5 Guidelines to Documenting Sandtray Therapy Sessions

You’ve got it.

You know what you’re doing with your sandtray sessions.

But, then it happens. You sit down at your computer and then NOTHING.

You know this stuff works, but you’re just not sure how to write in a way that makes sense for others (like auditors and insurance companies).

Never fear, I’m here to provide you with 5 quick guidelines to decrease the worry and anxiety about typing up those notes.

*Wipes sweat off brow*

Here we go!

  1. State what happened.

No need to go all crazy with getting into details of theories and different meanings in a large portion of your notes. Write what happened in the session.

Was the client silent? Then note that.

Client was hyper talkative and moved the miniatures around throughout the session? Jot that down.

For example:

Client worked in the sandtray throughout much of the session. Client placed only 2 items in the sand, which were a firetruck and police car. Client crashed them together making loud noises throughout the session.

       2. State what you did or said.

Again, don’t re-invent the wheel here. State if you reflected, processed, tracked, summarized the movement or actions of the client in the sandtray.

This is especially easy for adults but may be a bit more difficult for children – read Garry Landreath’s The Art of the Relationship if you need help on how to interact with a child in the sandtray. (really, this book is a must-read for anyone working with children in play therapy anyway.)

For example:

Therapist reflected throughout the session the movement of the client in the sandtray. Noted when the client removed the fences in the tray and used the “I wonder” statements to inquire about clients actions in the sandtray session. 

        3. Use the term “consistent with” in your notes.

When you note themes or patterns in the tray, avoid stating that “X means Y.”

We never know the EXACT reason a client puts something in the tray (unless they say verbally,) but we can note when themes arise that are consistent with other items.

For example:

Client placed many rows in the sand of soldiers and other people. This excessive row making is often consistent with anxiety.

         4. Use common themes in the sandtray within your documentation.

Review healing themes and problematic themes to help identify and then document what occurred.

If you know your stuff– and you should if you’re doing sandtray– YOU’VE GOT THIS.  (IF NOT, you need to go back 2 spaces and join the Sandtray Suite for $1. )

For example:

Client placed a candle in the center of the tray with rocks surrounding the center. This centering theme is consistent with healing and progress, which is also consistent with what client has reported with her progress with anxiety.

              5.  Note what changed.

One of the keys in the sandtray session is movement and progress. We want to note what has changed between session and within session.

Movement = change = progress =integration

For example:

Client began the session with a large dragon in the fence, which she stated represented her rape. Over the course of the session, client stated she wanted to take the dragon out because she did not want it be such a large part of her life. This movement is consistent with healing.

Now then, anytime you feel that stress level start sneaking up on you, you can simply refer back to this cheatsheet and know that you’ve got this!


You want to cut down the guess work and just have it done for you??

Good news — I’ve done just that with my check-box documentation template  — The Sandtray Documentation Wizard.

Click this link to grab yours now!! —-> http://sandtraysuite.com/optin/