Why use Sand Tray Therapy?

Sand Tray Therapy is useful for a variety of situations. It can be used for both children and adults as a visual means of communicating what is happening within them often without the use of words.

Sand tray therapy is a form of expressive therapy that is sometimes referred to as sandplay therapy (although sandplay does have a different approach) or the World Technique. It was developed by Margaret Lowenfeld, Dora Kalff, Goesta Harding, Charlotte Buhler, Hedda Bolgar, Lisolotte Fischer, and Ruth Bowyer

This type of therapy is often used with children, but it can be applied to adults and teens as well. While sand tray therapy may be applied in couples and group settings, sandplay therapy is meant for individuals.

Sand tray therapy allows a person to construct their own microcosm using miniature toys and colored sand. The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of self.


Though sand tray therapy and sandplay therapy both involve the use of sand for therapeutic purposes in a threat-free environment, the approaches have subtle but significant differences. For example, sand tray therapy may incorporate various theoretical orientations, whereas sandplay therapy is grounded in Jungian psychology.

Sand tray therapy emphasizes what the person in therapy is experiencing at that moment, and therapists are actively involved in facilitating current experiences of awareness and growth. As individuals in treatment are required to open up emotionally—sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings as they happen—the therapeutic relationship in sand tray therapy must be strong in order for the treatment to be effective. In contrast, sandplay therapists focus on the unconscious and seek to provide people in therapy with a free, protected space and the opportunity to communicate nonverbally. As such, sandplay therapists do not interpret, interfere with, or direct the person in therapy in any way, and analysis takes place after the therapy session.

While verbalization is an essential aspect of each sand tray session, sandplay therapy may be more effective for children or for individuals who are unable to express themselves verbally due to past trauma.


The humanistic approach is a common strategy applied in sand tray therapy. Clinicians who use this technique rely solely on the client to find solutions to their problems, using the sand as a tool for healing. Through creative expression, a person in therapy is able to manifest in sand the things they would otherwise not be able to vocalize or address in traditional therapy. The therapist treats the person as whole and healed, knowing that the process of sand tray therapy allows the person to find the answers that are already within them.


One of the most common techniques used in sandplay therapy is the World Technique. This nonverbal approach 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.

The person in therapy can add water to the sand and place the miniatures in the sand tray in any order. The design of the sand tray is guided by their imagination and their subconscious. The result is a microcosm of their inner world. The world within the sand tray 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.

From “Sand Tray Therapy ”  Goodtherapy.com

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