Sandplay Therapy

What is Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay is a nonverbal, nonrational form of therapy that reaches a profound preverbal level of the psyche. Clients create a concrete manifestation of his or her inner and outer world in a tray of specific size by using sand, water, and miniature figures (Weinrib, 1983). It is a powerful intervention for people who have suffered early relational trauma, or other forms of severe trauma, and who are having trouble expressing their inner feelings in words. 

What to Expect

In sandplay, I usually sit there and observe without interruption. I will keep open-minded to whatever is created and allow the client to find answers within themselves. After sandplay is completed, I may invite the client to talk about the tray and the process. I will be receptive and make minimal comments. I don’t offer interpretations at the time the pictures are created.

How it Works

The postulate of sandplay is that deep in the unconscious there is an autonomous tendency for the psyche to heal itself, if given the proper conditions (Weinrib, 1983). I found it is very similar to the “Adaptive Information Processing Model” which is consistent with Freud’s and Pavlov’s early understanding of what is now referred to as information processing. There is a neurological balance in the physiological system that allows information to be processed to an “adaptive resolution” which Shapiro, the developer of EMDR explained that as “the connections to appropriate associations are made and that the experience is used constructively by the individual and is integrated into a positive emotional and cognitive schema. Essentially, what is useful is learned and stored with the appropriate affect and is available for future use.”

The parts I like about sandplay compared to other types of approaches are the distinctive fluidity and creativity. Unlike the talk therapy which is progressing in the direction of enlarged consciousness, the sandplay encourages a creative regression by providing the conditions for a womb-like incubatory period that makes the repair and rebirth of the self possible.

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