Sandplay therapy is a nonverbal, therapeutic intervention that makes use of a sandbox, toy figures, and sometimes water, to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect a person’s inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns. This form of play therapy is practiced along with talk therapy, using the sandbox and figures as communication tools. It is very effective with young children.
Sandplay therapy is often used with those who have suffered some form of trauma, neglect, or abuse. Although sandplay is especially well suited for working with young children, who often cannot express their inner feelings in words, it is also a technique that is helpful for some teens and adults who are having trouble expressing themselves and who may have suffered some form of severe trauma.
Sandplay therapy takes place in box-like containers referred to as sand trays. The trays are filled with sand that clients use, along with miniature toys, to create a play world that reflects some aspect of real people and real experiences in their own lives. The client chooses from a large collection of toys and builds a small “world” in the tray that reflects what is going on in their lives. The therapist observes the choice and arrangement of toys without interruption, allowing the person to find answers within themselves. After sandplay is completed, the client and therapist analyze and discuss the client’s toy choices, their arrangement pattern in the sand, and their symbolic or metaphoric meanings. Upon discussion, the client often chooses to make changes to the world they have created in sand. Sandplay therapy may consist of a single session or last as long as several years.
Audrey Anderson, LCSW, Hellenic Therapy Center, specializes in sandplay therapy.
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