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Sand-Play Therapy is a therapeutic treatment based off of a psychology developed by C.G. Jung, created by Dora Kalff. The counselor identifies the inner conflicts of a patient and looks at what might be causing depression, trauma and anxiety. They study the patient's personality by exploring inner complexities through visual techniques. The purpose of Sand-Play Therapy is emotional healing which is expressed through the sandbox and miniature figurines. The purpose of the visual display is to reveal inner conflict in a contained and secure manner. The materials within the sandbox reflect the patient's self and therapy allows them to analyze their own feelings in a non-verbal method through aesthetics and play.

Goals of Sand-Play Therapy

The therapist's goal is to bring out the archetypal symbols of the client with the sandbox and 3d figurines. The expression can lead the patient toward their emotional and conflicting layers that cannot be expressed easily through conversation. Most of these emotions have been forgotten within the patients and the goal of Sand-Play Therapy is to bring the memories out so that the conscious mind can confront them. When a given amount of time has passed in sessions and there is trust between the counselor and client, a new structural personality that is stronger and more aware will develop. Revealing the emotional layers in a playful and serene manner makes it much easier to communicate to the counselor. The basis of treatment is the idea that the psyche has potential to heal itself when it is put in the right expressive environment. Therapy focuses on subconscious wisdom emerging when the client has been given a safe and unbiased platform. This helps in healing the repressed energies through imagination and results in the client experiencing creative expression with dream-like interpretations.

When is Sand-Play Therapy Used?

Sand-Play Therapy is usually provided to children and adults who have experienced some sort of trauma such as sexual abuse or neglect in a relationship. It can be used on any patient although it is commonly conducted toward children. Using the sandbox makes it much easier to express their innermost emotions and fears. The client may be unsure as to why they are dealing with these conflicts because they don't know how to express the feelings verbally. A patient who has dealt with a difficult relationship or event can use Sand-Play treatment and bring out their innermost thoughts with a trusting counselor who can help them get through the healing stages.

How Sand-Play Therapy Works

When a client is participating in Sand-Play Therapy they will choose from 3d figures and objects then create an image within the sandbox. In some sessions the clients may add water and create patterns. There isn't a correct and incorrect way to use the materials and every patient is going to do so in their own manner. The creation is equally important in assessing the patient and there isn't any artistic ability that is being measured.

Sand-Play Therapy is a way for the patient to communicate their thoughts, fears and issues in a non-verbal manner. At times when the patient is creating an image they may be completely silent. Some may choose to speak about what they are creating. After the image is completed both the patient and counselor will study the sand tray. They may share thoughts about the visual depending on whether or not the client is comfortable doing so. After the session's been completed the creation is then left in the room. The counselor will take a picture of the creation and analyze it further. This is a symbolic approach in analyzing a client and helping them overcome repressed emotional issues.

Commonly the client comes into the session and wants to get to know the counselor to see whether or not they will be able to create a relationship with them. During the beginning it is likely that the therapist books shorter courses to see whether or not the patient takes a liking to Sand-Play Therapy. When the time is up the counselor will then speculate whether or not it is the best form of treatment for the patient. If both parties have agreed upon the relationship the therapist will take pictures of the art that has been created and go over it with the client during the next session. Whether or not an analysis is possible within the first treatment will depend on the patient and how quickly they are willing to express themselves through sand play and verbatim.

Criticism of Sand-Play Therapy

It's been suggested that Sand-Play Therapy isn't as effective as Nondirective Therapy. If the approach is Nondirective the counselor holds more trust toward the child in expressing their behavior even if they are not playing with the objects. Sand-Play Therapy has had fewer studies conducted on efficacy than Nondirective Therapy.


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Sandplay therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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