“ Often hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain. ” — Carl Jung
Sand play therapy was developed by psychiatrist Mary Lowenfeld in the 1930s. This type of therapy has become recognized worldwide thanks to its practitioner and theorist, Dora Kalff, a Jungian analyst.
Sand play therapy uses few resources: a sandbox of a precise size, miniatures (figurines of characters, trees, animals, small toys, shells, pebbles, etc.) and, optional, water. The client chooses the miniatures he wants to incorporate into the sand and arranges them at his discretion. The sand and the miniatures create scenes, images which reflect certain aspects related to the true experiences of his own life.
The therapist observes the choices and arrangement of the miniatures without interrupting the process of creating the image in the sandbox. After the sandplay is completed, the client and the therapist analyse and discuss the client’s choices, patterns, metaphors. By understanding the connection between the image created in the sand and their own inner world, clients will be more aware of their concerns, emotional conflicts, and empowered to make changes in their lives.
During the process of revealing one’s conflicts in the sand tray, symbolic play is the main motor in moving along the process. “Playing” symbolically is an enactment of situations that we cannot bear in real life, a simulation of the reality in a non-threatening way, a dramatized scene that can be changed every moment, provoking much less emotional disturbance. This might be one of the explanations why engaging in making the sand images could be fun as an activity, but at the same time helps to unfold socially unacceptable feelings (frustrations, anger, or destructive energies) in the tray, without fear of any social repercussions.
The sand images are metaphors of tensions and blockages and are usually the only way to express feelings and sensations that are disturbing or threatening. This modality of releasing inner energies, either good or destructive, through an image in the sand provides a safe way of understanding and transcending conflicts.
Sandplay therapy is an effective way for a variety of psychological problems, including trauma, separation, bereavement, hyperactivity and many more. It can help clients of all ages with preverbal trauma from early childhood. This therapy is an excellent strategy for young children who cannot express themselves verbally.