Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Land of the Sand

As some of you know, I'm currently pursuing my post-graduate certification in Play Therapy as I work on becoming a full-fledged therapist (my adolescent dream career!).  Play therapy has already taught me so much about children, about myself, and about the resiliency of the human spirit.

This weekend I had class Friday night and all day Saturday, which is admittedly kind of a drag after working all week. But the class was SandTray, and I came away from it absolutely in love with this process. Sand tray therapy basically stems from the Jungian theory that we all have the ability to heal ourselves by triggering our internal "self-healing" archetype. Jung also promoted the powers of the unconscious, and believed that by using abstraction--dreams, figurines in sand, art--we could freely express the things we were not even consciously aware of. Enter the 21st centuries take--sand tray.

Sand tray therapy can be used for work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, pretty much anyone. The basic premise is that you take a tray of sand and make a picture in it using a variety of figurines. The tray can be directive "make a picture of what hope means to you" or nondirective, "make a picture of your world". 

I just thought it was amazing to see the process unfold. There were things I saw in my tray that I wasn't aware of, and other things that I knew were high or low points. The trays are very open to interpretation, but often reveal things to the creator as well as the therapist. 

Wow. So awesome. I'm excited to have the opportunity to integrate this technique into my work with clients in the future. It may sound a little mumbo-jumbo, but don't discount it until you've made your own tray. 

Plus, who couldn't use a little break to play in the sand?


Christiana said...

Sounds great! Is there any connection to zen sand gardens?

Amira said...

Oh cool, I didn't know you were in school to become a therapist! The sand play sounds interesting, and obviously fun--even relaxing.

Erika said...


Yes! Similar principle...sand carries a major tactile connection for most people of memories of the ocean, peace, playing in the sand as a child. Just moving your hands through the sand is soothing and therapeutic. But the Jungian use of "making a picture" with figurines is what opens it up from the sensory to the more concrete. Did the client pile all the sand up in one corner or spread it evenly? Did they have an "unpeopled world" or use figurines to represent people? What went in the center of the tray? What figure did they pick up first? Are there any themes that emerge (i.e. aggression, emptiness or isolation, spirituality, relationships)?
I really believe in it's effectiveness and can't wait to use it more.

Erika said...


I technically already AM a therapist, because I've completed my Masters in Counseling and fulfilled all the internships and so on it I'm going through the licensure process which takes an additional 2-3 years after finishing your masters. In the next month or two I'll sit for the NCE (national counselors exam) and continue working on my required 3000 post-graduate hours. I decided to take this Play Therapy Certification program in order to give myself a therapeutic specialization and to make myself more hirable as a therapist. Also, it's always been my dream to work with kids! Ideally, I would like to start a private practice in the next 5 years or so that focuses on children and families (with a regular counseling room, a play room, and a sandtray room!) What are you studying in school?

Erika said...
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