Sand tray therapy is something that I am very passionate about. On first look, most people assume sand tray is for young children only, that it’s just a waste of time, or that I don’t know what I’m doing as a therapist! I want to express how inaccurate those statements are. I have many older teen and adult clients, as well as families, who have greatly benefited from using sand tray therapy. Sand tray is a tool to be used in both assessment and treatment. It provides a window into the feelings and struggles of the client in a metaphorical sense can illustrate the situation much clearer than words ever could.
A sand tray session should include some sort of container filled with sand and a plethora of miniature figurines and objects (the more the better). The client can be given any instruction to create a world in the sand tray. Some examples may be: choose items to represent you, your life/people in your life, and the problems you are struggling with and then arrange them in a way that shows me the relationship between them all. The client is then given ample silent time to complete this task. When they are finished, they are asked to interpret the creation to the therapist.
I cannot fully explain with words the power of the metaphor here. Oftentimes clients also have breakthrough realizations that they may not have realized without this tool. Sharing the sand tray with parents, spouses or significant others also opens a dialogue and helps family members develop empathy and understanding for one another.