Hong Kong Sandplay Therapy Association Founding Ceremony Speech

Leung Wai Yin, Amy, Ph.D. Founding member & chairperson

Dr. Leung Wai Yin, Amy

I am delighted to have all of you here today for the founding ceremony of the Hong Kong Sandplay Therapy Association (HKSTA). I would like to extend a warm welcome to those new to sandplay therapy and to those who have joined us before.

So what is sandplay? What does sandplay mean to you?
To me…
Sandplay is play;
sandplay is playing with sand;
sandplay is playing with sand and perhaps with water and miniatures;
sandplay is playing freely in a protected space and with a trustworthy other who holds the story, who anticipates the best possible outcome of the story.
Sandplay is not only for children but is for people of all ages,
Sandplay holds the potential of healing and transformation.
Descending into the unconscious, through the healing power of symbols, Sandplay heals the deep wounds, regains homeostasis of the psyche, and allows the person to become whole.

Sandplay is fun and intriguing, but not magical.
Sandplay is a painstaking process requiring the utmost commitment of the sandplayer and the therapist.
It requires a life long commitment of the therapist to be an authentic person, a friend to the unconscious, and to have the bravery to face the unknown.
It takes years, if not decades to be trained as a Sandplay therapist.
It is outrageously time consuming and costly, but it is also extremely rewarding…

The founding of the HKSTA denotes the beginning of an era of more systematic training in Sandplay therapy in Hong Kong. Sandplay Therapy is developed in Switzerland by Dora Kalff under the mentorship of Carl Jung. I remembered, when I first encountered sandplay therapy, I was a clinical psychology graduate student in the United States back in 1992. One of my practicum training sites was a psychological treatment center with sandplay therapy as its major treatment modality. I found it such a powerful means of treatment that I had decided to pursue when the moment is ripe. After I returned to HK, in 2003 I started a Sandplay Therapy Study Group with Adelina Wong, Magdalene Lau and Helen Ma. We then invited overseas trainers to HK for sandplay therapy training. We learnt that before us, in 1998, a group of clinical psychologists from the Social Welfare Department (SWD) had already gone to the United States to attend sandplay workshop. Afterwards they started using sandplay as a separate play therapy approach in their work with children and gradually extended it to adult clients. The SWD had invited a trainer of the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST) to Hong Kong around the year of 2000.

In sandplay training, personal process comes first. Personal process is sandplay therapy experienced first by the therapist. In Jungian therapy, it is fundamental for a therapist to go through therapy himself or herself. In 2004, Magdalene Lau and I went to Japan for our personal process with Dr. Sherry Shepard; eventually others followed. They include Adelina Wong, Helen Ma, Dorothy Lai, Edmond Lam, Carol Chow, etc. They are the first generation of therapists in Hong Kong who went to Japan to train in sandplay therapy with incredible dedication. After many trips to Japan, I finally completed my process in 2008. It is my belief that it is how far and deep you are willing to go in your own process which determines how competent you are in taking your clients in their sand journeys. This journey I find myself immersed in have been one of the most satisfying and rewarding journeys I have ever taken.

As all work with Jungian orientation, the process is gradual. Our Sandplay Therapy Training Group slowly developed. We had invited Harriet Friedman from the United States in 2003, Dr. Eva Pattis from Italy in 2004 and Dr. Ruth Ammann from Switzerland in 2004 & 2006. My receiving of sandplay therapy certification from the ISST in March this year also serves as a push. After a long incubation period, the Hong Kong Sandplay Therapy Association has finally come into being. On this note, we will officially start recruiting member as of today.

I am happy to see that Hong Kong has opened up herself to sandplay therapy and that more and more people are interested in learning about it. Like a two-edged sword, there is such a powerful healing force and yet at the same time there is so much danger if it is used improperly. Quality training is important. The objective of the HKSTA is to support those who are interested in learning and practicing sandplay therapy; and also for the association to work towards developing it to become an ISST group. Our goal is to promote professional development in Sandplay Therapy in theory, clinical practice and research. We will continue to invite qualified trainers to Hong Kong. We plan to form groups for discussions and support; to develop a website and establish a library of sandplay literature and symbol papers both in English and Chinese. We welcome your suggestions and involvement.

I whole heartedly wish the best for the development of Sandplay therapy in Hong Kong and I look forward to seeing sandplay therapy being used more widely in psychological treatment. I would like to say thank you to those who have been involved in making the founding of the HKSTA possible.  I would like to introduce our first committee to you. Dr. Ellen Ma, our vice chairperson, she is knowledgeable and resourceful in many areas which are important to us. Magdalene Lau, our secretary, she and I have been on this sandplay journey together for many years and I have learned a lot from her. Adelina Wong, our treasurer, her enthusiasm and involvement in sandplay therapy is unquestionable. Carol Chow, our council member, she certainly holds a lot of potential in the participation of the future development of sandplay therapy in Hong Kong.

Thank you again for coming today to share this special occasion with us.

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