中国心理分析与沙盘游戏大会

Five Elements Model Applied Research in Sandplay  Therapy

Five Elements Model Applied Research in Sandplay Therapy


Abstract


Sandplay therapy is currently one of the major techniques in psychological therapies for children around the world. However, there is still room for improvement in the research of sandplay therapy so far. Firstly, most of the studies focus mainly on the presentation and therapeutic effects of cases without sufficient and systematic analysis of the development phases in the therapeutic process, which is yet to be generalized through modeling. Secondly, based on such a model of development in the treatment process, a full-perspective therapeutic strategy needs to be developed, in order to identify the key points in each stage of treatment and clarify the work for each therapy meeting.


This paper discusses the application of a five-element model to the process of sandplay therapy, aiming to provide clear and practical guidance to actual therapeutic practice, including both the process of treatment and the focus of each session. The five-element model helps to classify the numerous and complex sandplay symbols into five basic categories; moreover, it applies the five-element principle of inter-generation and inter-restriction to relationships of symbols as well as changes in the relationship of transference and countertransference between therapeutic phases. In this way, the model develops an overall treatment strategy for relational balance and containment, enabling therapists to grasp the focus of work within each stage of treatment, which is valuable in practical terms.


Sandplay therapy has its major theoretical roots in Jungian psychology and Chinese culture. This paper starts with a summary of three major psychological models from Jungian analytical psychology. Then it expands these models with the five elements by symbolic classification, which leads to a five-element model for sandplay therapy. In this study of the five-element model, hypothesis testing is conducted among nine clinical cases. It is found that the psychological diseases of the clients are closely related with the imbalance of their five-element energy; besides, at the stage of transformation, a better effect can be achieved when treatment methods with certain five-element attributes are adopted to solve the imbalance related to the diseases. Thereby, the five-element balancing model may help to set psychotherapy free from relying on any single sandplay therapist or method, and open the door to all therapeutic methods.


As emphasized by Dora Kalff, the principle of the five elements plays a key role in the understanding of sandplay therapy. It mainly serves as a means of categorization and guidance on strategies for balance in relationships. Based on the 90 common themes in sandplay summarized by Cai Baohong, this study attempts to categorize the attributes of psychic energy in the 90 themes according to the traditional five-element theory. Thus, the unconscious contents of clients in the therapeutic process are categorized, as a reference for clinical workers to clarify the key points of each sandplay amid the changing process of the five-element relationship.


Furthermore, the thesis also enriches the variety of therapeutic strategies. When in a single session of sandplay the psychic energy of a client (the attribute of a certain element) shows to be too unbalanced to adjust by itself, a therapist can apply the balancing principle of the five elements to stimulate the restoring of the natural dynamic balance of the client’s psychic energy, by employing a supplementing method (if the element is too weak) or a venting method (if it is too strong). Therefore, the therapist can minimize the intervention of the conscious mind and let nature take its course.


In terms of the theoretical value of the five-element model, on one hand it expands the Jungian psychological models on therapeutic processes by adding the five-element symbolic perspective to the analysis of clients’ unconscious projections, which enables therapists to simplify the diverse and intricate images from a macro perspective; on the other hand, the model helps therapists to address a specific imbalance of psychic energy with multiple therapeutic strategies, according to the balancing principle of the five elements. Take a sandtray with the element of metal too strong for example. In a direct manner, one can use a water strategy to leak metal (as water is son of metal), or a fire strategy to conquer it (as fire is enemy of metal); while indirectly one can also reinforce wood (thus strengthening fire--son of wood--to conquer metal) or reduce earth (thus weakening metal, son of earth). Thereby, this model is also an expansion of the earlier three major models of Jungian psychology, where the therapeutic strategies are relatively simple.


There are good and broad prospects for the application of the five-element model in sandplay therapy. On one hand, the model can help guardians of children clients to gain effective advice on adjustment strategy in both family and school environments, thus reinforcing therapeutic alliances. On the other hand, therapists can develop versatile therapeutic strategies and methods to improve therapy efficiency according to their own five-element attributes as well as those of their clients.


Key Words: Sandplay; Five Elements Model; Therapeutic Process