Why Sandtray Therapy?
Sandtray therapy is an approach that involves the use of miniatures. People in therapy are encouraged to use miniature toys, figurines and objects in the sand in ways they choose while the therapist observes and later analyzes the person’s interaction.
Sandtray therapists, also called facilitators or witnesses, act as guides for the client or “builder” during the sandtray experience. The witness is taught how to help a builder fully engage in the world they create in the sand. The builder always remains the focus of the process, and the witness is there to encourage, support and guide the builder as they depict elements of their inner world in the sand.
The design of the sandtray is guided by the imagination and subconscious of the client. The result is a microcosm of their inner world. The world within the sandtray is expressed through symbolism and metaphor, and may not even make immediate sense to the person creating it. But aided by the therapist, a person in therapy—even a child—can begin to recognize the relationship between the creation in the sand and their own inner world.
Sandtray Therapy for Trauma, Neglect or Abuse
Many children are unable to verbalize emotional states, particularly in the face of trauma, neglect or abuse. Sandtray therapy and the familiar medium of sand can help children achieve feelings of comfort and security.
With some instruction from the therapist, the child is free to play and develop his or her own expression of situations. Oftentimes the children will experience a sense of independent play and will begin making assumptions and behaviour changes without cues from the therapist. This method of therapy serves as a valuable and powerful outlet for children and an incredibly insightful method of gaining access to traumatic experiences.
Sandtray therapy is also very useful in the treatment of children who have been sexually abused. These children will often remain silent for fear of harm or even death. They are often threatened and are in highly anxious states when they come to therapy. The relaxed and interactive setting of sandtray therapy provides them the initial arena of safety that they need to move toward healing.
Sandtray Therapy for Adults
Adults who have been traumatized and show limited response to other forms of therapy may respond well to Sandtray therapy. The environment presents an atmosphere free from threats, and the therapist works with the person in therapy to alter the positions of the miniature objects as representations of the true people and events.
By beginning to facilitate change on a fictitious level, a person can gain the courage and ability to recognize that these same changes can be made in his or her own life.