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Clay is vastly used in group counselling, in both art and psychotherapy. It’s a very strategic technique that can be utilized to get into the heart and soul of our human, emotional life. As human beings, most of the time, it is rather hard to get hold of an emotion; accept and accommodate it ; and even understand and perceive the whole of it. Therefore, the use of clay as a medium that can channel notions, feelings and or apprehensions ; from a fantasy land, the past, or the inner-self is brilliant as it is a body which can represent real life objects closely. Their qualities of colour, height, width, length, weight, depth and texture allows it to be touched, shaped, moved, moulded and extra. Hence, it makes the intangible, touchable or more precisely addressable.
Clay therapy is associated with counselling by allowing the client(s) to engage with clay freely, having them “make something” out of it, and later on share their thoughts on their innovation among the group members of the counselling session. This therapy mainly focuses on giving client(s) the empowerment to describe any and every non-verbal modes of expression via a flexible object. Clay, in this context also functions as a method of communication between the counsellor and client(s) as it allows the counsellor to slowly unfold the procedural, non-verbal representations; especially when it involves clients who have a hard time expressing verbally; and is specifically great to be practiced among children, adolescents and male adults. Not only that, clay therapy also functions as a window to unconscious conception in one’s self as it allows client(s) to view matters that can’t be comprehended ; clearly ; in a secret, therapeutically silent method as it penetrates one’s mind and allows an emotional release.
The touching and engagement with the fundamentally real, concrete, earthly-based substance of clay has the ultimate potential to ground client(s) in the moment; in the here and now. The adaptability of clay, on the other hand, allows the client(s) to experience disconnection from the self, the body and the outside world as it exposes the client(s) to face the constructive and destructive features of the self, via a substance which is equally constructible and destructible. As such, the product created would reveal the emotional roots and ambiguously fabricate the contents of one’s mind. In addition to that, the sense of creating an object based on an image in mind, is powerful and is known to have a healing effect as it facilitates coping with deep pain or other troubling and or pressing issues ; because clay acts as an intermediate between client(s) and their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. For instance, the act of impaling, hurling, smashing are examples of expressions in which could be denoted for the possibility of the client(s) experiencing suppressed anger, disappointment and or frustration.
As expressed by Henley (2002), clay therapy nurtures and prompts the senses, therefore in such terms, not only does the clay act as an instrument which amplifies the client’s awareness but also strongly develops the interpersonal development of the individual as they begin to gradually recognize and acknowledge their rhythms and competence, thus leading them towards the road of recovery. This is specifically due to the clay manipulation which stimulates hand dexterity that somehow helps alleviate psychological, physical, neurological, and cognitive impairments.
This reality-centred therapy which is intensely related to gestalt therapy is widely used in counselling under the technique which is known as the Gestalt Play Therapy. According to Blom (2004), Gestalt therapy can be considered an existential, sentient and whole technique which aims to intensify an individual’s self-awareness and perception of the moment, especially in terms of their correlation with their environment. The “here-and-now” reflects the whole person at any given moment. Schoeman (2004) stated that normal behaviour eventuates when people act and react as total organisms. This improves orgasmic self-regulation in that people become aware of choices they can make in respect of their behaviour and they can thus define the significance of their life (Blom, 2004), as such the reality-centred material used clay further solidifies the person’s confidence, ego and strength. The self-expression of the client via the mouldable substance exhibits greater levels of feedback and growth compared to other art therapy based activities, such as dancing, painting or singing.
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