Interview with Rosalind Heiko, Ph.D.

by Gabriela Deniz

Rosalind Heiko, Ph.D., (aka Dr. Roz), is a Registered Play Therapist – Supervisor, Sandplay Teacher, and an Approved Consultant in Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). She also holds national certification in School Psychology (NCSP). She directs Pediatric & Family Psychology, P.A., in Cary, NC, specializing in working with trauma, grief and anxiety in children and families for over 35 years. She travels nationally and internationally, training therapists working with children and families. Dr. Roz is the founder of NC Play Therapy & Sandplay Training, was a past Board of Trustees Member of the Sandplay Therapists of America, and has published chapters in several notable play therapy books as well as in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sandplay Therapy.

Recently, in 2018, Dr. Roz published the book A Therapist’s Guide to Mapping the Girl Heroine’s Journey in Sandplay, available on Amazon here.

Visit her at


G. Deniz: Dear Dr. Roz, it is a pleasure for me to be able to have this conversation, which will be published, with your permission, on the website of the Sandplay Therapy Institute from Romania. I am grateful you accepted to answer my questions over e-mail. First, I want to really thank you for being such a great person and teacher, a real help for our community of Sandplay practitioners from Romania. You have been close to us and supported our process from the first years of our training. Personally, I found in you a model, a great source of inspiration and compassion. Thank you.

Dr. Roz: Gabriela, It is my pleasure to have this interview time with you. I am honored to respond. The sandplay community in Romania is very dear to my heart.

G. Deniz: For the new members of our community, who didn’t have a chance to meet you in person, this is a great chance to know you better and learn more about what you do in Sandplay. Would you like to say a few words about yourself?

Dr. Roz: I am a psychologist, a Sandplay therapist and teacher, a play therapist-supervisor, a writer – and last but not least, but the most important – a mother and grandmother. It is the great delight of my life to work in Sandplay, to be part of the International Society of Sandplay Therapy, as well as being a founding member of a new and wonderfully compassionate group of colleagues in the World Association of Sand Therapy Professionals. I believe that the co-transference, the connective and sheltering relationship between professionals and clients is the bedrock, the foundation of what is most important for trust and healing growth.

G. Deniz: Most people regard Sandplay as a play therapy, and so they think it is most appropriate for working with children. What do you think recommend it for the psychotherapy with adults?

Dr. Roz: What a great question! Play Therapy is a very separate modality of working with children and teens. There is a credentialing process for it, as well as one for Sandplay. Sandplay works with all ages – as soon as symbolic language develops in young children – through the lifespan. It has universal appeal and application through symbolic expression of images in trays filled with water and sand. Certified Sandplay therapists know the power and value of working to create their own heroic journey in sand through a “process” – going through a completed cycle of journeying in sand with a teacher/therapist who themselves went through a similar experience. Why limit that experience to children?  Adults can find meaning, purpose and courage in working through their challenges in symbolic expression as well.

G. Deniz: Referring to the book you recently published, A Therapist’s Guide to Mapping the Girl Heroine’s Journey in Sandplay, what kind of a guide you offer us and in what way is the heroine’s journey different from a boy’s journey in Sandplay?

Dr. Roz: I have always had difficulty literally finding my way – spatial orientation is very challenging for me. So being able to visually map the Sandplay journey made so much sense to me. The Sandplay Journey Map takes the form of four gateways into a mandala shape, the center of which is an aspect of Self. These gateways lead in and out of that center, the Constellation of the Self, through the beginning stages of choosing, preparing for and beginning the journey (Pathways); through separating out the Tension of the Opposites (Discernment, with its meetings with helpers and internal and external battles); through integration of those challenges (Harmony) and then bringing the Treasure of Wisdom and of the Self back home, both as an individual and into the community (Re-Turn). The way girls and boys generally manifest these aspects of the journey is often quite different. My book focuses on the journey of girls.Unfortunately, you’ll have to read my book for a more complete answer – there’s no enough space here!

G. Deniz: We are now in such a time of hardship, when people from all continents are affected by a pandemic. For many, this is a time of loss and grief. How can psychotherapists help society in such moments, with most of us locked indoors, trying to keep contact with our clients online. Being a Family Psychotherapist, what are your recommendations for keeping in touch and continuing our work with families and children?

Dr. Roz: This is such a challenging time. We have to manage our own anxieties and fears over the sudden and often overwhelming challenges that face us as parents as well as therapists. Sometimes we are going to be fine with that demand. And sometimes we need to rest up, take time to breathe and remember what our core values are as therapists, and be patient with ourselves. We just have to remember to be ourselves, be present with and to our clients. Michael Moore speaks about this holding on together in a chorus: when we have to hold a note for a long time, we take staggered breaths. Not everyone is singing or taking a breath at the same time. He said, “the music stayed strong and vibrant…Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song”. What a gorgeous way to understand this great healing undertaking that we make.

I have had the honor of being interviewed about this with my colleague, Lynn Louise Wonders. You can view the 20 minute video here on YouTube:

Play Video

G. Deniz: What would be, in your view, a good way for parents to approach children or answer their questions about death, viruses and loss?

Dr. Roz: There are some really great resource materials for this. I am attaching them to this interview. Please use them in any way you see fit. My advice to parents is always to be gentle and clear. Children can sense nonverbally what is authentic. So as a parent and grandparent myself, I tell the truth – as gently as possible. It is a gift to have that degree of honesty from an authority figure. That conveys reassurance, that we all are affected, that we share kinship, that we are not alone. That is a great consolation for suffering and fear. We are not alone. We listen and comfort each other.

G. Deniz: As my last question, I saved one related to symbols and meaning. Would you like to share with us your thoughts about a symbol that shows now more often in your work or is more present in your life lately?

Dr. Roz: I love this! Yes. The symbol of shining a light in the darkness. We can bear the truth and the clarity of that – I have learned as I age that I can bear more than I thought, through many losses and much joy. That the connection to my loved ones, family, friends – this sustains me. And laughter. Laughter eases the darkness in the shadows. As C. G. Jung said, …One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” So I take my staggered breath, continuing on, knowing – counting on – others to breathe and continue the song in new forms.

G. Deniz: Thank you very much for answering my questions.

Mihaela Gabriela Deniz,
Terapeut Sandplay în formare