Jungian Sand Tray

The History of Jungian Sandplay was developed in Switzerland by Dora Kalff, a pupil of C. G. Jung in the 1940s. In 1962 Kalff began to train therapists, mostly Jungian Therapists in America. Dora Kalff wanted to have a methodology that provided a ‘free and protected space’.  Dora was believed using the sandtray along with other therapeutic process can have a very healing process using the sandtray.

Since the healing is guided by the child in therapy with the child’s psyche, rather than by the Play Therapists, Jung believed this therapeutic approach is to hold the child or adult in play therapy the image or world they create through the use of props or sandtray miniatures as they are called today. Since this is the method in which Therapists view the client, Therapists must be trained in the psyche both objectively and subjectively.

Play Therapists must have ‘lived‘ a therapeutic process so that they may understand the healing that takes place during a session with sand play. Therefore the Jungian International Sandplay Society requires that all Play Therapists undergo training that Sandplay therapists certified by ISST must also undergo a program of post-graduate training in Jungian psychology leading from Traineeship to Membership and finally Teaching Membership.

Sandplay is based on symbolism, and this symbolism can have a dramatic healing effect on clients that find their voice through symbolism or sandtray miniatures. Sandtray miniatures speak in the unconscious and dreams, and speaks in the language of childhood which comes out through play and activating the imagination. Jung had a differing opinion to Feuds theory that was viewed as a defensive process, Jung believed that symbolism was psyche’s quest for self completion, balance, meaning, balance, and the self-healing capacity inherent in human nature.

Symbolic development in childhood has five stages:

  1. Infancy – Waking Dream
  2. Early Childhood – Pretend / Make believe
  3. Preschool – Imaginary companion
  4. Middle Childhood – Social Realm
  5. Adolescence – Cultural Attitude

One of the interesting aspects of Sandplay is that the client does not need to posses an ability to draw or have an artist ability, rather aspects of life, humans, mythology, trees, animals, fantasy, natural objects, fantasy objects, religion and spirituality are laid out for the child or adult to select and to use within the sandtray. The only required skills is the ability to use the sandtray miniatures and activate the imagination to speak and tell its story to the Therapist.

This mostly non verbal process with the Child Therapists is very healing and can involve verbal discussions as well, however, the primary focus is on the subconscious and the sandtray miniatures.

The Jungian-based sandplay therapy uses two trays filled with sand (one dry, one damp). The inside of the Sandtray is painted blue or in Play Therapy Outlet’s case, we have a very unique interior that highlights the dark blues and light blues using a non toxic wood dye. This process highlights more closely the contrasts of the sky or water with the different hues contained within the sandtray itself. The Sandtray is also designed to a specific measurement that the child does not have to turn their head to the left or right, and this area that is in front of them is what Dora deemed the measurements required for a child to see that area with one glance.

The child or adult is given freedom to create whatever they wish in the sand. By creating an image in the sand the Child Therapist asks the client to describe what they have created in the sand, and why they choose to do so. The child or adult is asked to explain their creation, and sometimes they speak about their creation, and sometimes they simply let the scene do the speaking for them through a non verbal process.

Therapists record these sandplay sessions by writing notes down about the process and taking pictures and filing those notes and pictures away for later analysis. This Jungian process takes about 20 sandplay sessions which allow the Therapist to build a strong knowledge of the childs world in which they are creating in the sand.

Children or adults may draw, floor play or talk, or do other kinds of play such as, doll play, doll’s house play, story telling, dressing up or games. All of these play activities ignite the development of the imagination. With serious attachment or development disorders this process may take longer than the -maybe even years to establish a good analysis of the sandplay imagination. After the process is finished with the sandtray therapy sessions, a photographic review is sometimes enacted perhaps in between sessions or at the very end of the sessions in which the Therapists reviews the progression of the sandtray therapy sessions using the notes he or she has taken and the photographs.

Sandplay is suitable for ages 4 and up to adulthood.

Sandplay is suitable for a wide range of difficulties. It has been used successfully in the treatment of:

  • Emotional difficulties
  • Anorexia and eating disorders
  • Unresolved trauma
  • Attachment disorders
  • Psychosis

Jungian Sandplay Therapy allows for the healing of attachment mapping also known as negative maternal and paternal complexes to be healed over time using sandplay. In sandplay where anger or aggression may be enacted in real life circumstances, using sandplay therapy allows for a controlled and safe kind of projection to take place so that objects are used in the ‘free and protected space’ as opposed to the Real World. Allowing this aggression play to take place in this safe space, children or adults are allowed to vent within this safe space which facilitates the healing process and emotional growth.

This Jungian Sandplay process is a journey  towards self knowledge.  Grief, anger and other emotions may reveal themselves and be enabled to move towards resolution in sandplay. Tough emotional experiences may be examined in such a way that leads to a awareness that they are over. Awareness may be found in the inner world that can be incorporated into their external world . This healing process is a journey that requires courage, however, the holding and containment provided by the Sandtray, the therapist and the room creates a safe space for expression, freedom of exploration, and healing. We invite you to consider it as a creative way of working therapeutically with clients of all ages.

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