In Today’s Lesson:


References in this video: The 2-part counseling session with Debbie

Humanistic sandtray therapists work in the here and now and focus on the experience of clients in the moment. Clients experience emotion in their bodies so humanistic sandtray therapists pay close attention to breathing, tension, facial expressions, body language and movement and tone of voice. This lesson stresses the importance of therapists noticing all of these nonverbal means of communication.

For example, let us imagine that your client sighs as she is focusing on a certain miniature in her tray. Some therapists would keep the focus on the miniature and analyze the meaning of it but humanistic sandtray therapists shift the focus to what occurred in the moment: the sigh. I might say, “I noticed that you sighed just now.” Some clients sigh so often they don’t even notice when it occurs. Then for a short period of time, we would focus on the emotion that accompanies the sigh before returning to the tray. This back and forth movement from the clients’ experiencing to the tray is typical in humanistic sandtray.

Self-regulation is very important but many people in the western hemisphere no little about it. In the west, thinking reigns and problem solving trumps awareness but the humanistic approach counters this emphasis with a simple focus on awareness of in the moment experiencing. The goal is helping clients become more comfortable in their own skin. Much of the suffering that all of us experience in life is self-created. We think about certain things or imagine certain things and begin to experience an unpleasant mood such as anxiety or depression. The more we can become aware of how we are and how we regulate what goes on in our skin the more we will be able to choose something different.

Debbie does something in the segment that many of my clients have done over the years; she stops herself. Clients expend tremendous amounts of energy in sessions trying to stay in control. Everyone likes to feel in control but allowing oneself to experience an emotion when it surfaces has value. If clients are afraid of their emotions they will never be comfortable in their own skin.

If you have never been exposed to therapists who focus on clients’ bodies, you may want to watch this lesson more than once. I ask Debbie to notice her body and she struggles with doing that just like many clients do. Click the link below and you’ll see me explain why I asked Debbie to notice her breathing and tension in her body.

In a couple days, we will focus on the topic of when it is appropriate to touch clients. I hope you enjoy this lesson.

Talk to you soon.