Sandtray Play Therapy Florida Association for Play Therapy St

Bridges in the Sand:
Using Sandtray Therapy to Connect
the Abstract to the Concrete
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Halifax, NS
May 14, 2013
Charles E. Myers, PhD, LPC, LMHC, NCC, NCSC, ACS, RPT-S
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
What is Sandtray?
Sandtray therapy is an expressive and
projective mode of psychotherapy involving
the unfolding and processing of intra-and
inter-personal issues through the use of
specific sandtray materials as a nonverbal
medium of communication, led by the
client(s) and facilitated by a trained therapist.
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
History of Sandtray
• 1920’s – Margaret Lowenfeld first
developed the use of the sandtray and
miniatures after reading H.G. Well’s
(1911) book “Floor Games.”
• 1950’s –Dora Kalff, a Swiss Jungian
Analyst, expanded and popularized the
use of sandtray in her work with
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Who can use Sandtray?
Trauma Victims
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
What can Sandtray be used for?
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 1998)
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Advantages of Sandtray
• Gives expression to nonverbalized emotional
• Has a unique kinesthetic quality
• Serves to create a therapeutic distance for
• Creates a safe place for abreaction to occur
• Naturally provides boundaries and limits,
which promote safety for the client
• Creates a place for the child client or family to
experience control
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 1998)
Advantages of Sandtray
• Provides a unique setting for the emergence
of therapeutic metaphors
• Is effective in overcoming client resistance
• Provides a needed and effective
communication medium for the client with
poor verbal skills
• Cuts through verbalization used as a defense
• Effectively addresses the challenge of
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 1998)
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Role of Sandtray Therapist
Be Witness to the Client’s World
Provide Free & Protected Space
Honor Process & Product
Observe the process
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 1998)
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
The Sandtray
• Standard Size – 30” X 20” X 3”
– Client should be able to see the entire world at
one glance
– Limited safe space
• At Waist Height
• Blue Inside
– Can simulate the sky and water
• Water Tray
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 1998)
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
• People
– Ordinary, fantasy, mythological, & magical; diverse races
& cultures, occupations & recreation; fighting, warring,
& enslaved; death figures; religious & spiritual people &
• Animals
– Domestic and wild animals of the land, sea, & air; living,
extinct, mythological, & fantasy; animal habitats; bones,
shells, & feathers
• Plant Life
– Natural & artificial; complete life cycle
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 2012)
• Minerals
– Rocks; natural & artificial gems; marbles & beads
• Environments
– Habitats of various cultures & areas; fences & bridges
• Transportation
– Land, water, & air; emergency & military vehicles
• Miscellaneous
– Planetary & earth symbols; objects that reflect &
illuminate; addiction & medical symbols, aromatic
objects; communication objects, containers; food;
construction materials
(Homeyer & Sweeney, 2012)
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Obtaining Miniatures
Dollar stores
Toy stores
Cake decorating
Yard sales
Seasonal sales
Toy catalogues
Play Therapy Conferences
Grown up children’s old toys
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Displaying Miniatures
• Open Shelves
• Storage Containers
• Drawers
• Cabinets
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Processing the Sandtray
Stage 1
Begin with a Global View
–Invite client to tell you about the scene
Use Reflective Skills
–Help client feel understood and valued
Enlarge the Meaning
–Tentatively reflecting content or metaphors
can facilitate insight
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Processing the Sandtray
Stage 2
Move to Scenes and Parts
–Gather and clarify sections of the tray,
foster enlarging of the meaning, increase
client insight
• Tell me more about what is going on here
• Invite client to discuss specific figures.
• Tell me about . . .
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Processing the Sandtray
Stage 3
Explore Specific Details
–Does a figure in the scene represent you?
Ask Relationship Questions
–Who has the power here?
–If _____ could talk to ______, what would
they say?
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Processing the Sandtray
Stage 4
Close Processing, Empower Client
–Establish hope or plans with client
• Is there anything you would like to change?
• What is going to happen next?
• How will your world look different in six months?
–Title sandtray
• Some people like to name their worlds, would you like
to name yours?
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Evaluating Organization
• Look at the way the miniatures are
• Look for “classic” arrangements and
mentally note what the arrangement
might mean
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Common Themes
Common themes, physical
representation of the client’s inner
experience, can be identified through
the client’s sandworld
•Empty World
•Unpeopled World
•Closed/Fenced World
•Rigid World
•Disorganized/Chaotic World
•Aggressive World
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney 1998).
Empty World
1/3 or more of tray is empty
– World is an unhappy, empty place
– Dearth of ideas, rejection, escape
– Mental resources are deficient - depressed
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney 1998).
Unpeopled World
No men, women, or children
– Wish for escape
– Hostile feelings toward people
– Especially true with the exclusive use of
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney 1998).
Closed/Fenced World
Use of fences or other dividers
– Self-protective
– Closing self off from others
– Closing dangers out
– Fear of own inner impulses, need for
external control
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
(Homeyer & Sweeney 1998).
Rigid World
Rows of items (particularly overexaggerated uniformity)
– Perfectionist
– Attempt to create order
– Need for self-control
– Emotional rigidity, repression
(Homeyer & Sweeney 1998).
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
• Sandplay Therapists of America (STA)
• Sandtray Training
• Sandtray Network
• Visionquest
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Armstrong, S. A. (2008). Sandtray therapy: A humanistic
approach. Dallas, TX: Ludic Press
Boik, B. L., & Goodwin, E. A. (2000). Sandplay therapy: A
step-by-step manual for psychotherapists of diverse
orientations. New York, NY: Norton.
Bradway, K., & McCoard, B. (1997). Sandplay – Silent
workshop of the psyche. New York, NY: BrunnerRoutledge.
Carey, L. J. (1999). Sandplay therapy with children and
families. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Homeyer, L. E., & Sweeney, D. S. (1998). Sandtray: A
practical manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.
Thank You
Charles Myers
[email protected]
Northern Illinois University
Dept. of Counseling, Adult &Higher Education
Gabel Hall 200
DeKalb, IL 6015
Myers, C. E. (2013). CCPA.

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