Sandplay therapy is a depth-oriented psychotherapeutic approach used with children and adults with roots in Jungian Analytical Psychology.
The method, created by Dora Kalff, consists of the client’s creation of a three-dimensional picture with miniature figures in a tray of dry and/or wet sand in the protective presence of a trained practitioner. Kalff emphasized: “The psyche has an inherent tendency to heal itself. The task of the therapist is to prepare the path for this propensity”. To do so, a “free and protected” space is created in the therapy office, and in a trusting relationship between patient and therapist.
Sandplay is primarily a non-verbal process. You create a scene in the sand, and I sit as witness. There is one tray with wet sand that can be molded, and another tray for dry sand. Shelves are filled with a community of figures collected over many years.
Both children and adults create pictures in the sand, sometimes using just the sand, other times incorporating figures. You may wish to talk about what you’ve created, or prefer not to. Sandplay is generally non-directive and patient-led. You are never required to work in the sand, yet it is always available.
A growing body of research supports the efficacy of non-verbal, body-based and expressive therapies, especially for individuals dealing with issues such as developmental and pre-verbal blocks; defenses; self regulation; difficulties with affect expression; expression of painful, fearful, dissociated experiences; trauma; attachment losses; creative blocks, problem-solving; depression, anxiety, and relationship conflicts.
Sandplay is very effective with a wide range of patients. Children are often drawn naturally to it and use the sand to work through developmental delays, school problems, family issues, and self-esteem issues, to name a few. Adults are often surprised by the power and meaning they distill from scenes they create in the sand. Sandplay is particularly useful in addressing childhood trauma. Feelings locked in the body pre-verbally are often accessed and expressed through work in the sand.
Engaging in a Sandplay Process
Some adult clients see me specifically to engage in Sandplay therapy. Some want to work in a more symbolic way as part of their therapy. Some are clinicians who work in settings in which sandtrays are present, and want to experience what it feels like to personally work in the sand. Some are interested in eventual certification as a sandplay therapist. At the heart of sandplay training is one’s personal experience of doing a sandplay process with a certified clinician. I am a Certified Sandplay Therapist-Teacher (CST-T) with Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) and the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST).
Follow this link to a STA-sponsored film: ”What is Sandplay Therapy?”
For more articles and information about Sandplay, go to the STA website:www.sandplay.org