About this course
In level 2 we look at how Sandtray is able to work with the whole brain, allowing for the right and the left connection to talk to each other in a Polarity of Balance.
Sandtray engages pre-verbal mental activities by relaxing the left brain, so that the right brain image forming mind has the opportunity to open and express.
We often become excited about the possibility of Sandtray Therapy being able to help everyone, no matter the issue. So has does that look when an adult has suffered pre-verbal abuse and has no ability to verbalise nor recollect their experience using their logical left brain thinking.
You have a client, he has been seeing you on a regular basis for over 2 years now. He prefers talk therapy, you'd like him to get into the sand and experience a more wholistic way of healing. Here's what can happen when you are confronted with a client with pre-verbal trauma.
Your client doesn't mind the sand, says its soothing, but when you invite him or her to create a sand world using the sandtray miniatures, he or she says no there's nothing jumping out at me. You try again the next week and the next. Finally a year has gone by of regular psychotherapeutic sessions and nothing has gone into the sand, only the hands of the client.
Have you failed as a therapist? Did you miss something in your lesson? No, what you are now experiencing with your client is a pre-verbal trauma. Once you get to know your clients story you will have a better idea of where and when the trauma occurred. In some cases you may never know, because your client may have lost contact with family or they their stories may have been taken to the grave.
When we think of pre-verbal trauma you should not limit your thinking to 0 - 1, consider that your client's trauma may be even earlier. A woman who was raped, for example may pass on her feelings of being unwanted to her growing baby. Perhaps the women was not planning a child and the pregnancy was an inconvenience. As you get to know your client you will get the bigger picture of their early life and environment.
Although your client may not place any miniatures into the sand, never underestimate the power you give your client by being the trusted and significant other, who is unconditionally present. The sand tray is the boundary in which they can explore their early traumas. This sensory form of expression will allow the sand player to live their experiences, including a felt sense (abandonment) within the their body which can influence everyday emotional states or ways of being.
Sandtray helps clients towards living a Mindful state of awareness. Even if they are not able to express their trauma verbally, they can re-live this through bodily sensations non verbally. Remember Margaret Lowenfeld used this method for children suffering intergeneration trauma. There were unable to express verbally why the felt and thought and acted they way they did. Instead they brought balance into their neurobiology by expressing through sand worlds.
The mother child unity of bonding is great, a mother and child will share heart resonance, their hearts will beat together as one. It is important to remember here that if your client is a mother who rejected her child, you may be looking at intergenerational trauma. Listen to her story and never judge.
Sandtray is able to work with the whole brain, allowing for the right and the left to talk to each other, which brings about a Polarity of Balance.
Eye contact, smiling faces, coos and warms loving hugs, these are all the actions that a healthy mother child or parent child attachment consist of. The other however is where significant issues occur and can lead to complex trauma for the growing child.
We remember the Romanian orphan babies who were given all the basic needs, shelter, warmth, food. They were cleaned, swaddled but they were not loved. By loved I mean there was minimal eye contact, there was no one on one where the carers held them, caressed them and looked into their eyes and cooed or sang lullaby's.
We know from the research that these babies did not live long enough to reach ages where they could exhibit developmental delay, they died of lack of love and nurturing.
Attachment bonds can be formed during psychotherapy and an adult that did not experience healthy attachment bonds with his or her parents can establish bonds in psychotherapy. It is of course important that the psychotherapist is aware of this attachment forming and feels comfortable as significant other and practices good boundary setting.
During Sandtray Therapy a client becomes a healthy functioning human because of the new building of attachment bonds within the context of this vital relationship with the therapist. However in therapy both client and therapist bring their own unique set of understanding of the world. A Sandtray Therapist must have an even greater and wider perspective in order to hold that of their client and allow their clients to facilitate their process of the "relational unconscious".
Bessel Van der Kolk says of this relationship where two minds are integrated in a shared state of Mindfulness as a limbic to limbic sharing. These are the extents to which a good healthy psychological state can be attained in Sandtray Therapy, with a knowing conscious therapist who can consciously take on the role of significant other.