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Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship

by Linda Cunningham, PhD, MFT, CST-T

Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship is now available through



by Dori Pelz-Sherman, PhD, CST. Minnesota Sandplay Therapy Group Newsletter

"Relational fields hold the shared experience of image and feeling within each unique relationship" (p. 143).

The next time you are in a grocery store, look around and imagine how labor intensive it would be to travel to the avocado groves, and then to the orange trees and then find the dairy farm to churn the butter. Fortunately we don't have to do that: the feast is assembled for us. That was my feeling while "feasting" on Linda Cunningham's second book, Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship (2013). She has assembled a treasure-trove of conceptual foundations gleaned and synthesized from psychoanalytic and Jungian literature: Bion to Winnicott--simply seminarlicious! Cunningham, a psychotherapist and consultant in San Francisco who serves as adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies and in the Sonoma State University Depth Psychology Graduate Program, writes with masterful ease as she articulates a nuanced view of the subjective experience of the sandplay therapist, and she supports the examination of the experience with carefully culled concepts from six decades of leading thinkers and writers in psychology while incorporating contemporary neuroscience and theories of attachment. "

"The therapist's subjective experience in sandplay is usually delightful, awe inspiring, and deeply satisfying. But when we are faced with unbearable countertransference experience, the Self is calling us to embrace this experience, too--to contain it, to make meaning of it in the service of Wholeness. Within the numinous field and a loving, symbol-making psychic embrace, we use the full range of our sensory, somatic, emotional, and thinking experience" (p. 148).

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Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship provides grounding in clinical theory, neuroscience and attachment theory that is profoundly helpful to clinicians working in a variety of modalities. This book also opens up new territory in sandplay, helping sandplay therapists work with clinical issues that classical sandplay theory does not specifically address. Linda Cunningham delves into the nuances of the relational field and the profound containing function that the therapeutic relationship must provide. Through somatic, emotional, symbolic, and spiritual connection with our clients — what Dr. Cunningham calls “The Self in Relationship” — unrealized aspects of the Self are drawn out and transformed.

Jungian sandplay therapists have traditionally focused on three aspects of clinical work: the meaning of symbols, the importance of connecting with the Self, and the qualities of empathy and presence in the therapeutic relationship. While much has been written about various symbols and their meaning in sandplay, much less has been written about the constellation of the Self or how to work silently within the clinical relationship. Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship explores how—through the clinical relationship itself—symbols arise, the Self is constellated, and deep healing occurs.

To purchase the book, click here: Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship 


Sandplay and the Clinical Relationship is now translated and published in Russian!

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Copyright 2013 Linda Cunningham.