Episode 48 – Jill Carter Psychotherapist, founder of Sand Play, Creative Arts & Trauma Training in Conversation with Heather Welch Edx Education
We all love to play and to me sand play sounds like a lot of fun, however for Jill it is a lot more than just fun. Jill Carter is a pioneer of Integrative and Trauma-Informed Sandplay® and Art. Her courses integrate traditional talking therapies with creative media such as sandplay, art, meditation, music and movement.
Today we are chatting with Jill about the benefits of sandplay and creative arts, what this means, why it is important and her adventure in pioneering this form of therapy.
Highlights from this episode:
(02:06) A different kind of therapy
(05:10) Jill Carter Sandplay Training
(08:48) Losing touch with traditional elements of play
(11:09) More is not always better
(14:02) Becoming more informed about trauma
(17:44) Helping people look after themselves
#jillcarter #sandplay #learningthroughplay #edxeducation
Edx Education: You’re listening to education experts with edx education. Education is evolving. Join Heather Welch from edx education, chatting with teachers, psychologists, parents, authors, creatives, and other tons of experts to keep up with the trends and what’s happening from around the. This podcast, series edx education, discusses, home learning, school readiness, being creatives, changing in education, discussing what’s next hands-on learning.
Or as we like to say, learning through play.
Welcome everyone. I’m Heather Welch from edx education in today, being conversation with Jill Carter, psychotherapist and founder of Sand play creative arts and trauma training. We all love to play. And to me play sounds like a lot of fun. However, for Jill, it’s a lot more than just fun. Jill Carter is a pioneer of integrative and trauma informed sampling and art, her courses integrate traditional talking therapies with creative media, such as Sam play, art, meditation, music and movement sounds like lots of fun.
Jill, today, we’re going to chat with Jill about the benefits of Sand play creative arts and what it means, why it’s important and her adventure in pioneering. This form of therapy.
It’s nice to meet you, Heather.
lovely to have you join us today, Jill, can I ask you to introduce your passion for sand play and creative arts?
Sure. I mean, I’d first trained as a talking therapist with, um, adults, which kind of gets you so far, but I was really interested in working with children even from when I first started working so therapists 20 years ago. So I did a child training and as part of that child training, I did some sand play and art and my eyes were just opened to how wonderful play can be as a therapy
It’s really interesting.
How you founded Sand play creative arts, but what’s one of your first experiences with working with children.
The lady who introduced some play therapy to the UK, Margaret Lone Feld. Says the same thing she was working in the 1930s that sand play is brought to us by children.
It’s not something that we do to children and a lot of therapy, traditional therapy. So us as the therapist, doing something to the client someplace completely different. I was working with a five-year-old who had been abducted by his father. We wouldn’t talk about anything, but he wants to play in the sand.
So I had a box of sand in the room, which had toys Batman and Superman things in it. And he would run past me when he got into he knew it was his time to come in, go straight to the box and, uh, Superman and Batman would have a fight bash, Bish, bash, BOSH, and then everybody would die.
Okay. And. Okay. but I just trusted my instinct and I trusted him. And then he’d say, you’d say, I’ll see you next week and then he’d come. And again, the same thing brushes past me, a Bish bash boss. Superman, Batman, everybody did, see you next week. And this went on for about 10 or 12 sessions. And I was beginning to doubt myself after that.
But after about 15 sessions, Batman and Superman would survive. Right. They started the play, they started to survive and then they started to talk to each other. And the little boy started talking as Batman to Superman. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And eventually, after about 20 sessions, he came in and he just drew us a spiral in the sand.
And he said, I don’t need to come here anymore and his behaviour in the school, which had been the cause for concern had just miraculously got better. And I went away thinking, what on earth happened there? Because all I’d done was witnessed this, a little boy playing. I didn’t know. Yeah. I didn’t realize at that time, that play has so much magic to it.
And just the act of being witnessed and being able to touch and feel his way through his trauma was the healing thing. I didn’t have to do anything at all.
That’s really interesting. So you use role-play to develop socially and emotionally through play with, and it was all, you know, realistically you’re facilitating the way that he came and he felt real, I suppose he felt he could express himself in this way without in a safe environment in order to, through Sand play.
So after you had this experience, his first member experience, the child, is that when you founded the Sand play creative arts and trauma training courses.
When I first started working for somebody else doing these, these kinds of courses, doing sand play and then art for, another company. But five years ago, I decided to go out on my own.
So that’s when Jill Carter sand play training was born. It’s just gone from strength to strength. Really? I think the time is right now for people to take place seriously. You know, I think that one of the problems when I started doing this, which is 15 years ago is sensory and somatic play was just not taken seriously by the mental health professions.
There are still pockets of it, of, cams and things that don’t take that kind of place seriously, but players the language of children. And we need to respect that and learn from.
We should all do, but especially, I suppose the other thing is, is, you know, Sam play would be really, would be used a lot with children, with individuals with additional needs, like autism that need they’re either need the stimulation or they can, they can verbally, you know, nonverbal or verbal cues, they can talk and they can relate to people through sand play.
Is this an area that you’ve, looked at?
Yeah, absolutely. We get a lot of people on my courses who work with kids who are autistic. And I think it’s really good for anybody who struggles with conventional speech, because there’s a lot of research that shows that touch and connection to something sensory like sand or clay. Brings together the feeling and thinking parts of the brain. And it also helps to regulate us so that we can, sit still and we can concentrate. And you can see quite a lot of progress with autistic kids really quickly using sand play or not.
Is that because of the senses, stimulates the senses, or why would that be more.
Because it’s a way of them finding a language for themselves, which is not classrooms are very noisy places, you know, and there are often kind of left behind and in large numbers of kids and this, this kind of touch and one-to-one attention is often all that we’re that they really need.
to be able to actually be, I suppose they, they get fixated.I mean, it depends on individuals with autism. Have, you know, the, the scale is so large. I mean, so, so broad. It depends on where they sit on the scale as well. Do you ever find that some don’t like the touch and don’t like their senses?
Some, kids won’t, won’t touch sand and it’s that. And if that’s the case, cause the, uh, that subsequently fine, we just do something else with them.It’s always about offering people options. And if they don’t like touching sand, they can do something else. so my water, yeah, water, my room always has water in it. My room always has paint in it. It also has as a, quite like a quiet corner. Where are they to just sit and read? I always staggers me the number of kids who haven’t had, somebody who just sit and we’ll sit with them, you know, and sometimes that’s all that they really need. And adults that they feel is on this.
It’s modern day constraints. Isn’t it? I mean, I know as a, as a mum, myself, that sometimes you look at your schedules and think, and that’s one thing that I must say that the pandemic did bring home to us is that we are too busy in our lives. And we do need to just stop and slow down at times. I don’t know if you had this same experience. But I just thought of everything we do in our lives. We’re working, full-time kids, then the kids at school, then they’re doing extracurricular activity. Bring them home. You actually, at the end of it was quite nice to have the time with them. I then there were lots of negatives as well, but I’m trying to think of the positive side.
And before you know why you are at the age where I am, which, where my kids are, adults and have left home. And I, , you know, my regrets would be around not just, just not giving them. Cirrus downtime. And I think that’s true of a lot of children that, screens are taking too much time in our children’s lives as they are in our own lives.
And just downtime, just sitting with somebody and it’s sitting in the sunshine and the garden or playing with the dog, or, you know, these are. Traditional elements of play that I, I worry that we’re losing touch with.
Screen time is a hard one. I know too. That’s been supercharged for my children because of online learning and everything in the last 12 months. And I think that is a really tough one too. And I just, I know in our house we regulate it quite a lot, so there’s no screens in rooms. There’s no screens at certain times. Certain times per week, but it is a really hard one to regulate. One of my children, actually, this is interesting. Loves messy play.
Actually. They both love messy play. They love sand. I love water. We do a lot of this at home. However, and their moods, their mood is they’re energetic, they’re calm and they’re, they get fixated on certain things like whether it’s pouring. Well making something or, you know, they just, they love that feel and touch.
Whereas if you put them on a screen, I find all the mood, the negative mood, getting them off. It’s just, it becomes this constant battle. So, you know, if you put me on both sides, I’d always go play based, but you know, some reason they always want to go towards a really stimulating screen.
Yeah, there’s an addictive nature to screens. But you’re your right to, you know, let them do things like pouring water and kids will sometimes seem to do that for a too long. A long time. But that’s, that’s how we learned to regulate ourselves. You know, that’s how we learn to regulate our emotions. That’s how we learn to be in our bodies by doing things repetitively.
That’s true. You know, we always do talk about the importance of play-based learning is something you’ve just touched on now for children. I’d love to know your opinion. You sort of touched on it saying, the benefits of play-based learning versus academic learning in early years in primary age, children.
And the UK, we have the earliest start to school of any country in Europe and we have the worst, worst academic results at 11. So what does that tell you more is not better? I think that, I think the systems that they have in mainland Europe, Well under an America where you, um, you, you start, you start in a more play-based nursery goes on till about seven.
I think that’s what we need while our brains are growing, rather than just sitting, learning off-roate imagination. Imagination is the thing that gets squashed and imagination is the thing that life is all about.
It’s funny. And one of my sons, we grew up in Singapore and I remember he was probably three, maybe two and a half, three.
And we had his report from the nursery and it came home like the preschool that he was in because I was working. And I always remember it said to him, no, he doesn’t know how to read. Yet. We always thought her husband, I looked at each other and thought, oh my gosh, he was just for you three.
We was shocked like where he, his language was delayed. So we were thinking, it’s not going to think to read the language isn’t even there yet. It was one of those that is one of those things. The expectation was, well, why doesn’t he do you not read? And, you know, pointed that out in every day. And we just didn’t it was more of a play-based being outside.
It was nice weather being in the pool. Like things like that. It wasn’t, it wasn’t important on the list for.
And I think that’s, I think that’s the right way to be, you know, people, our children’s brains aren’t properly formed enough until they’re about five to be able to read. Right. And so when we’re trying to get them to do it earlier, all we’re doing is stressing them out and stressing ourselves out.
Again, as a, as an older mom, I would say, be compassionate to yourself and your chick and your kids, you know, play together, play together. You find something which is an equivalent of play, you know, and allow your kids to do the same. We’re always such and such a rush to get them to grow up.
And then when they grow up, you want them to compete. Because most, you have you found in the last two years that educators and caregivers are more interested with Sand play creative arts, just because of what’s happened with children’s mental health. And there’s been a whole lot of like, there’s a lot of, you know, PTSD. There’s a whole lot of unhappy children.I know that cams for waiting lists for all these external help for additional needs. And children have come out with additional needs. Parents who have become more, I suppose, more. You know, you used to just send them to school, but now you were schooling with them. You, for some parents, they’re more involved in this schooling
I think what I’ve really seen is that schools are becoming aware that they have to be much more informed about trauma. This people who work in schools and parents obviously are just that much more stressed than there were before the pandemic. So it’s about just, about being gentle with everything that you do and allowing the child to grow emotionally because it’s, so it’s not been easiest in easy time to be a little one.You know, so just allow them to, to grow and to develop and to be emotionally safe in their bodies. And a lot of that is just purely play based.
It’s interesting. I’ve had an experience recently and it’s been my youngest and he’s quite cross. He can be quite cross the boy. And we had him at this quite a good nursery.
It was a good nursery. It had really good results, all the rest of it. You know, I think it’s even announced standing. They, it was the highest that they base, but they do things like it’s not integrative language. Music, their specialist, teacher, French, all this rest of it. And he would come home so stressed out every day, his behaviour would be through the roof and it took me a long time to realize actually, he actually doesn’t need any of this.
So then we’ve just taken him to a village school. Really happy. It’s been a really interesting experience for me because I know there’s all these really fancy facilities that are absolutely amazing. And then you turn around and you have these amazing village communities that have teachers that are, being trained in so much more the diverse behaviour they handled better.
And it’s been a really interesting experience recently for us as a family, because it just calmed him down. He started drawing again, which is something he refused to do when he went to the other nursery, things like that. Whereas he was always. I have, how can I put it? I’ve got Picasso all over my house, so all over my house and over all the doors.
And I always sort of looked at saying, here we go again, you know, it is an expression for him. Which is always really interesting, but it was one of those things as a mother. And I know I’m a teacher as well. I don’t know why I got pulled into trap, I saw this amazing facilities and thought, this is so good.
But he just was so stressed out. Is there really interesting experience? It didn’t sit with him at all.
I know I work with children in an area. That’s got lots of very seriously good schools as in seriously to good academic schools. I always judge them on how they are, how they are with the child’s mental health.
Because I think the worst thing you can do is put somebody in an academically very good school. And under that their soul kind of dies, you know? Artists and expression of the soul. Right? So, when your son is doing his drawing, he’s expressing how he’s feeling inside. And that’s just as important as learning maths.
Yeah, it’s funny. But he just completely stopped you or like he just wouldn’t he never brought anything home for a year. It did take me a long time to realize. And as a mother, I was thinking it must be your behaviour must be, but actually soon as we took me out.
Now blessed, mother’s always, that gets them. It’s often not us.
No one and then us, I was reducing work hours. Well, you do all sorts of things, you try and do, then eventually it’s just taking him out the change is amazing. It’s really interesting, but I mean, let’s quickly talk about the course and who should attend and you know what it actually entails.
Back to back to face-to-face from September It’s the, course is arranged at people who are teachers, counsellors, school counsellors, people who work in mental health and education service. And it’s a combination of learning support and nourishment.
We teach people how to use sand play or not in their work, also we give them lots of support and nourishment because it’s been a really difficult time to be a therapist. Lots of us are on the point of burnout. It’s just as important that we help people to look after themselves. And by doing that, you look up to your clients.
What benefits does it give to the classroom teacher or education professional?
It’s about them taking time out to realize why children are acting the way that they are? That the naughty kid might actually have something going on and not to be triggered, not to be triggered by behaviour and to be able to see it in the context of the child’s.
The system around the child, the child’s home environment, and also to take some time out for themselves just to do some painting or something, or dancing or movement, or would that be like for themselves so that they don’t, they don’t get so burnt out because then the home cycle of reaction starts all over again.
Yeah, it’s very true. We go in this vicious cycle. Do you ever get, educational teachers attached professional teachers, psychologists that come in and they say that they’ve been referred children that just have no triggers and that then they just, you know, say the school would refer and say, well, there’s no trigger.
We don’t know what’s wrong. The child’s just badly behaved or do you right.
I think that kids don’t really have problems. Right. I think that children react to what’s going on around them. My first question, when I meet a child, or when I meet parents of the child is what’s going on at home. What’s changed, you know, sometimes it can be things like bereavement.
If you had a bereavement during COVID, it’s very easy for the child’s grief to get missed. Okay. Because children grieve very differently in the way that we do, they will grieve sometimes. Not others that appear to be. All right. A lot of the time, then they’ll be triggered by something at school. So it’s about taking the whole system into account.
Holistic view of the child.
Rather than just looking at the trigger points, Jill so you still offer what you’re still offering is doing the courses and the, when do you know w w when will the next one be? Cause I know that you don’t, you, you have been doing them online, however, it’s, um, you’ve found it more.
We’ve done them on zoom basically, but we’re going back to face-to-face in September, we have very small groups, only eight people. So there is an intimacy and a support there for people who come on our courses. And yeah, we’re taking bookings now for September. So if you’re interested, have a look at my work.
Fantastic Jill. And if anyone would like you to come and talk in there, would you do a talk in, for example, uh, um, what do you call it? Like a PD or anything like that? That’d be something that you’d be interested in talking about sand play therapy.
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got a team of people who go out and talk in schools and in hospitals and in other environments like that, about how after the pandemic to, look after yourselves and look after the kids that you’re responsible for. So yeah, absolutely. We do. Lots of trainings and Julie,
If a parent or caregiver wants to get in touch because they want consultancy with children you’re still, or even adults, it doesn’t have to be children.
So absolutely play, , not just for kids. We can, I can put people in touch with, we’ve got a network of people all over the country and they’re all, but organizations that you can go look at the likes of BACP, which will give you most of it.
Unfortunately is work because the school systems are so overloaded, but we can help you find somebody to support you and your child. And you’re the best way to contact you would be. First point of call would be www.jillcartertrading.co.uk website. That’s it that’s me. That’s the best place to be.
And just to ever know, there are some great podcasts. There’s some blogs, there’s a lot of information about sand, sand, play, creative trauma art. And actually, if you want to know what is integrative therapy, sand play and what’s unique about Jill’s courses and what you’ll gain, please by all means head over to the website. Jill Carter, training.co.uk first.
And then Jill will be happy to have a chat with you. I’m sure. So, thank you very much for joining us today, Jill.
No problem. Take care, Heather.
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