Sandtray in Therapy Helps You Access Your Deep Knowing
Have you ever had a chance to use a Sandtray in therapy? It’s an amazing resource.
What is a Sandtray?
A sandtray is typically a large wooden box with low sides.
Some sandtrays have the inside base painted blue, covered over most of the time by an inch or two of fine, clean sand.
There might be a water spray bottle nearby, for wetting the sand so it can be moulded more easily.
Nearby, on shelves or in baskets, are a lot of little objects – miniature figures, toys, stones, shells, ornaments, beads and other small items.
(You can read about 14 ways that therapists might use stones in sessions, including sandtray, here.)
What Can Sandtray be Used for?
With the sandtray, and your therapist’s attentive support, you can explore ways to process:
- Your family (now, or in childhood)
- The main things in your life right now
- A significant dream
- How you would like things to be
- A work situation
- A muddle you feel you are in
- Different parts of yourself
- What your depression feels like (or anxiety, stress, grief, etc)
- A difficult time in your life
- Your feelings towards a person you’re currently having difficulty with
- How to feel more positive and move on in your life
- A creative project that you’re working on
Surprise – and Relief
The amazing thing about sandtray is what can come up, and how surprised we can be by that – and at the same time how relieved we can feel to have ‘got it out there’ in a form that can be seen.
Sandtray Taps into a Different Part of Your Brain
With sandtray, we are thrown into using the right hemisphere of the brain.
This is the side that sees and understands things as a whole, that thinks laterally, and uses metaphor and imagery to connect ideas and concepts in fresh and meaningful ways.Ever tried #sandtray in therapy? Here's why you should! Click To Tweet
An Example of Using Sandtray in a Therapy Session
For example, let’s say you are trying to depict your family.
First, you decide you want to find something that can represent your father.
But there isn’t a little figure that looks like him, so you are going to have to pick something else.
You scan the collection, running your fingers over the dozens of different objects. Your hand keeps being attracted to a feather.
This is silly, you think. My Dad was a big, burly man: surely the lion or the bull would be more like him.
But somehow you feel like the feather keeps ‘calling’ to be put in the sand tray.
When you put the feather in, you feel a partial sense of satisfaction – it feels ‘right’, at least to some extent.
In the end you decide that actually, a combination of the bull and the feather is what is needed.
You finish the sandtray, adding a kitten wrapped in a piece of tangled string to be your mother, and two little stones to represent your brothers.
The therapist asks you where you are in this picture, and you realise that you haven’t found something to represent yourself. In the end, you choose a seal.
Processing Your Sandtray with Your Therapist
You and your therapist look together at the sandtray you’ve created. In the looking and the talking, you get some new insights about your family dynamics.
These are things you have never thought of before, which feel like they have floated up from a deep well of knowing that is inside you.
This isn’t a dry, academic sort of knowing – this is a real felt sense, and you feel like you are connecting to something that feels real and true inside you.
Things about Dad, Mum, and yourself that you’d always known, but never thought (psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas calls this ‘the Unthought Known’).
Thinking about your Dad as having a feather-like quality helps you understand a little bit more about why you were always anxious about him; and also helps you connect with some anger too at what felt like his lack of protective strength around you.
Helping You Move On
Over the coming months, you find that understanding and connecting to your mixed feelings about him seems to be helping the two of you forge a stronger, calmer relationship together, even though you may have chosen not to tell him what you have learned.
Similarly, the image of the seal, and the kitten tangled in string, become useful motifs in helping you understand, make peace with and move on from your past.
Your depression and anxiety can begin to transform, through being understood and felt in new ways with your therapist.
That’s just an example, one that I have invented as a demonstration. Hopefully it will have given you a bit more of an idea of why it can be so incredibly helpful and illuminating to use the sandtray in therapy.
Learning to Trust Yourself and Deepen Your Intuition
Getting in touch with your own deep, felt inner knowing through sandtray work in therapy can feel profoundly healing. Over time, the process can make you feel more trusting of what’s inside you, and therefore more resilient in daily life.
Many therapists use the sandtray, particularly Integrative Arts Psychotherapists and Art Therapists. Some Gestalt therapists also use sandtray, and sandtray is also much used in play therapy with children.
There is also a related, specialist form of therapy, for children or adults, called ‘Jungian Sandplay’.
For sandtray therapy in Colchester Essex, give me a call on 07515 937027 or email me. I look forward to working with you, to help you connect to your deepest creative self!
Have You Ever Used a Sandtray?
What are your thoughts about using a sandtray? I’d love to read your comments below!