Why Sandtray Therapy Can’t Be Appified

Technology is good.

Even great..

It makes our lives better, easier, heck, even you are reading this right now because we live in an awesome world where I can talk to you while sitting on my couch in the middle of nowhere.


There’s some things that just aren’t aren’t the same-

To give you some examples..

-Online romantic relationships will NEVER take the place of living with someone day in and day out and building a relationship

-Your mother’s touch will NEVER be the same as just Facetiming with her

-Powerful, attachment-based therapy will NEVER take place with an app

Sandtray therapy is also one of those things that just can’t be appified.


There’s TWO main reasons for this:

1) Sandtray therapy is a tool to aid in healing, its not a projective assessment.

We don’t use it to “figure out” what is wrong with our clients and then prescribe them another treatment.


Sandtray therapy IS the treatment- it IS the healing tool.

It should never be described or used as a projective assessment.

To do so is plain irresponsible.

I’ve had clinicians refer clients to me so I can do sandtray therapy a couple of times and then they can do the “real therapy.”

Ok, for one, that’s a super insult, and two, you don’t just do sandtray a couple of times and then off you go to someone else.

It’s too powerful for that.

When you are working with a client in the sandtray, you need to have a relationship with them of unconditional positive regard so that when powerful feelings and trauma gets stirred up (and they will) you can be there to hold them safe in your therapeutic nest.

Brain research and anecdotal evidence both support the fact that sandtray therapy leads us into deep relationships and wielding this powerful tool is an honor and a responsibility.

When deep feelings and old trauma are stirred up and healing actually happens on a whole-brain level, healing gets cemented even further because those past too-powerful-to-call into-words brain connections now are resting within the cocoon of the attachment you have developed within therapy.

Healing occurs in relationship- right brain to right brain, which leads me to my next big reason that sandtray therapy will never be appiifed

2) The neuroscience doesn’t support it.

Everything we now know about WHY sandtray works is based in what the neuroscience research tells us.

Even for me, when I decide what to teach, I look at what the research says and try to only teach what is based in science.

What the neuroscience of sandtray tells us now is that its power is derived from actually USING YOUR HANDS to work with the miniatures, moving them in the sand, all while talking.

This dance from the right brain to the left and back to the right is what helps us process and work through the trauma that is holding up our clients.

We use the hands to work with 3D objects because

  1. That’s how our brain is wired
  2. That’s how we processed the information first (trauma happened in the real world so must be healed in the real world).

Once we use our hands to activate the implicit memories that trigger trauma, body-based memories, we can work through those at a level below words or even consciousness.

Through the use of sandtray therapy, we can meet our clients where they are with their trauma and heal there- often times even without the need for words.

To put more simply, neuroscience tells us that we must use as many senses as possible, especially touch, to activate the right brain.

When we activate the right brain, we are getting at the stuff that fuels therapy- the feelings, trauma, those pesky, but powerful images from our childhood.

THAT’S what our clients come to therapy to heal- right brain language- like “I feel horrible and I want to feel better” or “I’m sad all the time and am tired of this.”

So, when we, as therapists, are able to meet them where they are already-in the right brain with 3D images that they are able to hold and move around with their hands (which activates the right brain naturally)- our clients get better faster.

An online gaming process will NEVER be backed in neuroscience- that is until we live and process all of our information in a virtual, online world.

When that happens, I’ll gladly update this blog post.

But until then, know that I won’t be appifying my sandtray process.