SAND TRAY THERAPY
What is Sand Tray Therapy?
Sand tray therapy is a form of expressive therapy that can be used with children, teens, adults, and families. In sand tray therapy, the client is given the opportunity to create his or her world in the sand box using miniature toys, figurines, objects, and structures.
Sand tray therapy incorporates different parts of the human brain into the therapy process, and is helpful connecting the left (logical, sequential, explicit memories) and right (emotional, implicit memories) hemispheres to form an integrated and holistic view of the client’s main concerns and struggles. The scene created by the client acts as a reflection of the person’s inner world and allows him or her the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of self.
The activity is open and non-directive, leaving the freedom to the client to express their view of his or her world without judgment and without fear. This freedom allows the client to view current views of the world or of the self in a new light and brings insight for the client. Engaging in a sand tray activity also allows the therapist to gain insight and a unique perspective into the client’s view of his or her world and of the client’s view of self.
Using the sand tray miniatures to create the client’s world is often safer than talking with a therapist, as the miniatures provide therapeutic distance so the problems or issues do not seem as big or as real, and therefore are easier to express and handle. Therapist using the sand tray technique focus on using the sand as a healing tool for the client to find solutions to their own concerns, develop new ways of thinking, and increase self-understanding and self-compassion.
Sand Tray Therapy with Children
Children are often unable to verbalize emotions, particularly after experiencing trauma, neglect, or abuse. This method of therapy serves as a valuable and powerful outlet for children and an incredibly insightful method of gaining access to traumatic experiences, as well as gaining insight with high functioning children that have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. The non-verbal nature of sand tray therapy and the healing medium of sand can help children achieve feelings of comfort, safety, and security to use the figurines and objects as symbols rather than words. With little instruction and freedom provided by the therapist, children are free to play and develop their own expression of situations. Usually children will begin engage in independent play and will begin making assumptions and behavior changes without direction from the therapist and furthers the progress in therapy.
Sand Tray Therapy with Teens and Adults
Sand tray therapy may resemble child’s play, but it is a highly therapeutic form of therapy for teens and adults that can provide emotional release and realization for a person in therapy. The environment of sand tray therapy presents an environment free from threats, which enables teens and adults to use the miniature objects as representations of the true people and events that they have no previously been able to express. Using symbolic figures to express oneself can give clients the courage and ability to recognize changes in ways of thinking or being that can be made in his or her own life. Sand tray has been shown to be effective with a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, learning difficulties, behavior problems, and emotional blockage (lack of feeling emotions).
Several therapists at HeadFirst Counseling are trained in sand tray therapy techniques and may incorporate the use of different sand tray methods throughout the course of therapy. Many times a sand tray is used early in therapy as an assessment tool and later towards the end of therapy to signal progress for the client.
For more information about sand tray therapy, contact your therapist or call us at (469) 665-9416.