“When a student takes a piece of clay and makes something beautiful or useful, their self-esteem and personal empowerment is enhanced,” shares Jamie S. Hirsch, LMHC, school counselor for Grades 4-8 at Schechter Boston. “Clay is tangible, changeable, and under our control in a world that often feels out of our control.”

Over the last few months, Jamie and her colleague, Tally Gershfield, MHC, MFT, have added clay to their toolkit to help students express and work through their emotions. Tally shares: “Even students who initially come in and don’t want to talk gravitate toward the clay and focus on it to self-regulate and decrease anxiety. Often when students roll clay in their hands, difficult feelings and complicated interactions also begin to roll from their souls. When it feels impossible for students to use words to express themselves, they can use clay to tell their story.”

Jamie and Tally cite research about clay as a therapeutic tool. According to psychotherapist Paul White, LCSW, who writes about the clinical application of clay with children, “Clay is a powerful, therapeutic tool to enhance social-emotional learning.” It has been shown to promote emotional regulation, facilitate self-expression, enhance self-esteem, build social connections, increase problem-solving skills and enhance cognitive development. Clay allows students to feel grounded and focused.

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One student shares, “There is something calming and peaceful about using your hands to create something.” Another explains that she has had anxiety attacks in the past. ”Whenever stress gets the best of me, I roll a little ball of clay in my hands and the stress starts to melt away.”

Polymer clay is just one of many artistic mediums used in the counseling department at Schechter Boston. Creating displays of the student artwork together becomes a unifying project that enhances each student’s sense of value in community. 

Students have brought their clay creations into an exhibit to share with the broader community. The student work is currently on display at Schechter Boston, 125 Wells Ave., Newton, through Wednesday, June 14. Contact us to learn more at info@ssdsboston.org.

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