Stones in Therapy
Don’t let your decor go to waste!
Many therapists’ offices have them—an array of multi-colored stones set out on a coffee table. To the untrained eye, such stones might pass for earthy decor; however, stones can be functional as well as beautiful. Below are some interesting ideas to engage with patients through stones!
Some patients may be prone to shutting down or dissociating during therapy sessions, whether due to a particular exercise (like EMDR) or a particular topic (like one that recalls trauma). Feeling the weight and unique texture of a stone can bring a patient out of detachment and back to your session.
Ask your patient to hold the stone and tell you how it feels in their hands. Is it light, or heavy? Smooth, or rough? Cold, or room-temperature? Uniform, or variable? Bringing your patient’s attention to their physical sensations grounds them in the present time and setting, and prepares them to continue in a productive session.
Similar to grounding exercises, you might ask your patient to hold a rock and allow any memories to emerge. This technique works particularly well for individuals hoping to investigate their past or to whom visceral memory recall comes naturally. Depending on the memory itself, you might save a positive memory away as a calming tool or dive deeper into a negative memory to explore its present impact and significance.
Engaging with the stone can help your patient to re-attune to their body to the present session, though in many cases they can be helpful for passive fidgeting as well. Patients, especially adults or children accompanied by adults, might initially feel that objects we set out are not meant to be touched—rarely does one go into an official-looking space and start toying around with end table decor. Establish that stones and other objects are there to play with, especially when a patient looks at the objects frequently or comments on them, but never reaches for them. For patients of any age, fidget items like stones can relieve the stress and anxiety they might feel during a session.
You may even consider using your stones as a primary focus for an exercise. For patients more inclined to kinesthetic learning, you might ask them to arrange stones in any configuration and expand upon it. If your patient is creatively inclined, what about their arrangement (or an individual stone) is satisfying to them? For those struggling with creative output or harsh self-critique, completing this task can be a pathway in learning to create for themselves and validate their creative decisions. For all patients, which stone do they see themselves as, and why? How might this arrangement relate to the family, work, or social dynamics you have been examining in sessions? By allowing a patient to physically demonstrate situations they would like to address, they can approach it from a new perspective independent from language.
Each patient—and each session—is unique. Being unique, they call for innovative tools and
techniques. We hope these ideas help you find novel ways to connect with your patients and guide their journey. Let us know how you use your stones down in the comments!