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A READER'S JOURNAL, Volume 1 Sand Play
by
Dora Kalff
A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche

Published by Sigo Press in 1980
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002

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The author reminds me of the famous hypnotherapist Milton Erickson as she describes the various interventions she uses to cure a variety of problems: from anxiety to bed-wetting to inability to read. Working with youngsters from 4 through 18 she uses sand play as a main course but all her other resources for the other courses. [Below is a sandplay designed by a normal twelve-year-old girl.] The piano for one client, reading stories for another, a job at the zoo for another, and one by one they come to the sand box to integrate their life experiences under the caring eye of Mrs. Kalff. Like Erickson and other super-competent practitioners Kalff leaves out more than she says about the process which the client undergoes. Sometimes she leaves us to wonder if the sandbox is a magic box which if we but put one in front of our clients they will get well. It was said of Erickson that if one asked him how he did what he did, it was like asking a world famous chef how he baked a cake. Sandplay Box built by Stephen Matherne, Sandplay by Amanda, Photo Copyright 2002 Bobby MatherneThe difference was, with Erickson, you were the cake. Such would be the case with Dora Kalff I suspect. The book is useful for understanding the power of sand play in the hands of a professional. For understanding how to go about it in a practical way, however, it would be useless.

Like most techniques in depth psychology the "essential thing is invisible to the eye" as the fox told us in The Little Prince. What is essential is not the techniques used, but the understanding and wisdom of the practitioner. Sand play is not a pop psychology technique which can be taught in a weekend seminar, but is rather like a scalpel, which in the hands of a skilled surgeon, can reach in and excise lesions of pathology in the midst of healthy tissue and return the client to society as a happy and productive citizen.

[Note: instructions for building a sandplay box can be found in my Images of Self review.]



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