Labyrinths in Places

Labyrinths are found in many places. Some are permanent and some are brought in temporarily for events. The challenge for labyrinth enthusiasts is often how to get permission to introduce a labyrinth into a specific environment. This section of the website examines some of the places where labyrinths may be found, the benefits of having them there, how they are used, and how people were able to install them there in the first place!

Part 1: An Introduction to Labyrinths in Counseling Settings

Neal Harris, MA, LCPC, DAPA shares his experience in working with labyrinths in his counseling practice.

Looking back on over a decade of using labyrinths in counseling, all indications point to the powerful role they can play in facilitating the therapy process.

I use a finger labyrinth in counseling at the same time as my clients do in order to promote relaxation and the resulting increase in awareness on both our parts. The finger labyrinth helps me be a better listener and helps take a newer client’s attention away from the typical reluctance around talking about their issues. Moving a finger through an inlaid wood path (with eyes open or closed) allows both of us to relax and focus. When this happens, clients become much more aware of their own issues and the blind spots that tend to keep troubling patterns locked in both mind and body. The therapist, in turn becomes more capable of being “tuned in” intuitively to the client’s process and able to facilitate change more readily.

The use of finger labyrinths also helps break down the “professional barrier” that we as therapists are taught (in graduate schools throughout the country) to put solidly in place and keep sacred. By keeping that barrier in place, clients are kept from feeling on an equal footing with their therapists and therapists therefore can maintain the mental illusion that they don’t have any of the problems their clients are having difficulty with. This separation or hierarchy between client and therapist, in my experience, puts the therapist on a pedestal in the client’s eyes, which down the road has great potential for dependence on the therapist, which can lead at best to long-term therapy and at worst to an abuse of power (consciously or unconsciously) on the therapist’s part.

In my practice, I opt to create a healthy footing between myself and my clients by letting my clients know up front that he or she has strengths and weaknesses and I do as well. I model this when I work with a finger labyrinth right alongside them. In this more equal environment, the barriers to effective communication tend to break down, which leads to mutual trust. It has been my experience that rather than hope that trust builds over time (sometimes months or years) finger labyrinth usage tends to speed up this process significantly as the barrier to trust and effective communication (through establishing this hierarchy) is not raised and fortified in the first place.

With the emergence of managed care insurance guidelines in the counseling field, clients are allotted a certain number of sessions to “get better” (usually somewhere between 8-12) and those counseling sessions are paid for by insurance. If clients need more than 8-12 sessions, they must pay for their own therapy or have the therapist petition the insurance company for more sessions. This, in my opinion, makes the use of finger labyrinths that much more valuable, especially to those counselors who are directly tied to managed care for their financial survival. In my experience, finger labyrinths in conjunction with conventional talking therapies tend to foster issue resolution in a speedier timeframe.

I believe (on a more mysterious level) it is also incredibly important to acknowledge the unseen forces that are present in the therapy room (to assist with the unfolding of issues and the therapeutic process). The use of finger labyrinths helps both client and therapist tune into these forces (via the relaxation the pathways afford) to receive the “aha” answers to problems both are carrying with them into the therapeutic relationship.