DEVELOPMENT OF SANDPLAY IN LATVIA
Sandplay therapy entered Latvia via various ways. But here the most important contribution in the development of the play is given by psychotherapist Linde von Keyserlingh, the German family and sandplay psychotherapist whose roots lie in Courland.
The Keyserlingh’s family lived in Dižlāņi Manor house, Vecpilsup until 1939. After the restoration of Latvia’s independence, Linde von Keyserlingh started to organize education and support projects in Latvia in order to assist to her ancestral homeland with her knowledge and experience in the process of renewal. Linde has a vast treasure to share: in the 70s she studied humanistic psychology and family therapy with Virginia Satir; following that she undertook a course of training at the Art Therapy Centre and at C.G.Jung Institute (Switzerland) - The Dreamwork (James Hillman) and The Sand Play Therapy (Dora Kalff). Between 1979 and 1997 she worked as a family and couple therapist at the Psychotherapy Centre, Stuttgart and at the same time she continued studies with Dora Kalff and incorporated sandplay in her work.
Linde von Keyserlingh is a licensed trainer – a family and systemic psychotherapist (European Certificate of Psychotherapy - ECP) and a licensed trainer – a sand play therapist with an ISST (International Society for Sandplay Therapy) certificate and Chair of the German Society for Sandplay Therapy. She runs her private practice and carries out pedagogical work at various institutions in family therapy and sand play therapy.
In 1995, Linde von Keyserlingh, in partnership with Anita Plūme, manager of the Latvian Family Centre, entrusted Gatis Bušs with the task of organizing a group to train in systematic family therapy. As a result, 18 colleagues interested in the subject became Linde and her colleagues’ students. Linde raised the financial resources, created and conducted the education programme in cooperation with Osnabrűck University (Germany) and the University of Latvia. Linde used to say, “There are children in the family who do not speak but they speak through symbols.” The group was instructed in the technique of sandplay in order to apply this method in the course of their work with children. So, during many years of training, one day of seminar was devoted to sandplay. Sand image analysis took an important place in the family psychotherapist’s research papers and supervision. Thus, a number of the family therapists started incorporating sand play therapy practice into their work with families.
Simultaneously, from 1999 to 2003, Vera Batņa studied sandplay with Irish Jungian therapists June Atherton, Orla Crowly and Padraic Dolan at the International Sand Play Institute, St.Petersburg. Vera also started to apply sandplay therapy in her practice and popularize this method among other colleagues.
In the autumn of 2004 the Family Psychotherapists’ Society in Riga organized a conference on the technique of sandplay therapy and the interest among psychologists, physicians and social workers was surprisingly large; the hall of the University of Latvia was packed with conference participants. This was positive proof to Linde von Keyserlingh that it would be worth organising a separate sandplay therapy training course.
In 2005, Linde von Keyserlingh, in cooperation with the Association of Family Psychotherapy and its Chairman Sandis Dušelis, launched a training programme in sandplay therapy - Sandplay Pictorial Language. This consisted of a separate group of 10 family psychotherapists who had already been practising, and who needed a little bit of supervision and self-therapy. Under her own supervisory guidance, Linde entrusted the training of the new students’ groups: one to Vera Batņa, another to Iveta Pļaviņa and Gunta Jakovela, and the third group to Maija Biseniece and Zinta Biseniece. Several seminars were conducted by German guest lecturers – sandplay therapists invited by Linde: Monika Heinzel-Junger, Rasche Jorg, etc. In June 2007 the first training course of sandplay therapy was completed. Some graduates still continue the studies with a purpose to obtain the status of International Sand Play Therapy membership. In order to proceed with the work already that has already started and to develop it more effectively, the Latvian Society for Sandplay Therapy was founded on November 19, 2008.
But, generally speaking, it all began like this…In 1911 the British author H.G.Wells wrote a book Floor Games, which later inspired the creation of the field of sand play therapy. There he described spontaneously invented play which he enjoyed with his sons using miniatures and small objects. The way H.G.Wells described this play and the materials used served as inspiration to M. Lowenfeld in her development of The World Technique, which was later used by Dora Kalff as a basis for the sandplay therapy method.
Margaret Lowenfeld (1890-1973) was a children’s paediatrician of Jewish descent, born in England. In 1928 she established the first Child Psychology Clinic at London Royal Hospital. Searching for the most suitable ways of therapeutic communication with children she tried to apply Wells’ “floor games”, which proved to be effective. In the course of her work she transformed all these ways of playing into a therapeutic technique and started to form a theoretical substantiation for the curative power of the method. M. Lowenfeld also began to introduce “The World Technique” method to the psychotherapeutic society to treat children.
For her part, the Jungian disciple Dora Kalff (1904-1990), who studied “The World Technique” with M. Lowenfeld, developed it later by deepening the comprehension of the process of sandplay therapy in line with C.G. Jung’s theory. Thus, C.G.Jung’s ideas underlie the sandplay therapy; he attributed great importance to symbols and the force of healing. In his opinion the symbols take part in the development of the personality both on a psychological and a somatic level designated as the “Individuation process” by Jung. Dora Kalff introduced the concept of “Free and protected space” into sand play therapy in order for clients to feel emotionally safe while undergoing the sandplay therapy so that they could depict anything needed for the treatment process. She believed in the self-healing forces of the psyche and considered that in the sandplay process the client can unveil and incorporate the split off and repressed psychological aspects.
In addition, Dora Kalff studied the manifestation of the Self in the sandplay process: “…children’s and teenagers’ analogies repeatedly reflecting, possibly, the dynamics of the individuation process in childhood in the manner C.G. Jung has described”. She explained her observations as asserting Jung’s opinion that “the Self channels the psychological development process even in birth.” In favourable conditions, by the age of 3 years, the Self begins to come to the child’s consciousness and manifest into symbols of perfection. If the child’s growth is hindered this can stop the development of the Self, resulting in the evolution of a poor and neurotic Ego. On this unstable basis the psychological problems of a human being later emerge. D. Kalff considered that the main objective of sandplay therapy is to provide the opportunity of development and manifestation to the Client’s Self in the sandplay. Through transformation the therapist tries to maintain and stabilize an optimal relationship between the Self and Ego. She was convinced that it is not necessary to explain and interpret the contents of the play to the client unless the manifestation of the Self has taken place.
Dora Kalff’s comprehension of the importance of sandplay in the human mental development was influenced by her continuous interest in the Eastern wisdom of life. In her lifetime Kalff promoted relations between East and West. Soon after expatriation of the Dalai Lama and his followers from Tibet in 1959, she gave shelter in her house to Lamam Geshe Chodak, who had become a refugee. He spent 8 years in Kalff’s family. This, in turn, resulted in several meetings between Kalff and the Dalai Lama. Many spiritual leaders visited Kalff including the leaders of all four Tibetan Buddhism schools.
The second bridge between East and West was launched when Kalff became acquainted with the prominent Zen-Buddhism master D. Suzuki. Following this, Kalff travelled to Japan to meet him and exchange thoughts. While talking with him about the postponement of sandplay interpretation (the therapist and the client postpone intellectual understanding of a sand play image for a long period, often until end of the common work), Suzuki drew a parallel with Zen practice where a disciple asks a question to the master and receives koan in reply, that is, a reply which is not accessible for logical thinking. In such a way the disciple is provided with an opportunity to rely on his own imagination and inner resources. Conversations with Suzuki made Kalff feel sure that her approach was worthy of becoming a universal truth. Dora Kalff has given an invaluable contribution in the training and expansion of this play; it is for reason that she is called the Mother of Sandplay. Since the beginning of the 80s she started to organize annual meetings of sandplay therapists and students with the purpose of exchanging experiences and developing training. In August 1985, at Zollikon, Dora Kalff’s home in Switzerland, thanks to these like-minded people, the International Society for Sandplay Therapy was founded, uniting the enthusiasts of this method from all over the world.
Currently, the ISST member states are Italy, England, Ireland, Canada, USA, Germany, Switzerland and Japan, and the President of ISST is Ruth Ammann, a Swiss sandplay therapist.