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    Sand Play Therapy

    What is Sandtray Therapy?

    Sandtray is a form of play therapy. Sandtray therapy is an expressive mode of therapy, for both children and adults, that involves the unfolding and processing of issues through the use of miniatures in the sand. Sandtray therapy is a nonverbal medium of communication that may be combined with verbal therapies to enhance and give depth to the session content being presented.

    Margaret Lowenfield first developed the therapeutic use of the sandtray and miniatures in the 1920’s . She had read H.G. Wells’ book, Floor Games (1911), in which Wells talks about his elaborate playing with miniature toys on the floor with his two sons. Lowenfield adapted this concept in her counseling institute. She would ask her child clients to combine the materials to create “world pictures”.

    Dora Kalff, a Swiss Jungian analyst, expanded sandtray therapy in the 1970’s and 1980’s.


    Sand is the basic medium for this effective treatment modality. It is a basic elemental compound, one of the most simple and common on Earth. Our connection to this Earth is foundational. As we connect with the sand, we cannot help but feel the connection to the spirit within. Theraperutic connections and processing of rooted emotions are not merely assisted by the use of sand, it is the sand that creates the path. Eichoff (1952) suggested that the sand was the “means of which feelings can be expressed, for it can be thrown, tossed, dug and smoothed” Sand is a means of expressing the very core of who we are. Dora Kalff (1981) stated, “ The act of playing in the sand allows the person to come near his own totality.” Sand and play naturally relate with each other as children and adults delight in playing in the sand at the ocean’s edge and making sandcastles.


    Miniatures are the words, symbols and metaphors of a person’s nonverbal communication. It is through the use of the miniatures that people are able to express feelings, thoughts, beliefs and desires that may be too overwhelming for words. Or the miniatures are the symbols that provide an expression for that which is still beyond words.
    In play therapy it is believed that toys are the child’s words and play is the child’s language. Sandtray is similar, allowing the person to communicate through the use of miniatures and the completed creation in the sand.

    Why Use Sandtray Therapy?

    Sand tray therapy gives expression into nonverbalized emotional issues that can be stuck. For a person who is unable to verbalize, the sandtray provides a safe medium for expression. No creative or artistic ability is needed. The process of sandtray therapy enables people to consider new possibilities, some of which are not possible through verbal expression. Sandtray therapy is a forum full of self expression and self exploration.

    Sandtray therapy naturally provides boundaries and limits, which promote safety and control for the person. This is especially helpful for people who have experienced and trauma or crisis, where a sense of control and safety were lost.

    Deeper issues may be accessed more thoroughly and more rapidly through the sandtray therapy.

    Bonnie Bandenoech (2008) discussed the broader perspective of sandtray therapy and the brain. Bandenoch indicated that the use of sandtray awakens and regulates the brain’s limbic processes, where stuck painful emotions are stored. Sandtray therapy promotes integration in the brain between the right and left hemispheres. New neural pathway templates are developed, effectively rewiring painful memories. Once the tray or world is created, verbally discussing the contents results in left and right brain integration. Adding words to the story, which occurs in the left brain, where logic and language live, to the imagery and feelings of the right brain, actually strengthens and grows the corpus callosum, the connecting tissue between the left and right brain hemispheres, resulting in containment and physical relief of painful memories, and an opportunity to create new meanings. Bandenoech indicates the used of the miniatures as symbols with verbal conversation stimulates bilateral integration.

    Reference copied from:
    Sandtray Therapy By Linda Honemeyer and Daniel Sweeney.