What is Sandplay Therapy and how can it help me or my child?

Sand tray is an expressive play therapy tool used by children, adolescents, adults, families, couples and groups.  Miniature images, sand and sometimes water are used in a tray of sand to create patterns, worlds, and/or dramatic play processes. This   process promotes self-expression.

The simplest way to explain the sand tray therapy is that sand play gives expression to nonverbal emotional issues.  It is also a place in which the client can experience control. It is a play therapy technique first developed by Margaret Lowenfeld in 1929 and has been further expanded into an approved and well researched therapy.  Dr. Carl Jung also influenced sand play further by integrating the meanings of symbols into this means of therapy.

Thinking begins with images, not with words.

Words are not necessary for language; therefore words are not necessary for the sand tray.  This is one reason the experience works so well for children. The sand tray experience is a time where the child is allowed to just “be”; to be themselves, and not what is expected of them in their “real” world.

As each tray is representative of the child’s own subjective world. It’s similar to drawing a picture.  You cannot draw something that you have not otherwise seen, heard, or experienced.  You have some knowledge of the drawing before beginning and this is similar to work in the sand tray. The subconscious often comes to the conscious level during this therapy. The sandplay is the therapeutic process, the sand is the medium, and the sand tray world produced is the finished product.  The counselor’s key role in this process is to provide the client with a safe and protected space in which healing can begin.

A good sand tray room has a standard size tray and colors based on recommendation made by leading experts in this field.  The tray’s can be wet or dry but purchase washed play sand.  Also included in the area are various, and many, miniatures.  If it’s out there in the real world, it should be in the sand tray room thus giving the client many tools to work with.  Sometimes this is not always possible due to limits in office space, or travel so some basic items should be included such as greenery, fences, wild and domestic animals, transport items such as a boat, airplane, truck, some fantasy items and what ever else you feel might benefit your clients.  I have used rice (in a plastic box with a lid) in place of sand when traveling to schools, and a tackle box to place miniatures in.

If you think you would be interest in learning more about the work of sand tray and its benefits, I encourage you to attend workshops on this, and read many of the wonderful books already out in the market on this subject.  Some of my favorite and most helpful books as yet has been Sandplay, Past, Present & Future by Rie Rogers Mitchell & Harriet S. Friedman (1994), Sandplay Therapy with Children and Families by Lois Carey,(1999), Sandplay, a Psychotherapeutic Approach to thePsyche by Dora M. Kalff (2003) and The Handbook of Sandplay Therapy by Barbara A. Turner, PhD. (2005).

Lisa Patterson MSLPC NCC RPT  playtherapy@centurytel.net  334-222-7094

Submitted & included in the ALCA Winter Quarterly



About Childs Play Counseling Services

No family is without the occasional frustration or challenge but when issues are interfering with daily activities or causing chaos within the home it may be time to look for help. Child's Play Counseling Services offers full service mental health counseling and therapy for adults, children, adolescents, and families in Covington County, Alabama. I offer therapy for a variety of issues not limited to ADHD, behavior problems, parenting issues, depression, anxiety, school problems, anger management, low self esteem, eating disorders, family issues relating to divorce and separation within the family. I have been helping children, adults and families heal, and lead healthy lives for over 15 years in a safe, confidential, and nonjudgmental environment. I can help you. Call 334-222-7094 to schedule your appointment. I am licensed in Alabama as well as Florida and in addition to being a licensed counselor, I am also licensed in both states to offer supervision for those wishing to obtain their licenses in Alabama, Florida or certification in Play Therapy. I often teach parenting classes and training and conduct workshops to other professionals in the field of mental health. The topics I present on include issues of concern for parents, as well as counseling techniques to professionals. I specialize in Play Therapy and am always happy to conduct workshops to other professionals on the benefits of play therapy. If you would like me speak at your event or offer a workshop in your area, please contact me and we can set something up.
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One Response to What is Sandplay Therapy and how can it help me or my child?

  1. That sounds very fascinating. I do not work with children but do play with my niece, I also love a miniature zen garden.

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