“I’ve Learned That People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, but People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel.”
- General therapy
- Neuroscience of therapy
- Play Therapy
- Sandtray Hacks
- Sandtray therapy
- Therapy Techniques
After prodding along for several weeks, I have finally arrived at my last blog post of this series. I love all things sandtray and will continue to blog about its uses as well as other aspects of mental health.
Let’s get started, shall we?
To review, I have debunked 4 myths in the past 4 weeeks. You now know that sand tray is NOT
For the final myth, I will address a more global concern I often hear from therapists.
Myth #5: I have to know the meaning behind everything in the sandtray or I’m not doing my job.
This is absolutely false. However, the fear of not knowing can lead some therapists to shy away from sandtray therapy. Our clients and others in our society often think that we as mental health workers should have a crystal ball to predict the future and see the meaning of everything.
When we have the mindset that we have to know everything, we are only setting ourselves up to fail. As mentioned in the my first blog post, the brain will do the work it needs to do. The brain research behind sandtray indicates that if we provide a safe and protected space, then the brain will get what it needs to integrate. Our job is to show up and provide that free and protected space to do the real work.
Sounds too easy right?
Sandtray work is very fun, but it is not easy. Even in the observer or therapist role, we have the challenge to hold that protected environment and reflect feelings. Through the act of witnessing a client’s sandtray we are part of their inner space and working psyche. This is a privilege. Being present and providing unconditional positive regard will surpass the need for interpretation.
Duiring the last sandtray workshop at my private practice, I allowed the participants to view a video of myself doing sandtray. They asked what I would do differently and were shocked at my simple answer.
I would talk less.
During a sandtray therapy session, practice being present and avoid using too much left brain work in the tray. Stay present to the feelings and holding the space. What will stay with the client is more of how you were with them than what you said.
Do you struggle with the concept of “not knowing?” What are some things you do to overcome this struggle?
After a brief hiatus, I am now back on track to complete the series I started about the various myths surrounding sandtray therapy. To refresh again, we now know that sandtray therapy is NOT
Sandtray therapy is a great way to connect with clients across ages and various issues. It’s brain informed and does not have to be expensive to use.
Myth #4: Sandtray therapy is not mobile
Another concern I often hear from therapists about sandtray therapy is its seeming lack of accessibility for nontraditional settings. Many therapists do not have the luxury of having an office where all things sandtray can be stored. It was not so long ago I was in this very situation.
Good news! Traditional sandtray therapy can easily be converted to be very accessible with a little ingenuity and creativity.
Two main problems arise when thinking about doing sandtray therapy in a nontraditional environment. First, how do I do effective sandtray work without having shelves of miniatures. Second, what about the sandtray- how can I make this more mobile?
Let’s break down each challenge and provide possible solutions.
Challenge 1: What about all the miniatures?
Solution: Tackle boxes or other rolling shelving you can purchase at your local store.
My tackle box from a sporting goods store. It has a large handle on it as well as the smaller ones you can see.
I made these labels using my label-maker just for a little more organization. The miniatures did not always get put back exactly where they were supposed to go but it gave me a general idea.
I chose to go the tackle box route. I bought this tackle bag with all of the plastic containers at a local sporting goods store. I put labels on them. Remember, don’t stress to much about not having everything. As discussed earlier, the brain will get what it needs from what you present.
Challenge 2: How do I do a portable sand tray?
Solution: The nice thing about sandtray therapy (as opposed to sandplay) is its versatility and flexibility about materials. For sandtray therapy, one only has to have a box (exact size is recommended but not necessary) and sand. For a more travel-friendly sand tray, use a smaller blue plastic box with a lid with sand inside. Make it small enough to carry around in your trunk. Again, do not stress so much about what you have but how you are with your client.
Here’s a picture of my mobile set up that I often used before getting my current office.
What are some creative ways you have managed the challenge of therapy in a home or school setting? Please share. New ideas are always welcome!
Here we are, midway into the five week series about my beloved sand tray therapy. To recap, we have learned that sand tray is NOT
To solider on, I will continue to bust some more of those ill-conceived notions about sand tray therapy.
- Sand tray therapy is expensive to use
This is FALSE!
Sand tray therapy does have several different components. However, obtaining these materials does not have to be something that is going to set back your therapy budget by months. Below are the basic materials required and how you can obtain them on using some smart, money-saving tips.
- Tray for the sand
Budget friendly alternative- Buy a clear storage box and paint the inside with blue marine paint (to repel water)
Budget friendly alternative– Toys R Us has play sand made to be used with kids. It is a safe, non-toxic alternative to some of the more expensive processed sands
Budget friendly alternative– Shop around! You can pay big bucks for a sand tray starter kit from a specialty website, but it’s more cost effective to rummage around through bins at dollar stores, garage sales, good will, flea markets,and even your own kid’s castaways.
Remember, be creative!
Last of all, do not stress about not having enough miniatures for your collection. The brain will find what it needs to express itself with whatever you have, no matter how limited your budget constrains may be.
Do you have any good money-saving tips for those investing in sand tray materials? I’m always on the look out for fresh ideas from those working within this method. Please share any ideas or areas of useful resources!
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?
Five Myths about Sand Tray Work Busted in Five Weeks
Anyone who knows me and talks to me for more than five minutes about my work will hear the topic of sand tray. In fact, I have a good therapist friend who refers to it as the “Sand Tray Monologue.” I love this method of work with both adults and children and have seen its power repeatedly across various types of clients and issues. In this series of blog posts, I will debunk five different myths about sand tray work. Here goes the first one!
- Its not real therapy, its just playing with toys in sand.
This is absolutely FALSE! Sand tray work is brain-informed and research-based. Much of sand tray work is non-directive play therapy work, which has been repeatedly been proven to be evidenced based. Child-Centered Play Therapy Research: The Evidence Based for Effective Practice outlines some of his research very well. To be more specific, Bonnie Badenoch’s Being a Brain-Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiologyalso has a separate chapter devoted just to the power of sand tray work.
Some of the examples of how the brain is improved with sand tray work are
- Sand tray work uses all of the senses which promotes the brain to be more integrated and form more neurons. More neurons= better brain function= higher level skills such as the development empathy and insight.
- Sand tray work also allows for the left and right sides of the brain to be better connected, which again aids in the development a better, integrated brain.
- Sand tray work is a RICH experience and often goes through the “back door” of the mind, escaping the blocks many people put up with their words.
These are just a few of the many benefits of sand tray work.
What do you think? Does this myth keep you from learning about or practicing sand tray work orexplaining why its so effective toothers who are not familiar?