What Is Sandplay Therapy?
"The hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect
has wrestled in vain." -C.G. Jung (Vol 8., para. 180)
Sandplay therapy is an expressive arts therapy for healing and transformative work that is rooted in the theories of Dora Kalff and C.G. Jung. Therapists are trained and credentialed by members of the Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) and the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST).
You can think of sandplay therapy as a form of three-dimensional art therapy. Dry and wet sand is available in two trays and becomes the ground for the client to creatively manipulate and form, much like the artist’s canvas. Then miniatures of everything imaginable are selected from shelves and placed within the tray. An art image is created that may express aspects of a client’s conscious reality, or what might be unconscious or simply buried deep within, unable to be verbalized. With each new tray we observe movement and growth.
Sandplay therapy usually provides individuals with a deeper level of insight and healing than “talk therapy” alone, in part because it is an experience not limited by words. The client’s body gets engaged in a creative act devoted to his or her own healing. The connection with the unconscious in symbolic expression allows for work that promotes conscious choices, decisions, growth and needed change.
For whom is this work best suited?
This work has proven effective for a broad variety of emotional difficulties like depression and anxiety, for traumatic experiences, and for life passages. It is effective with teens and adults as it provides them with waking access to the unconscious like dreams do when we sleep. Healing is usually promoted when we can access the inner resources of the unconscious and when it is given a vehicle to safely express itself. Spiritual Directors use sandplay therapy as a means for their clients to form a powerful connection to the psyche or soul for insight, personal growth and transformation.
Sandplay therapy is especially pertinent for children since they naturally work through their issues while playing, and express themselves through the language of play. Because there are so many figures to choose from in sandplay therapy, children are given an immense “vocabulary” to further their expression and healing. The tray of sand, with its solid boundaries gives all clients a protected space to freely work through their problems or life passages in a safe environment. Sandplay therapists, certified by STA, receive extensive training so they can bring compassionate holding as well as intellectual understanding to each sandplay session.