The client is given the possibility to set up a world corresponding to their inner state with the use of figures and the arrangement of the sand in a Sandtray. Through creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a “pictorial world” comparable to the dream experience.
Sandplay is the method used with both children and with adults in order to gain access to the contents of the unconscious. A sandtray is approximately 20 X 30 X 3 inches, and the floor and sides of the tray are painted with water-resistant bright-blue paint. Clients are given the opportunity to choose from Gretchen's vast collection of small figures. With these figures, clients give formal realization to their internal worlds.
Sandplay therapy has two parts to it: the first direction is to make the picture; after this is done, the client is then asked to tell a story. Both acts are extremely important. The creation of the tray is basically an introverted act- a kind of meditation. And the telling of the story is the “spinning of a tale”, giving voice to each client's individual story.
In the sand images new creative energies begin to emerge. Recognition of these energies leads to the effort to deal with them. Dark energies are transformed into bright, constructive energies, giving life a new direction.
The figures from which they can choose represent a cross-section of inanimate and animate beings encountered in the external world as well as the inner imaginative world such as trees, stones, wild and domesticated animals, houses, fountains, bridges, ships, a variety of vehicles, soldiers, fairytale figures, religious figures, and ordinary people pursuing various activities.
SANDPLAY THERAPY WITH ADULTS
Long standing emotional difficulties of adults are often resolved through Sandplay. This type of therapy takes one into the unconscious and opens the psyche to the natural healing that may have been blocked as well as receiving visual confirmation of such movement from the Sandtray s/he produces. Sandplay seems to move adults toward wholeness by facilitating the integration of the split parts of the self. It is a form of art therapy that is a release for negative feelings and energy and then one is able to reflect on images produced to gain new insight into a particular conflict.
Sandplay works well with many issues facing adults including: depression, co-dependency, anxiety, addictions, abuse issues, grief, loss, coping with life threatening illness, and other concerns.
SANDPLAY THERAPY WITH CHILDREN
Sandplay therapy allows the child to grow and heal themselves within the protective container of the therapeutic relationship. The therapist works on both the conscious problem-solving level and the unconscious level which is the source of dreams and conflict.
Playing in sand (dry or wet) is a natural medium of expression for children. Frequently they are drawn to the Sandtray and spontaneously begin working in the sand with no prompting from a therapist. However, their parents soon discover that this form of play therapy is much more than ‘just play”. It is play with a purpose. Children sense the importance of Sandplay therapy and often make rapid progress. As a result of this work, a child will often become calmer, more focused, and many symptoms of psychological distress may improve.
For children, art and play are their language. Fantasies are expressed so that the child gains some mastery over the powerful forces that seem to govern their world. Children do not often have the skills to sit down calmly and express difficult feelings. Sandplay Therapy provides a free and sheltered place in which to experience a safe outlet and channel their feelings. Through self-discovery from self-expression, troublesome feelings are transformed.