Sandplay therapy is a form of expressive therapy that is sometimes referred to as sandplay (although sandplay does have a slightly different approach) or the World Technique. This type of therapy is often used with children but can be applied to adults, teens, couples, families, and groups as well. Sand tray therapy allows a person to construct his or her own microcosm using miniature toys and coloured sand. The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows him or her the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of self.
Sand Therapy for Trauma, Neglect or Abuse
Many children are unable to verbalize emotional states, particularly in the face of trauma, neglect, or abuse The non-verbal nature of sandplay therapy and the familiar medium of sand can help children achieve feelings of comfort and security. With little instruction from the therapist, the child is free to play and develop his or her own expression of situations. Oftentimes the children will experience a sense of independent play and will begin making assumptions and behavior changes without cues from the therapist. This method of therapy serves as a valuable and powerful outlet for children and an incredibly insightful method of gaining access to traumatic experiences.Sandplay therapy is also very useful in the treatment of children who have been sexually abused. These children will often remain silent for fear of harm or even death. They are often threatened and are in highly anxious states when they come to therapy. The relaxed and interactive setting of sandplay therapy provides them the initial arena of safety that they need to move toward healing.
Sandplay Therapy Techniques
One of the most common techniques used in sandplay therapy is the World Technique. This non-verbal approach involves the use of miniatures. People in therapy are encouraged to use miniature toys, figurines, and objects in the sand in ways they choose while the therapist observes and later analyzes the person’s interaction. The person in therapy can add water to the sand and place the miniatures in the sand tray in any order. The design of the sand tray is guided by their imagination and their subconscious. The result is a microcosm of their inner world. The world within the sand tray is expressed through symbolism and metaphor, and may not even make immediate sense to the person creating it. But aided by the therapist, a person in therapy—even a child—can begin to recognize the relationship between the creation in the sand and their own inner world.