Sand Tray Therapy
Sand tray can be a very effective therapy tool for healing, especially for children who are often developmentally too young to put words to complex feelings and thoughts. The sand tray offers a language of symbols through story telling which comes naturally to children.
The sand tray engages the child’s imagination and allows for a collaborative creation process in which the therapist is “allowed into” the world of the child. For children who use the language of symbols, art and play to process experiences and make sense of their feelings, the sand tray is a natural tool for expression. Children quickly take to the feel of the sand on their hands and the tiny world of miniatures that give life to their deepest wishes, fears and the narrative of their internal world.
Similar to art therapy, sand tray therapy can help children express to adults their thoughts and feelings when words are not as readily available. By empowering a child to create a world and then gain mastery over that world, we provide not only an outlet for expression, but also a vehicle for growth and reflection under an umbrella of safety.
At Sage House, we offer sand tray therapy for all children. While a new experience for some kids, many find it comforting and similar to what they have experienced in play before either at home or at school. As therapists, we listen carefully to your child as well as you, the parent, to tailor our therapy approach. We often find the sand tray aids in providing parents with a better understanding of their child’s inner world and when appropriate may invite parents to participate in a session in which the sand tray is used. For some children and families, we may only use the sand tray when the child is feeling “stuck”. Our priority is to allow the child and the parent to gain the most insight and means of expression in order to move the therapy process forward.
How Does Sand Tray Therapy work?
Our office offers both rectangular and circular sand trays, which are built to specific proportions and feature blue interiors (representing water). We use sanitized, fine, dust-free sand. We also offer an extensive collection of miniatures which include: a range of human figures, small and large animals, various objects from nature, numerous vehicles, as well as fantasy and other important symbolic objects. The purpose of these miniatures is to represent the various elements of everyday life and offer the child figures to stand in for words. Children can use the miniatures to help identify what in their world is beautiful, ugly, happy, sad, good, bad, comforting and frightening. Our therapists are trained in recognizing themes and making meaning from the underlying content of the child’s work. Our therapists do this while also providing an accepting and safe environment that allows each child to feel held and heard. The relationship and therapist’s training and experience are all essential aspects of creating a healing environment where inner feelings, current or past experiences, memories or traumatic events can be explored.
One of the most important reasons we engage in the creative, visual process of the sand tray is because we know from recent research studies that traumatic experiences are stored in the visual parts of our brains. For children and adults alike, we create images in our minds of an experience before we put words to this experience. The sand tray process helps to activate the nonverbal parts of our brains, allowing quicker access to emotions and in turn faster healing through the sharing process.
Is Sand Tray Therapy Right for My Child?
We know that sand tray is particularly helpful for children who are non-verbal, have selective mutism, lack a robust emotional vocabulary, are emotionally disengaged or those who “shut down”. Children who have experienced abuse, loss, or relationship conflicts are ideal candidates for sand tray therapy. Sand tray therapy is also particularly effective with children who tend to suppress emotions and intellectualize concerns. Children who act as a parent to their own parent or sibling as well as children who struggle with perfectionism also benefit from this approach. Your child’s therapist will speak with you in depth and make recommendations based on your family’s therapy goals to create a customize plan for your child.
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