Maarit Rivers

Therapist Supervisor

Northern Beaches, NSW

0417 462 115

Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay therapy is unconventional, creative and primarily nonverbal. It is hands-on psychology. For example, Jung explains: ‘Often the hands know how to solve the riddle with which the intellect has wrestled in vain’. Swiss psychotherapist and teacher Dora Kalff developed sandplay therapy in the late 1950s. She recognised that forming three-dimensional pictures in a ‘world’ of sand and adding selected miniatures reveals a client’s inner state. It provides information both for client and therapist alike – to thus work mutually towards healing.

A sandplay therapist provides two trays. One is filled with dry, the other with moist sand. The sand play therapist has also miniatures of every conceivable kind. Together, sand, water and miniatures enable a client to explore, create, venture and play to build a three-dimensional picture.

A client is thus freed from trying to explain inner feelings, emotions, bodily sensations and images in words. Instead, they are expressed by brain parts with no verbal language. Sandplay therapy is thus invaluable when working with adults and children alike.

Sandplay therapy opens layers of the mind that are deeply unconscious, inaccessible, forgotten, or too difficult to express in words. The unconscious becomes visible. Moreover, it is brought into the conscious and hence worked through. Internal conflicts, such as anxiety and depression, anger and other maladjustments, become healed. Sandplay therapy provides a safe, creative play world of childhood. It almost automatically mends the historical damage by making situations recognisable and explainable.

Sandplay therapy allows the client to explore deep murky feelings that are usually hidden and repressed. It is our ‘shadow’ side. It includes weaknesses, inferiorities and primitive qualities unacceptable to our conscious self or society. This ‘shadow’ surfaces as rage, anger, jealousy, wanting to hurt someone, meanness, gluttony, lust, greed, wrath, and excessive pride. The therapy sessions become a sanctuary. There, it is safe to face the shadow. This then allows change to emerge.

Sandplay therapy, moreover, works for everyday dilemmas. It helps to gain objectivity and clarity of the situations at hand. Sandplay therapy aids the client’s self-discovery. It awakens creativity and lateral thinking. Learning capacity, too, increases. Also, it rechannels misdirected energies and opens blockages.

The client is using creativity to express feelings; this releases anti-anxiety chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are opioids and oxytocins. They create the feeling of being safe. They reduce anger and aggression. Clients thus begin to feel calm and psychologically strong. The client progressively gains a deep sense of well-being, making their immune system more robust.

Furthermore, they progressively gain the sense that there is meaning in life. Sandplay therapy stimulates psychic growth. It consequently enables the client to live a fuller, more creative life. This profound, inner transformation typically changes the clients’ entire relationship to their life.


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