this can be integrated in to our normal mode of ‘talking therapy’. I have used sandplay work a little before - indeed I have a sandtray and sets of figures in my therapy room - and this weekend was intended to get me using this creative mode of therapy more. As a Gestalt psychotherapist I am familiar with working creatively: sandplay work has much in common with the Gestalt ‘experiment’. This weekend also took my interest in Carl Jung’s approach deeper, and it was again reassuring to see the overlap in his ideas with those found at the very heart of Gestalt.

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emptinessI’ve been home nearly two weeks now, and I’m not sure if am any clearer as to what I have, might have, or have not been through. In some ways, how I feel now is reminiscent of how I felt before going away; and indeed have been feeling for maybe a couple of years. I notice a part of me that doesn’t feel I’ve been away at all. “Dathun? What dathun?” My spiritual friend reassures me “You will not nor can you ‘forget’ your dathun experience. It’s seeped into your DNA and you will never be the same again. Ever” So maybe its some kind of denial?

I went for a walk on the Downs with a good friend and therapist colleague yesterday. He asked me “what is the purpose of the denial? What is it trying to obscure?” (You have to love therapist friends). If something is being obscured, it is so by a veil, a cloak of emptiness. I feel deadened and quite melancholic. But like I said in my reply to my friend, I don’t know if emptiness is the obscurer, or if emptiness is the feeling I am trying to avoid.

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