Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Relational Sandplay Therapy and Preverbal Trauma

Ring: Previous | Next

Relational Sandplay Therapy is an advanced, post-Kalffian[1] theory for working with preverbal trauma. This kind of trauma is usually due to early maternal deprivation, and is also called early relational trauma.

Kalsched (1996, p. 1) defines this kind of trauma as

"any experience that causes the child unbearable psychic pain or anxiety. Trauma of this magnitude varies from the acute, shattering experiences of child abuse to the more ‘cumulative traumas’ of unmet dependency needs that mount up to devastating effect in some children’s development (Khan, 1963), including the more acute deprivations of infancy described by Winnicott as ‘primitive agonies,’ the experience of which is ‘unthinkable’ (1963:90). The distinguishing feature of such trauma is what Heinz Kohut (1977: 104) called ‘disintegration anxiety,’ an unnameable dread associated with the threatened dissolution of a coherent self."

Early relational trauma may be the result of abuse, neglect or a consistent lack of attunement between infant and early caregiver.

Many believe that preverbal trauma may make itself known most immediately through  emotional and bodily resonance with another person (Dahlenberg, 2000). In other words, the therapist may actually have difficult countertransference experiences that indicate the unconscious communication of preverbal trauma. These kinds of experience, to be discussed further, are likely to happen in what I refer to as Field One or Field Two.


Dalenberg, C. (2000).  Countertransference and the treatment of trauma.  Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association.

Kalsched, D. (1996). The inner world of trauma: Archetypal defenses of the personal spirit. London: Routledge.

[1] “Kalffian” refers to “sandplay” as created by Dora Kalff, as opposed to the more generic term “sandtray,” which includes a variety of other approaches and techniques.

Ring: Previous | Next

Please visit www.SandplayTrainingWorldwide.com for full current information and to register for training.

Thank you for visiting Relational Sandplay Therapy

No comments:

Post a Comment