Sandtray Therapy: An Experience of Growth and Healing

(This video is the first of 6 in our FREE sandtray therapy training found HERE)

Humanistic sandtray therapy emphasizes a deep and accepting therapeutic relationship and an approach to sandtray processing that focuses on here-and-now experiencing. Humanistic therapists believe that clients are by nature experiencing and expressive beings that have developed a tendency to distrust and even fear emotion in the here and now (Rogers, 1961; Wilkins, 2010).  Therapists can facilitate healing by accepting and acknowledging what clients truly experience emotionally and conveying verbally and nonverbally that clients’ inner experiencing is trustworthy and valuable (Armstrong, et al., 2016). 

Like play therapy with young children, sandtray therapy provides an experience that is active, nonverbal, indirect, and symbolic. However, many older clients are able to stay with emotions and feel vulnerable to an extent if they trust the therapist to a significant degree and their own inner experiencing to an extent (Armstrong, et al., 2016). One important goal of the processing phase of humanistic sandtray therapy is to facilitate a process that begins in the scene creation phase of sandtray and continues in the processing phase of sandtray. The scene creation phase, in which clients arrange their miniatures in the tray, is very important and is central to the sandtray therapy experience. In humanistic sandtray therapy, the processing phase helps clients to focus on the sandtray scene and their inner experiencing as they explore their scene. Throughout the processing phase of sandtray, clients look at their scene and experience the impact of it.

In sandtray therapy literature, much has been written about the importance of the tray itself, the miniatures and the safe and protected space of the sandtray. Many Jungians, who prefer to use the word sandplay, may emphasize these aspects of sandtray. We believe that all of these are important but we focus more on the processing phase of sandtray on this web site because little has been written on this issue and sandtray therapy is far more therapeutic when therapists are skilled in facilitating a process of awareness during this phase of therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about sandtray, we have created this 6-part sandtray therapy training video series.