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Sand Tray Therapy

Morgan Health Centers

Sand Tray Therapy

Sand Tray Therapy

As therapists using approaches such as the Sand Tray Therapy, we get to witness the miracles of transformation.

One innovative form of therapy provided by Morgan Health Centers is known as Sand Tray therapy. Sand tray therapy is a form of expressive therapy that is sometimes referred to as Sandplay Therapy or The World Technique.

This therapy approach uses a, therapeutic intervention that makes use of a sandbox, toy figures, and sometimes water, to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect a person’s inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns.

This form of play therapy is practiced along with talk therapy, using the sandbox and figures as communication tools, a therapist can observe what the patient chooses to create. The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of self. While verbalization is an essential aspect of each therapy session, sandplay therapy may be effective for children or for individuals who are unable to express themselves verbally due to past trauma.

As simple as this process might seem, sand tray therapy intervention has been practiced, studied, and diversified for over seventy years and involves many different components and theories. The combination of exercising one’s creativity, shrinking complex realities down to a manageable size, and finding enjoyment in the process is what makes sand tray therapy unique.

The sand tray therapist invites the participant to tell a story or, perhaps, recreate a memory with the sand tray miniatures on the landscape of the sand tray. The specific choices and manipulations of the objects must be acutely observed by the sand tray therapist and explored through careful inquiry. Discussing the participant’s sand tray world can lead to revelations about struggles or anxieties, in-depth self-exploration, the development of strong coping skills, and, ultimately, a profound healing experience.

When It's Used

Sandplay therapy is often used with those who have suffered some form of trauma, neglect, or abuse. Although sandplay is especially well suited for working with young children, who often cannot express their inner feelings in words, it is also a technique that is helpful for some teens and adults who are having trouble expressing themselves and who may have suffered some form of severe trauma.

What to Expect

Sandplay therapy takes place in box-like containers referred to as sand trays. The trays are filled with sand that patients use, along with miniature toys, to create a play world that reflects some aspect of real people and real experiences in their own lives. The patient chooses from a large collection of toys and builds a small “world” in the tray that reflects what is going on in their lives. 

The therapist observes the choice and arrangement of toys without interruption, allowing the person to find answers within themselves. After sandplay is completed, the patient and therapist analyze and discuss the patient’s choices, their arrangement pattern in the sand, and their symbolic or metaphoric meanings. 

Upon discussion, the patient often chooses to make changes to the world they have created in sand as they begin to understand the connection between the world they created and their own inner world. By making changes in their make-believe world, patients are often empowered to make similar changes in their real world.

How it Works

Sand Tray Therapy provides a way to communicate when verbalizing becomes too difficult. Often patients find themselves not yet ready to discuss what might be going on, and in that case, sand trays provide a medium through which to communicate to the therapist what words aren’t ready to say yet.

Another beneficial aspect to the therapy is the kinesthetic quality of the sand itself. Just by feeling the smooth texture and having the freedom to play around with it can be soothing for the patient.

Eliminating words and focusing on the figurines allows a therapeutic distance between the patient and his or her current problems. It creates a safe space for potentially reliving that trauma while also enforcing natural boundaries such as the perimeter of the sand tray. These boundaries are important because while the therapy allows the patient to feel in control, it is also necessary to promote safety.

Sand tray therapy is extremely patient centered, the therapeutic element of it comes mostly from the process of creating the scene itself rather than hearing the therapist’s interpretation of it. What’s most important is the interpretation of the patient. Sand tray therapy has been proven to help enable patients to speak more openly and confront their past traumas and ongoing problems.

Not only does it teach encouraging coping skills, but it provides that necessary safe space to explore what’s really going on. By taking pictures of the initial scenes created in the sand, therapists can track the progress of the patient by comparing the photos to the more recent sand trays.

Sand tray therapy is beneficial for people of all ages as an effective alternative way of communication. If this sounds like something that could work for you or someone you know, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us.