Sometimes, talking through our troubles is just not enough. When faced with a problem or crossroad in life, it is extremely helpful to be able to stand back and view a situation from many different angles. As a licensed mental health counselor and registered play therapist this is my creative goal for clients.
Sandtray Therapy uses hundreds of different miniatures including mythical symbols, people, shells, buildings, religious figures, animals, fairy-tale figures gems and stones etc. The miniatures represent all of the elements of life-the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the comforting, the frightening, the happy and the sad. Using these figures, clients create a scene in the sand.
The symbols chosen represent our deepest selves, as they do in stories and dreams. a sand tray is a full sensory experience where clients can “turn off” their thinking brain and create freely, expressing thoughts when words alone are not enough.
Creativity in the sand tray is not necessary. There is no right or wrong way to build a world in the sand. This work allows the creator to build what is being experienced currently, and through discussion and reflective observation with a trained therapist the creator has the ability to change or even just recognize obstacles that are causing barriers to moving forward.
When stories are told in pretend, it offers a safe psychological distance from problems. It is powerful and empowering in a way that can only be experienced. Using the sand and the miniatures open the way to feelings which may have been unable to reach by talk alone. For people who tend to rely too much on their intellect to the exclusion of their emotion, struggle with perfectionism, the use of the sand tray can be especially effective.
Combined with talk therapy, obstacles can be brought to the surface, explored and surpassed. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to verbally express what is REALLY the problem, and logic and emotion help us most when we allow them to work together.