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 3: Issues to consider when using Labyrinths in Counseling

While finger labyrinths are a terrific catalyst to most therapeutic issues, some clients will refuse to try them. For instance, those who’ve been brought up in a religion or belief system that associates the labyrinth pattern (or relaxation techniques in general), with fear and misunderstanding. Other potentially difficult situations for using finger labyrinths are with those who are actively psychotic, clinically depressed, in the manic phase of Bipolar Disorder, and those who have Borderline Personality Disorder. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use a finger labyrinth with any of these diagnostically-labeled clients. It just means that more caution should be used as each (with the use of a finger labyrinth) may come face to face with the underlying issues they’ve been trying to consciously avoid dealing with.

In addition, working with finger labyrinths as part of a therapeutic strategy can also present a potential challenge to both newer and more experienced therapists. As I see it, labyrinths are an intuitive playground for the spirit. They involve intuition and a willingness to allow whatever comes up in the process of fingerwalking to surface without judgment or censorship. Therefore, therapists who think they “know” what each of their clients need and have a theoretical road map of how to get each there using his or her favorite structured therapeutic modality (i.e. Transpersonal, Humanistic, Jungian, Freudian, Cognitive-Behavioral etc.) may find using a finger labyrinth in therapy rather disorienting and sometimes a struggle at first. With experience, most therapists using finger labyrinths report clients are resolving their issues more quickly while the therapists themselves are experiencing heightened intuitive gifts and better listening skills: the cornerstones of every successful therapist.

Having used walking labyrinths numerous times in therapy situations as well, it is clear that they, like finger labyrinths, can have a profound effect on both relaxation and trust. It has been my experience that walking labyrinths (especially when walked by more than one person at the same time) tend to hold up a hypothetical “mirror” in front of a client where he/she can see the truth behind any defense mechanisms made up of unproductive thoughts, attitudes, or beliefs that are held in the client’s mind. As a result, clients seem more ready to look at and potentially release, some of these defenses and go on to develop new, more satisfying strategies.

Case 2:

A couple came to me to learn relaxation techniques to better cope with the anger and frustration they felt when dealing with authority figures. I invited each to walk the labyrinth that was on my premises. The wife did so; the husband refused to take part. After briefly discussing her experience, the couple went on their way.

The following week when they returned, the wife was very excited and proceeded to talk about how “nice” those in authority positions seemed to be that week in their interactions with her. Her husband said they still treated him “just as badly.” I noticed that her face had a soft smile on it (almost an inner glow), and her body language was much more open than during the previous week. His face and body features continued to look like that of an angry man (much like hers had looked the previous week.) She said that it seemed like a miracle the way everyone was so nice to her. I suggested to her that maybe the world didn’t change, but that her expectations of the world did and that was enough for the people in authority to look at her and treat her differently. This was a very eye-opening statement for her and it immediately began to unravel long-held beliefs about how she was powerless to have positive relationships, especially with those she perceived to be in authority positions. As a result of incorporating the walking labyrinth early in the counseling process, this woman went from being angry and closed to confident and open when dealing with authority figures.