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Connecting with Clay

Clay Field experiential with Brian Wallace

It was a wonderful turn out from members old and new, with more than 25 of us gathering in anticipation of Brian’s workshop. We started the morning with hot drinks and delicious homemade scones – the welcoming tone was set for our February day meeting. With full bellies we proceeded to the first part of the day.

Brian talked us through how clay fields are set up and their benefit and potential within art therapy. Brian shared a fascinating case study and video showing a child engaging in clay field work across a number of weeks, demonstrating how a real session works and explaining why this approach was useful for this particular client. Brian emphasised how such work in art therapy aims to promote client autonomy, and is guided by HCPC ethics and standards.

After lunch we had the opportunity to directly experience the clay field. Those who did not wish to try the clay field were able to observe or use another space to make reflective artwork with alternative materials. 

The low wooden box holds around 10 -15kg of clay. A separate bowl of warm water is provided to allow the participant to wet their hands or add water to their clay field. This boundaried area became the space for hands to navigate and explore.

The session was held in silence. With closed eyes the “client” broke the smooth surface by pushing, dragging or gliding through the clay – depending on the resistance wanted, more or less water is added. It became clear that a certain amount of full body movement was also involved or even required – slow, fast, delicate, vigorous, telling stories or something of what was happening for the participant.
Touch is a primal sensation and central to this approach, in this instance the handling of the clay facilitated an interaction which clearly unlock an internal narrative within some of the participants. Brian was there throughout to ensure that everyone remained safe within the space. Each participant was paired with a partner to also ensure acknowledgement and containment of any arising vulnerability.

The day was thought-provoking, explorative and with a great balance of community, learning and creativity. Roll on the next day meeting!!  

Feedback from the day
“It was great to get experience of the Clayfield both as client & therapist; also as observer”
“It was very good. Helped understand how to work with clients through personal experience”
“Very comfortable and roomy [venue] – quiet surrounding most helpful and parking available!”
“Today was great for networking – really value opportunities to meet new people”

Further information:
Brian was trained by Cornelia Elbrecht, AThR, SEP who is the founder and director of the Institute for Sensorimotor Art Therapy and is a registered art therapist and supervisor.
BAAT has recently published an interview with Cornelia Elbrecht

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