Since I had a very positive response to my first busted myth
, I will continue with plugging away at dispelling those nasty rumors about my beloved type of therapy- Sand Tray! Last week, I debunked the myth that sand tray therapy is only playing in sand. This week, I will tackle another ill-informed opinion. Here goes another one!
- It’s only for kids. It’s not really useful when working with adults
THIS IS FALSE! Indeed, sand tray therapy was originally created by Margaret Lowenfeld
for her work with children, but it has since expanded to being used across populations, diagnoses, and therapy settings. Some of the most powerful work that I do within the sand is with adults.
For example, when I am teaching this method to other therapists, I am very careful to not chose a topic or a directive sand tray that is really emotionally difficult . In spite of this, there always seems to be a gut reaction that adults were not planning for when they build their first sand tray. Just within my last training, I asked for a volunteer so I could demonstrate how sand tray therapy is processed with adults. One brave young lady volunteered to be my guinea pig because she felt there was not much personal stuff in her tray. After a short 5-10 minutes of just surface processing (I purposefully did not chose some of the deeper themes I saw in the tray), she was bawling and apologizing to the class. Again, remember this is just a training session with a normally high functioning adult therapist- just imagine what comes out in the tray with actual clients!
One of the most difficult parts of using sand tray therapy with adults is the initial reaction of “What, you want ME to play in the sand??” I usually normalize this and acknowledge it does seem a little odd but to just go with it and see what happens. After the first session, most clients love this type of therapy but I do occasionally get those who are not comfortable with with comes out in in the sand tray. When this does occur, it is important information to know for me as a therapist that there are some major defenses going on and those need to be addressed before we approach sand tray work again.
Kids actually have the luxury of play in that everything that happens in the sand tray is protected under the umbrella of play. It’s not as scary if it’s just playing. Adults don’t usually have that option, so it’s very important that I, as a therapist, provide a free and protected space so that those feelings “vomited up” in the sand tray are held and protected in a safe environment.
If you are interested in what sand tray therapy may look like with adults, watch this example
of what a session often looks like with an adult.
Again- I welcome your thoughts. Any examples of what happens when you have worked in the sand as either the client or the therapist?