Is Sand Tray Therapy Right for me?

Date Published: January 2, 2020

Perhaps this is the first time you have heard of sand tray therapy. For many, sand tray is a brand-new way of thinking about and approaching therapy. This is exactly why we incorporate it into our clinician work with clients at Sage House. We know that using a Sand tray in therapy with a specially trained clinician can be extremely helpful. For some clients, sand tray is soothing (and sometimes fun!) and provides a new way of exploring challenging feelings and experiences. If you struggle with any of the issues below sand tray may be an especially effective therapy approach for you.


If you find you rely on intellectualization to cope with when challenges arise you may find it hard to identify feelings and talk about them in traditional talk therapy or counseling. Intellectualization is a defense mechanism that many of us use to cope with challenges that feel too overwhelming to face head on. By rationalizing and using our logical, “un-emotional” brain we can bring comfort to ourselves by avoiding the painful emotions underneath. Clients who use intellectualization often find themselves in talk therapy for years struggling to make progress. Sand tray therapy offers a safe way to explore emotions at a distance, with control so that these feelings do not feel too threatening or overwhelming. Through sand tray clients find they can start to connect to and identify emotions, which finally brings about the understanding and healing they have been searching for:


Everything has to be just right or it is completely wrong.  Does this sound familiar? Perfectionistic traits can manifest in many ways and if untreated can lead to mood and eating disorders, social anxiety, phobias, workaholism and chemical dependency. Over time perfectionism also causes stress at work and within relationships. If you struggle with perfectionism you know how pervasive and destructive it can be. Sand tray helps perfectionist replace anxiety and fear with a playful and soothing experience of expression. It challenges the notions of perfection with the unpredictable quality of the sand and requires adaptability and letting go. As emotions emerge the sand tray gives way to a deeper exploration of the origins of the perfectionistic behaviors allowing for insight and change.

History of Trauma or Loss

Sometimes it is hard to find the words to describe our thoughts, our experiences and our deepest feelings and wounds. Traumatic events and grief can leave us feeling shattered and broken. Sand tray offers a gentle and safe way to start to put the pieces back together, to find new vantage points in which to view and create your story. The fragmented memories or the past become whole and manageable through sand tray which allows for distance, mastery and meaning making over even the most painful experiences.

Family or relationship issues

Family and relationship dynamics as well as learned patterns of interactions can be hard to identify and understand on your own or even in talk therapy. Visual representation offers the opportunity to better see ourselves and those around us. Through greater understanding of our interactions we then can start to make better choices, interact in ways that are healthy and heal from past relationship wounds.  The sand tray offers a safe way to express strong, sometimes conflicting, feelings that may not have felt okay to say out loud in the past or which words didn’t do justice to.

Feel “stuck” in life, work, relationships and/or patterns of thinking or behaving

You know the saying- nothing ever changes if everything stays the same. Maybe you are drawn to therapy because you are trying to make changes but nothing you do feels like it is working. Stepping outside of the traditional therapy box can help awaken the change you are looking for. As sand tray therapy is often new to most clients, it can be the catalyst for opening up playful, forgotten parts of the self. This process can then lead to the necessary insight and guidance for the change you seek.

Sage House clinicians are specially trained to safely and effectively use sand tray therapy to enhance the experience and therapy outcomes of their clients. To learn more about how we use sand tray and if it might be a good fit for you click here.