Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1

by Amanda Johnson
(Sand Tray Therapy Class Student)

Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1: Hello Kitty

Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1: Hello Kitty

Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1: Hello Kitty Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1: Bonsai Tree Sand Tray Therapy Final Exam -Amanda Part 1: Whale

The roots of my sand tray therapy theory started with the multicultural assignment in which I researched the Japanese culture. I chose three miniatures to represent various aspects of the culture. The miniatures are the bonsai tree, Hello Kitty, and a whale. These three miniatures and what they represent are the tenets of my sand tray theory. The bonsai tree represents relaxation, stress reduction, and coping skills. The Hello Kitty doll represents the inner child, a reminder to have fun in therapy, and the overall positively of sand tray therapy. The whale represents the controversial. It is a reminder that even though it can be uncomfortable at times to go to those dark places, it is necessary to grow. The whale is also a reminder that even something that may seem to be all bad, can have something good come of it. These are all important to the population I wish to target: sexually abused children.
I counsel sexually abused children every day. Most of the children I work with are just three to six years old. My clients are usually nervous when they first start coming to therapy. This is where the Hello Kitty tenet would come in. For the first few sessions in which rapport building is done and other topics are introduced, it is important to just play with the child and get to know the child. There is no better way to get to know a child than to play with him or her. The introduction of feelings can be introduced during the Hello Kitty tenet. As therapy progresses the next tenet comes into play. This would be the bonsai tree. After the client feels more comfortable with therapy, has built rapport with the therapist, and has mastered the identification of feelings; it is then time to introduce coping skills.
Children who have been sexually abused display an array of symptoms. Most of the children I see are anxious, angry (which results in behavior problems), and have low self-esteem. Like caring for the bonsai tree can bring peace to someone, so do the coping skills learned in this phase. Once the child has mastered identifying emotions, the client and counselor can then explore coping skills to help the client cope after becoming upset. Some of the techniques used in this stage of therapy are breathing techniques and other stress reduction techniques.
If a child is experiencing anger management problems there can also be calming techniques used for this as well. Usually the anger problems arise as behavior problems at school or home. First consistent non-corporal punishment at home is stressed to the parents. Non-corporal punishment is recommended because children who have been sexually abused have had their actions coerced by physical manipulation. I also recommend that they parents recognize and acknowledge that the child is angry; sometimes just validating the child’s feelings can help. Other techniques include letting a child rip up an old phone book or pulling apart a scrunched up frozen wash cloth.
The Bonsai tree is also symbolic in that it is an on going project that requires a lot of time and patience. The road to recovery for sexually abused clients can be long and arduous. It takes a lot of patience and work on themselves, just like caring for the bonsai tree. The bonsai tree also has symbolic meaning to the counselor treating sexually abused clientele. It represents the self-care required to stay healthy while working with this population. It can be so easy to burn out in the counseling profession and especially working with this population. As the therapy process goes on, the client begins to feel better about themselves and all they have accomplish since coming to counseling. I also like to work on self-esteem by playing various games and completing activities. This is where the bonsai and Hello Kitty combine.
The whale represents the controversial. Whales have a rich history in Japan. They were a means of survival for the Japanese. They utilized every part of the whale. Some rural villages built shrines to the whale and worshipped them. Over time other countries led by America found the practice of killing whales to be unethical and intervened with international laws to deter this practice. This is still an ongoing battle and controversial practice in Japan today. I chose this miniature because I believe a lot of what we do as therapists is to bring the dark to light. This means not shying away from the controversial or uncomfortable subjects. It can be easy to let the client shy away from the difficult because it is uncomfortable for us to too. But the whale reminds me that this is necessary. We may want to avoid it but that does not change that it happened. In working with this population it can be especially tempting to let the client slide and avoid talking about the abuse even after it is apparent that they have learned the tools through therapy to cope with the emotions that may come up.

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