Heathcote, Olivia

Journal of Sandplay Therapy, Volume 18, Number 2, 2009

KEY WORDS: Primal touch, nursing, infant-observation, Tavistock clinic, mother-infant, trauma, regression, deintegration, therapist-child relationship, mother-child touch, sandplay therapy, child, girl, clinical example, primal touch, mother-infant holding, rocking, symptoms.

ABSTRACT: The article discusses two processes: infant observation and sandplay therapy, as they relate to the mother-infant connection. The author describes both of these processes to demonstrate the critical nature of touch in the early mother-infant holding environment. The term primal touch is proposed to describe the particularity of this early connection. The three-year sandplay process of a five-year old girl demonstrates how sandplay provides a child with the opportunity to recreate the infantile experience of primal touch. Examples of how the child did this include rocking herself inside the sandtray and requesting that she and the therapist listen to each other’s heartbeats simultaneously. The child’s later sand scenes suggest her emerging feelings of safety and containment, and the ways in which she progressed are described.