Forget what you know about Play Therapy, if you know anything at all about it. In fact, forget what you know about play, specifically that it is only for kids. Sandtray is a type of play therapy but my favorite people to use it with is adults! Sandtray is a tool that can be used as an alternative to verbal communication. It is something that can be used with all ages but with adults it is particularly useful because adults can process the tray and see what are possible barriers they are not facing, over-arching themes that might be holding them back, or future oriented goals that they can move toward. The reason why it seems to work really great with adults is that we are typically so preoccupied with our story and every thought we have is in words. When we ruminate or can’t shut off our mind from going over our problems, this takes us out of that repetitive cycle and allows are brain to function in a new way, a way that is a relief.
When I use the term tray what I mean is that there is an actual wooden tray, painted blue inside to represent air and water, and filled with sand, representing the earth. You will create a picture in the sand using miniatures. Kind of like those little army men you remember as a kid or action figures that your kids play with today. There are hundreds of miniature toys that will represent just about every aspect of your life, natural elements, people, buildings, cultural and religious symbols, household items, food and beverage, barriers and bridges, etc.
Sandtray allows you to select from a these miniatures and create pictures that can bring out life themes, feelings, thoughts, and dynamics in your world. Some people find that having the ability to express themselves in this manner helps bring out themes in life that are difficult to put a finger on, difficult to name or express in a way that conveys the depth. It allows your unconscious mind to speak to the conscious mind and has been shown to help people move through the cycle of changing their reality more rapidly. It is thought a telephone that allows the true self, or inner self to talk to the conscious self, the one that wont shut up in our mind and causes us to over think things. Allowing that inner-self access to creative processing we are more successful at moving in the right direction and overcoming challenges that can keep us locked in patterns that are not working for us any longer.
The way sandtray is approached in counseling is either as a suggestion by me the counselor or a request by you. It can be seen as a meditative exercise to rest the part of our brain always working hard at solving problems, and allowing a different part of the brain, the part that is more intuitive, take center stage to work things out. I might suggest that we try a sandtray to get a clearer picture of what is going on, or to take a break from over processing the problem. I will instruct you to allow your instinct to take over and select objects that you are drawn to, intuitively. You can select as few and as many as you like and during this process we will be quiet, I will play some soft music, and prepare the tray while you are choosing your miniatures and symbols. When done, you will create a scene in the sand that represents your world. I may or may not give you more specific directions than “create your world” depending on your goals and where you are headed therapeutically. You can also determine what your picture will be. Once complete, we will process the tray together, looking at your symbols and meanings you give to them, themes, feelings and thoughts evoked by your scene. You can share as much or as little as you like. More than not you will find out something new about yourself in this process or gain a greater insight into your current life situations.
Call if you would like to come in and experience a sandtray session for yourself.