Working at the Clayfield

Working at the Clayfield

The effectiveness of the method is based on haptic perception, the perception through touch. To date, haptic perception has hardly been recognized for its psychological and therapeutic significance. Work at the Clay Field focuses on our innate ability to discover relational and experience-based events, in which individuals understand themselves and their world.

Such experiences, even those of an earliest nature, are stored in the body-mind and find individual expression within movement. Each movement with touching the clay field contains and repeats biographical relationship patterns – patterns of encountering the world and of relating to it.

"Movement becomes form" is one of the underlying principles of this method. Whatever movement gains shape in the clay can be followed up again as a movement and in the course of the process can be further developed and changed.

Work at the Clay Field is not symptom-oriented but development-oriented. This means that the specific problem or crisis is not the focal point, rather the option to discover new awareness and solutions through ones own inner movements.

Professor Heinz Deuser founded Work at the Clay Field in 1972 and continued to develop it further ever since.

The Setting

Offered is a flat wooden box filled with clay: the clay field. Next to it sits a bowl of water. There are no specific instructions except the encouragement to make contact with and perceive the clay field with the hands. Adults mostly work with their eyes closed in order to allow the perception of touch to fully unfold. Children follow their needs with open eyes and allow figures and stories to emerge.

The clay field can be perceived, touched and experienced with the hands. The pliable material invites experiment; it receives every movement and is available for endless possibilities. The containing box communicates a hold to the hands while the flat expanse offers freedom of space. Forms emerge from the movements of the hands as they leave marks in the clay. The presence of a trained accompanier is crucial, someone who can verbally support the hands process of movement based on skilled perception and understanding.

It becomes apparent within the setting of Work at the Clay Field there are three core elements of human development: First there is the clay field, a symbolic world, as something available to grasp, to grab and understand. Secondly there are the hands, filled with life’s potential and urge to do and grasp. Thirdly there is the unfolding process of this encounter, which is supported and confirmed through a human ‘you’ as a relational experience.

The Method

The haptic sense is a core sense relating us to both the external world and to our selves, our interior world. It encompasses the skin sense, depth sensibility and balance. These three haptic senses aid us to experience ourselves, to orient and express ourselves in the world. When we touch something with the hands, we are also being touched by it. Every movement of haptic grasping will reciprocate through movements of internal awareness and further explorations with hand movements. Even here, the first infant experience of the world creates body-mind imprints and shapes an individual’s expression in movement. Every gesture in which we express ourselves contains the personal, biographical and relational experience of the world.

In the clay field it is possible to encounter oneself in the traces of one’s own becoming. But it does not remain with this encounter. The opposites of touching and being touched inevitably demand a response and thus open up a forth-rolling process of creation and recreation where the hands follow the urge to move, until this movement finds fulfillment in a new balance between afference and reafference, of cause and effect.

Whatever was not possible in the individuals biographical can now be retraced and rebalanced in a physical-sensory process at the clay field. The clay is unendingly available for this. It is pliable, feeds back the own touch and thus enables change and development. What was modeled here as a movement of the hands, simultaneously encompasses the profound unfolding movement of life itself.

The network of our movement

We experience ourselves in physical balance as well as in physical equilibrium, which must be restored with every act. Reducing the setting to the expression of our movement and its feedback allows us to perceive processes in which this output and this input in our movement takes place and is displayed so that we can take ourselves up in it. What we experience is the personal us in the to-us. We experience ourselves in the how-to-us. This how-to-us shows itself in what is currently pending: These are neuronal processes in the process of our movement of efference and reafference as a principle of reafference. These are experiences in the vagus nerve for physical-bodily balance. These are experiences for physical-bodily preservation in the vegetative nervous system and these are experiences in which we express ourselves haptically, come to ourselves, understand ourselves biologically and absorb ourselves in our physical-bodily relationship to the world and to ourselves. The sound field with its changeable material presents our reality. This integrative approach can help not only to improve the dynamics in relationships, but also to cultivate a deeper connection to oneself.

Who benefits from Work at the Clay Field?

This sensorimotor approach appeals to children of all ages as well as to adolescents and adults alike. Because Work at the Clay Field appeals to the human tendency of growth and self-realization, it can be effective for a wide range of problems. Even the traces of preverbal developmental stages can be reached in the haptic process and be incorporated in the general growth development at a larger age.

Work at the Clay Field appeals to children’s and adolescents spontaneous urge to grasp the world and find a place in it, to understand and to discover their identity and self-worth. Often children are overly challenged in a too complex daily life and this can manifest as developmental problems. They then require targeted support to be able to develop to the best to their abilities and access their talents.

In this context Work at the Clay Field effectively assists to catch up on developmental set backs and to address emotional and social needs in a child or adolescent. A multitude of behavioral problems and obstacles can be balanced out in this way. Over many years the method has shown good results in kindergartens, schools, aid agencies and psychotherapy settings.

For adults Work at the Clay Field offers the opportunity to work through difficulties, which in part may result from setbacks or challenging events during their childhood. Since Work at the Clay Field repeats all the developmental stages from earliest infant experiences onwards, it is possible to acquire what could not be gained then, and to move forward to face new challenges.

Primarily the focus is on finding a hold and new orientation in the relationship with oneself and the world, to gain social competence and self-value as well as maturity and letting go. In the second half of life it is important to find an inner ground. This may include the acceptance that certain conditions are part of us and have inherently shaped us.


    Lebendige Haptik - Handbuch zur Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    Verlag Books on Demand, 2020

    Die Arbeit am Tonfeld 
- Phänomenologien der Haptik

    Heinz Deuser

in: Franzen, Hampe, Wigger (Hg.), Zur Psychodynamik kreativen Gestaltens München 2020 (K. Alber)

    Arbeit am Tonfeld - Der haptische Weg zu uns selbst

    Heinz Deuser

    Psychosozial-Verlag, Gießen 2018

    Der haptische Sinn
 Beiträge zur Arbeit am Tonfeld


    Hg. „Verein für Gestaltbildung e.V. 2009

, erweiterte Neuauflage Dortmund 2016 Hg. Heinz Deuser

    Auf den Spuren von Lucy zur Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    in: Resonanz und Resilienz, Hg. D. Titze, 
Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden 2008 

    Im Greifen sich begreifen
 Die Arbeit am Tonfeld nach Heinz Deuser

    Gerhild Tschachler-Nagy, Annemarie Fleck

    Keutschach 2007, © G. Tschachler-Nagy

    Die Arbeit am Tonfeld nach Heinz Deuser
 Eine entwicklungsfördernde Methode für Kinder, Jugendliche und Erwachsene

    Gerhild Tschachler-Nagy, Annemarie Fleck

    2. Auflage Keutschach 2006, © G. Tschachler-Nagy

    Die Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    in: Aus der Mitte, Hg. D. Titze, Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden 2005

    Die Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    in: Jung-Journal Nr. 13/2005

    Bewegung wird Gestalt 
 Der Handlungsdialog in der Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser 

Bremen 2003 (edition doering)

    Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    Beitrag in: Wörterbuch der Analytischen Psychologie

Hg. L. Müller, A. Müller, März 2003 (Walter)

    Welchen Grund bietet nonverbale Arbeit für die Wissenschaft? 
 Überlegungen und Beobachtungen am Beispiel der Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

in: P. Petersen (Hg.), Forschungsmethoden künstlerischer 
Therapien Stuttgart/Berlin 2002 (J. Mayer)

    Die Begleitung in der Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    in: W. Doering/ W. Doering (Hg.), Von der Sensorischen Integration zur Entwicklungsbegleitung, Dortmund 2001 (Borgmann)

    Die Arbeit am Tonfeld

    Heinz Deuser

    in: Poesis 6 / 1991, Zeitschrift des Instituts für praktische Anthropologie
 Hg. Rudolf zur Lippe

    Eingliederungen in die Kunsttherapie - Essay

    Prof. Dr. U. Elbing

English Deutsch
Arbeit am Tonfeld ®