SANDPLAY THERAPY: WORKING WITH CHILDREN, YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULTS
I do sandplay therapy with children and young people from 4 years old.
*Does your child show anxiety?
*Is the child’s family going through the difficult experience of separation, divorce, or blending families?
*Is the child exhibiting behavioural problems at school or home or both?
I work with children using sandplay therapy that provides a safe environment in which your child can express themselves with or without words as they tell their story in the sandtray using miniature objects representing things both of the real world as well as fantasy worlds.
Sandplay Therapy for Adults: the unconscious and healing
Sandplay Therapy provides a powerful way to tell stories about your life. It is “hands on” psychological work and an adjunct to “talking therapies” during the process of psychotherapy.
According to the psychoanalyst Jung the human psyche is the “totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious”. This concept is central to Sandplay Therapy.
“Often the hands know how to solve a mystery with which the intellect has struggled with in vain” C.G. Jung
Sometimes as a client you cannot articulate your feelings and thoughts with the spoken word. Sandplay Therapy provides you with a different means to self-expression. It provides a symbolic means of expressing the self, both conscious and unconscious. The psyche expresses itself in images and symbols more than words. “Talking Therapy” is left-brain therapy while Sandplay Therapy is right-brained therapy.
As a psychotherapist I use talking therapies in combination with Sandplay Therapy. If you were my client I would use just talking therapies in the first sessions and then introduce you to sandplay if I believed that it would be of benefit to you.
Dora M. Kalff, a Swiss psychotherapist developed by Swiss psychotherapist developed Sandplay Therapy. She was influenced by the psychological principles of C.G. Jung as well as Eastern mysticism and religion. During sandplay therapy the complexities of your inner world are explored and integrated into the psyche for emotional healing. Jung’s psyche represents all thoughts, feelings, and behaviours both conscious and unconscious. The psyche works as a regulator to help the individual function and adapt to his social and physical environment.
Today, sandplay is used in the context of many different psychotherapeutic methods. This is the way I work.
Introducing you to Sandplay Therapy
You can see in the photos below that you have quite a large area within the sand tray to work in. First I may invite you to feel the sand, run it through your fingers, move it around within the tray. Some find this soothing. I would then show you my collection of figures and objects and building materials and explain that the idea is to create a three-dimensional scene in the sand tray using as many different figures/objects as you like. I will invite you to collect figures/objects from the collection and bring them to the sand tray. You can return to the collection as often as you like during the period of creating. What you create can be any place or world either real or imaginary. You can talk as you build or you can remain silent; it is up to you.
The sand can be damp so that you can mould the sand into whatever landscape you wish. The base of the tray is blue and can represent water e.g lake. Thus you can move sand aside, the blue coloration representing areas of water in the sandy landscape. Water can be added to the sand tray if you wish.
You can use the sand itself in a variety of ways. One of my clients was very vigorous in burying figures representing various family members into the sand; they were totally covered. This was a strong symbolic gesture.
The choice and use of symbols in Sandplay Therapy
Objects and figures from nature and culture symbolize situations and events in your inner and outer lives. You choose from a large range of objects/figures representing virtually anything from real life or a fantasy/imaginary/spiritual world. See the examples below.
You create a visual representation of your psyche’s contents and reveal unconscious concerns that are not accessible by any other means. As unconscious material emerges visually and symbolically it is integrated into your sense of self.
You can use a particular object in a variety of ways. For example, a bridge can simply be just that, a bridge that perhaps crosses a creek. On the other hand I had a client use a bridge to show the transition from one period of her life to another; thus the bridge was used in a symbolic way. Another client used an egg timer to represent the passage of time. A client who was feeling trapped in a particular situation in her life used a birdcage to represent this. Another of my clients felt that he needed to be like “Superman” to deal with the difficulties in his life; hence he incorporated this figure in his sandplay picture. Thus he was using Superman in a symbolic way.
Any particular figure/object can have one set of meanings for one person and a completely different set of meanings to another person. There is no right or wrong. You choose what feels right for you.
Examples of figures and objects
EXAMPLES FROM THE REAL WORLD
- people including family members, community helpers, different professions
- wild, pet and farm animals
- prehistoric animals e.g dinosaurs
- nests, eggs
- household objects such as chairs, mobile phones, clocks, egg-timer
- houses, buildings
- bridges, walls, doors, fencing, barriers
- caves, tunnels, arches
- cars, transport
- lighthouses, boats
- gravestones, coffins and other death objects
- shells, rocks, feathers, bones, polished stones,
- religious symbols
- spacecraft, astronaut, Earth
- mirrors, candles, lights, torches
- national and political icons
- war and weapons
- broken objects
- historical objects
- cages, handcuffs, keys
EXAMPLES FROM OTHER WORLDS
- cartoon/movie characters
- princesses and princes
- kings and queens
- ghosts and other mythical/fairytale characters and objects.
Your inner world or psyche
During the creative process of sandplay there is no comment or judgement from me, the psychotherapist whose role it is to provide a safe, supported space. Sandplay is a creative non-directive kind of psychotherapy.
Symbols are arbitrary and have unique meanings for individuals. It is your “inner world” or psyche that chooses the figures/objects and arranges them in the tray. You will find that you cannot put a particular piece in the tray unless it feels “right” to do so. The less conscious parts of you become visible. You usually do not need to plan a scene as it will naturally and spontaneously emerge and there is no right or wrong.
You can talk as you create, interact or play with the figures/objects or remain silent; it is up to you. Once you have finished your work in the sand tray you can share your story with me. This allows personal meanings to be clarified and any newly emerged feelings and insights to be integrated.
Right side of your brain
According to neurobiological research emotional memories and traumatic sensory experiences are stored in the limbic system and right hemisphere of the brain, along with non-verbal, sensory experiences such as images, bodily sensations, and emotions. Sandplay is believed to be effective in accessing any unconscious content and bringing it into consciousness where it can be reprocessed and resolved. Further, sandplay provides a way to express complex experiences and emotions that are difficult to convey through words alone.
Sandplay relies much more on right brain imagination and intuition than left brain logic and analysis. Through sandplay which is a nonverbal process you can tap into a deeper layer of experience that is pre-verbal and unconscious. As you construct a scene in sandplay and give meaning to the symbols it provides a direct link to your brain where neuropathways can be “rewritten” into a more healthy, new configuration.
In my experience both as a psychotherapist and a client sandplay is a very powerful process.