Working with Clay

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Working with Clay

I have recently re-introduced clay into my therapy room. On reflection,I realise that I am not sure why it has been absent for so long, but I am glad that it is back in my room and being used by several clients.  Working with clay provides the opportunity for much therapeutic work as it provides a depth of tactile experience which can facilitate exploration through both form and process. By this I mean it is the doing and the working with clay as a material as much as what is created that provides a rich base for therapeutic growth and exploration.

One client  Ben, aged 61 who came to see struggled with anxiety and depression. He worked with clay over several sessions.  Ben struggled to express himself verbally and he found working with clay was a calming process. It provided the opportunity for him to benefit from the process, but  the objects he shaped provided Ben with the opportunity for further exploration of feelings and memories.

Working with clay has been known to humans since ancient times, clay figures and ancient artifacts are examples of this. In addition to its functional use,  clay has been used throughout history by many cultures as a tool to communicate and  to express a religious or spiritual element. Anthropologists speculate that symbolic forms shaped in clay had magical and ritual meanings (Raphael, 1947)

Clay can be a very powerful material to work with for many reasons , for example;

“The opportunity to make a concrete thing out of the piece of clay, which is a symbol and a metaphor of one’s inner world, is immanent to the therapeutic process. It is an alchemy-like process: transforming the pain into meaningful expression. The unformed chunk of clay and the new clay sculpture itself can be manipulated and changed during the therapeutic process ” (p.67. Sholt & Gavron, 2006).

I found this video called Work with Clay  in Art Therapy  interesting as it shows how clay can be beneficial in a therapeutic setting.

There is an additional benefit to using clay (I use an air dry clay) as opposed to using play dough, in that the object made can be dried and kept. It provides a concrete visual representation for the client in a form that is concrete and tangible.

 

References

MichalSholt, and Tami Gavron, (2006) Therapeutic Qualities of Clay-work in Art Therapy and Psychotherapy: A Review, in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 23(2) pp. 66-72 © AATA, Inc. 2006

Available online here 

Raphael, M. (1947). Prehistoric pottery and civilization in Egypt. New York: Pantheon/Bollingen Series.

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