What is Sandplay Therapy
Sandplay is an expressive therapeutic modality intended to facilitate psychological healing and personal development by connection with the deep psyche. This symbolic form of therapy was developed by the Swiss psychotherapist Dora Kalff who based her theories on the principles of Jungian psychology, as well as the work of the London child psychiatrist Margaret Lowenfield, and Buddhist philosophy.
An emotional disturbance can be dealt with…by giving it visible shape
- C.G Jung
A major premise of Sandplay is based on the hypothesis that deep within the unconscious there is a fundamental drive for the psyche to heal and develop towards fullness. The aim of Sandplay therapy is to activate these healing energies through creative play in which a client arranges miniature objects in a small tray of sand. The created three dimensional scenes reflect the complexities of the client’s inner world, and provide a window into unconscious conflicts, feelings, and experiences that are often difficult to access verbally. This way Sandplay, within the ‘free and protected’ space of the therapeutic relationship, helps to illuminate the client’s internal symbolic world and provides a safe container for its expression and processing.
© TEMENOS sandplay collection and tray
Sandplay is hands on psychological work; as the client physically engages in the play with miniatures, water and sand, the conscious mind relaxes and opens the door to unconscious processes, allowing them to take symbolic form. According to Jung, symbols act as healing agents. They provide language to the unspeakable and unknowable; they bridge and reconcile the external and internal worlds. Symbolic expression allows internal wounds, traumas and disowned parts to be made visible in a concrete three dimensional form that can be explored, healed and integrated into the consciousness.
By creating a series of sand trays in the safety of the therapeutic space, and with sufficient time and understanding, a natural psychological healing process is brought forth. Different aspects of the psyche interrelate and move toward resolution and wholeness, resulting in positive behaviour change, renewed vitality, and a sense of meaning and deeper purpose in life. The symbolic work of Sandplay stimulates the process of individuation and the direct experience of the Self; what C.G.Jung described as necessities for healthy psychological development.
© Detail of sandplay creation
Sandplay therapy is a powerful healing tool, which can be used effectively for both adults and children. Estelle L.Weinrib in her book ‘Images of the Self’ (2004) summarizes sandplay’s importance in the following points:
It enables direct access to our personal world of impulses and feelings, and provides a reasonably safe entry into the creative play of childhood and also into the deeper archetypal world.
It acts as a bridge between our inner and outer worlds.
It enables self-discovery and the awakening of creative potential with minimal interaction of the therapist.
It can activate the natural, self-healing capacity of the psyche and re-channel blocked energy.
It heals the wounds that oppose healthy development and enables the constellation and positive activation of the Self.
It provides a means of reaching and experiencing the trans-personal realm of the psyche, leading to a more harmonious relationship between the ego and the Self. It also lends to the creation of the stable ego, capable of healthy relating to the material and spiritual world.
Watch the video below by Dr. Gita Morena, PhD, ISST Certified Sandplay Therapist and Teacher for an explanation and demonstration of Sandplay therapy.