Using Sand tray in Play Therapy

Play therapy is a versatile and effective form of therapeutic intervention for children, adolescents, and even adults. Within this diverse field, sand tray therapy stands out as a unique and powerful approach. By providing clients with a sandbox and an assortment of miniature figures and objects, sand tray therapy offers a non-verbal and creative outlet for self-expression, exploration, and healing. In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of sandtray therapy, discussing what it is, why it’s effective, and how it can be used in the context of play therapy.

What is Sand tray Therapy?

Sandtray therapy, also known as sandplay therapy, is a modality of play therapy with Jungian roots. Sandtray uses a tray filled with sand as a medium for clients to create three-dimensional representations of their inner worlds. Clients select from a wide range of miniature objects, figures, and symbols and place them in the sand to construct often meaningful scenes. These scenes might mirror their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This unique form of expression allows clients to access their subconscious and communicate their feelings and concerns, even when they cannot find the words to do so verbally.

Sandtray is especially useful with trauma and grief, both of which can be described as “beyond description.”

Why is Sandtray Therapy Effective?

  1. Non-Verbal Communication: Sandtray therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals, especially children, who may struggle to express themselves through words. It provides a non-verbal avenue for sharing thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
  2. Symbolism: The use of miniature figures and objects allows clients to work with symbols that hold personal significance. These symbols often represent abstract or complex ideas and can be a powerful means of self-expression.
  3. Unconscious Exploration: The act of creating sand tray scenes taps into the client’s subconscious, enabling them to uncover and address unresolved issues, trauma, and emotional conflicts.
  4. Safe and Contained Space: The sand tray provides a contained and safe space for clients to explore their inner worlds. The controlled environment encourages feelings of security and emotional safety.
  5. Therapeutic Alliance: Sandtray therapy can deepen the therapeutic alliance between the client and therapist. The therapist’s role in facilitating the process and the client’s willingness to share through the sand tray often strengthen the therapeutic relationship.

Using Sandtray in Play Therapy

  1. Introduction and Explanation: Start by explaining the process to the client. Ensure they understand that they can create anything they like in the sand, and that it’s a space for self-expression without judgment.
  2. Selection of Miniatures: Provide a diverse selection of miniatures, figurines, and objects, allowing the client to choose items that resonate with them.
  3. Creation of the Sandtray: Encourage the client to build their Sandtray scene. Let them know they can move items around, change the scene, or even destroy and rebuild it if they wish.
  4. Invitation: A common invitation is, “Use as few or as many pieces as you like to build a world.” 
  5. Exploration and Discussion: Once the scene is created, engage in a discussion with the client. Ask open-ended questions about their creation, encouraging them to explore and reflect on the symbolism and emotions associated with the objects and the arrangement in the tray.
  6. Relationships: Explore relationships between miniatures in the tray. 
  7. Processing and Integration: Help the client connect their sand tray creation to their life experiences and emotions.


In-Person Play Therapy Training Workshops 

Want to learn more about incorporating sand tray in play therapy? Bay Area Play Therapy Training is offering two workshops in December. Check out the workshops linked below in the buttons. 


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