Expressive Sandworks: Sandplay Therapy
Sandplay is hands-on psychological work. It is a powerful therapeutic technique that facilitates the psyche’s natural capacity for healing.
In a free and protected space provided by the therapist, a client creates a concrete manifestation of his or her inner world using sand, water, and miniature objects. In this way, Sandplay helps honor and illuminate the client’s internal symbolism and provides a place for expression. Talk therapy is also used during the process of Sandplay therapeutic work.
Through the tangible emergence of personal and archetypal symbols, Sandplay has the potential to lead the client into layers of experience that are often pre-verbal or long forgotten in the conscious mind. With sufficient time and understanding, this experience can develop a new psychic structure of the personality.
A basic premise of Sandplay therapy is that the psyche possesses a natural tendency to heal itself, given the proper conditions. Similar to how our physical wounds heal under beneficial conditions, the psyche also has an instinctual wisdom that emerges when left free to operate naturally in a protected environment. The aim of Sandplay is to activate healing energies at the deepest level of the psyche through the use of miniatures and the sand tray to reflect the client’s inner world. By this symbolic activity and through the experience of free and creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in this three-dimensional form, much like the dream experience.
The archetypal world expresses itself in symbols. Those symbols act as a bridge between our hidden and outer worlds. With the use of images (i.e., the miniatures on the nearby shelves) in the safe space provided by the analyst, the making of the sand creation begins to unfold. It is the very action of Sandplay – that is, the viewing, personal choosing, and the placing of the miniatures in the sand – that activates this powerful internal archetypal dimension.
Since Sandplay is one of the few therapeutic techniques in which language skills are unnecessary for understanding the expressions of the psyche, it has truly become a cross-cultural method that is now practiced therapeutically worldwide. Within this ever-shrinking world, Sandplay now offers us a unique opportunity to view universal archetypal patterns as well as to observe the unfolding development of the individual psyche.