Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain. ~ Carl Jung
I welcome you to explore how sandtray therapy may be helpful for yourself or your family, and why I believe in using the sandtray process as a way of working with others.
What is Sandtray Therapy?
Sandtray is a form of expressive therapy where figurines, miniatures, and natural objects are chosen and placed in a tray of sand to create a scene or tell a story. With these “ready-made” symbols, inner experience, conflicts and struggles, emotions and thoughts can be represented in the real world. You create the symbols by your very choosing of the miniatures, giving them meaning and power.
Sandtray work is often thought of as a three-dimensional form of art therapy. I draw on my years of experience as an art therapist working psycho-dynamically and psycho-analytically with imagery and symbol creation to inform my work with this technique.
How is Sandtray Therapy helpful for children and adolescents?
Play is the work of childhood. ~ Jean Piaget
For children, sandtray therapy, like art therapy, is a lot like play. Children are drawn to the sensory experience of the sand and to the figures and miniatures, just like they are drawn to playing with toys. Children often don’t yet have the language to describe what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Allowing the child to “play” with these objects and materials, with the support of a professional therapist and inside the natural boundaries created by the tray itself, can create a safe place for exploration, expression, and working through conflicts in a non-verbal way.
Like younger children, adolescents also experience difficulty finding the words to express their complex feelings and describe what they are going through. Talk therapy can be a pretty intense and uncomfortable experience. Working with the miniatures and sand in the tray can provide some distance and relieve the pressure to talk, while providing space for self-reflection and expression, working through issues, making sense of experiences, and creating personal solutions in a non-threatening way.
How does Sandtray Therapy help Adults?
Sometimes we can feel stuck. Working with the primary tactile experience of sand, and images and symbols in the form of miniatures and figurines, can bypass the “logical” parts of ourselves and get to feelings and experience that are just out of the reach of consciousness. Once this material begins to literally take shape in the tray, it can then be looked at and considered without judgment.
Sometimes slowing down and talking less can help us to sense into our needs, make meaning, and create forward movement of our own design.