I’d love to share with you a therapeutic experience I had last week. I met up with another local therapist to learn more about her therapeutic modality, Sandplay Therapy. The concept of Sandplay Therapy wasn’t completely foreign to me. I had worked with a few different therapists at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, who utilized miniature figurines without the official sand component and yet, despite working alongside these colleagues, I don’t know if I ever really “got it” until I experienced it with Sharon last week. Sharon FitzGerald, MA, ATR is an art therapist registered and works out of Coconut Grove, Florida. Her warm demeanor and fun office instantly put me at ease the moment I arrived. I wasn’t there for full-on therapy, but rather half-experiential, half-professional discussion on the Sandplay Therapy modality as a therapeutic tool. After allowing me to just run my fingers through the sand . . . which was exactly what I wanted to do immediately . . . I chose to play with the dry sand box, but there was a wet one too, as an additional option! Sharon then invited me to peruse her extensive bookshelves of “miniatures” giving myself permission to put in a basket any that I was drawn to . . . even if I didn’t know why. Now, if I had really let myself go, I would have spent a lot more time with the miniatures . . . there were so many interesting options. However, because this was technically a professional visit and not free therapy, I intentionally held back and made a mental note of the miniatures that I DIDN’T ALLOW myself to pick, as much as noting the ones that I did allow myself to pick. An awareness around what you omit can be so informative.
The next step was to arrange the miniatures in the sand box any way I wanted, also considering the sand as a tool and symbol as needed. After I was done, Sharon invited me to discuss what I noticed or experienced around this activity. She then discussed how she would invite to me to pay attention to my dreams for any of these images or symbols, in case they appeared. She noted that in working with a client, she would keep an eye out for repetitive themes through the course of multiple sand tray configurations over time. I’ve always been fascinated with the world of metaphors, symbols and Jungian archetypes, and so this experience was intellectually interesting, but also personally meaningful, even though I held back a bit for the sake of time and appropriateness for this visit’s intention.
I wanted to share this experience with you for a handful of reasons:
— Sharon is awesome and you need to know about her, if you’re in the area! She is not only currently taking new clients, but she can also do adjunctive work with other therapists, who need collaborative support in shaking things up with a client. Mental note for you therapists!
— If you’ve followed me for very long, you know I have an appreciation for getting outside of our comfort zone. It creates growth and helps us gain new understandings about ourselves. For me, dipping my own toe into Sandplay Therapy was definitely a step outside that comfort zone, but so worth it! (AKA: practice what you preach)
— I was really struck by how Sandplay Therapy is both soothing and allows for opening a door about challenging topics or themes. In that sense it fits so well with my own slant toward somatic work, which utilizes the body as information and a resource. I found using my hands and my tactile sense was a way of calming my nervous system while approaching themes that might rev up my adrenaline.
— Who really knew about Sandplay Therapy and all of its offerings? I sure didn’t appreciate it in the fullest sense before this appointment and so if you’re interested in learning more, here’s a great little video from one of Sharon’s colleagues, Patricia Dunn-Fierstein, LCSW, CST-T out of Tampa, Florida explaining more.
— Despite the obvious idea that Sandplay is great therapeutic work with children, I’m all about creative avenues for adults that get us out of our analytical, logical mind and tap into our emotional creative mind. So, I personally, wouldn’t reserve this modality for children and adolescents only. Fortunately for our South Florida community, Sharon works with all age groups.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Were you familiar with Sandplay Therapy? Is your interest peaked? What about it appeals to you? Do you think it would be a tangible avenue for talking about difficult things?