Clay therapy offers patients a rich opportunity to cope with challenging emotions and experiences in a sensual format that is responsive to them. As a medium, clay therapy is distinct from other forms of art therapy, because the medium works with you, rather than against you. In drawing, the artist/patient must surrender a significant amount of control to the pencil. With clay, all lines can be smoothed over and there is no worry about wasting material.
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In her book, The Healing Art of Clay Therapy, Patricia Sherwood explains that “clay work is like the Cinderella of the art therapies. She still waits to be discovered with her magic, her beauty and ability to transform the wellbeing of human suffering into insight and celebration.” Clay is known as a regressive medium, meaning that for many patients it draws up feelings and memories from childhood and allows them to face difficult or complex emotions. For example, a 14-year-old girl who had lost her mother to illness struggled to talk about her profound grief. Months later, she made a large clay cup, which she loved to hold. When she finished sculpting the cup, she engraved on it the word “mother.” This enabled her to talk about her longing for contact with her mother.
Clay is a living substance. Living clay is able to identify sick tissues, toxins and dead cells. It sticks to these undesirable and unhealthy substances, neutralizes and then disintegrates these substances to move out of the body. There is no equivalent drug in modern medicine that has the ability to target these deleterious cells without harming healthy tissues in the vicinity. Contrary to synthetic drugs, clay is beneficial to healthy cells, can increase their vitality and rejuvenates them. This is one of the reasons why it is important to work with living clay instead of a “dead” one.
Clay therapy is an essential element of a therapist’s toolkit. It is a medium that collaborates with patients, permits them to process the experiences and emotions that have marked them, and is physically restorative as well. The experience of working with clay has invaluable cathartic and personal benefits.
Brennan, Christa. “Intro to Using Clay in Therapy.” Christa Brennan: An Art Therapy Cookbook. 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Michal, Sholt, and Tami Gavron. “Therapeutic Qualities of Clay-work in Art Therapy and Psychotherapy: A Review.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 23.2 (2006): 66-72. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <http://hebpsy.net/files/mrxujbchrsv8makszzw1.pdf>.
“Claytherapy: The Therapeutic Value of Clay.” Sunclaytherapy.com. 1 Sept. 2005. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. <http://sunclaytherapy.com/articles1.html>.
“The Therapeutic Benefits of Clay Work in Play Therapy.” Drama Start. 4 May 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.