Cleaning Up One’s Act
The creative process is complete. Your client is ready to move on to whatever comes next in the session.
But what does come next in the session? Although some play therapists, sandplay therapists, and sand tray therapists might argue differently based on the training that’s specific to their area of expertise, an art-based intervention is best followed up with cleaning. Why?
There are several reasons. For one, asking a client to clean up after herself or himself promotes self-efficacy. It also provides you with metaphorical information about the client’s willingness to put effort into self-care endeavors that aren’t necessarily fun or enjoyable (such as therapy itself), and it also might yield clues about organizational abilities and executive functioning.
In groups, the clean-up phase of the session often reveals transference issues among members. Some of these dynamics may remain invisible until the group is asked to assume responsibility for its creative aftermath. The caretakers will start to emerge, as will the people who expect others to clean for them due to helplessness or entitlement issues.
Cleaning provides a reflective distance from the immediate experience of creation. This allows the client to sift through her or his encounter with external factors (the art media and methods) and internal factors (kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, affective, cognitive, symbolic, and integrative engagement) in order to make better use of time spent processing with you.
And lastly, it’s less distracting to process the art and the artmaking experience without the visual pollution of creative clutter. If, in the course of processing, your goal is to help the client make order out of internal chaos, then the presence of external chaos will hamper your client’s ability to do this. Cleaning up one’s act is a creative journey, but it’s just as much an outer journey as it is an inner one.
With appreciation for the important work you do,
Megan November 2012