In today’s lesson, we’re going to take a short clip from Part 1 of my counseling session with Debbie and explain the humanistic approach to bridge the transition from scene creation to processing.

In the humanistic approach, it is usually best to start out with a focus on experience rather than content.

I typically ask, “What is it like to create this scene?”

This question gives the client a bridge between the creation of the tray and processing it and encourages the client to focus on his/her experience in the moment. It would be very easy to ask, “What was it like to create this scene?” but that question would leave the here and now and focus on the experience of a few minutes ago.

Another purpose of this question to open the processing phase is it allows to client to describe rather than analyze. A common mistake of therapists is to unintentionally put clients into their heads when they are trying to stay with an emotion.

My intention when I asked Debbie, “What is it like to create this scene?” was to begin with a focus on her experience. As you can tell by Debbie’s response, she focused on how it felt to create her scene rather than analyzing it. Many sandtray therapists do not begin the processing phase of the session this way. Instead, many therapists begin by focusing on the tray rather than the client but in humanistic sandtray therapy, the focus is on the experiencing of the client. Obviously, the scene in the tray is very important but when a client is feeling pain or another emotion in the moment, we suspend a focus on the tray until the emotion is processed. We want to be very attentive to the client’s nonverbal behavior because what the client is experiencing in the moment is our primary focus.

In the humanistic approach we stress working with clients in the moment. That may sound reasonable and you may even think that it is how most therapists work with clients. Trust me when I say it is not how most therapists work. Many therapists believe it is important but struggle to actually do it for any period of time in the session. Working with clients in the here and now takes commitment and practice.

In the above video, you’ll see me responding to Debbie’s here and now experience. If you have viewed Part 1 of the Counseling Session with Debbie, go ahead and view the video above and you’ll see me explain why I made the choices I did with Debbie at the beginning of her sandtray processing.

I hope you enjoy the video and see the importance of responding to her feelings in the moment.

I’ll be walking through the importance of ‘Body awareness’ in tomorrow’s lesson.

Talk to you soon,


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