Sand tray therapy
is a form of expressive therapy in which a child creates a scene
using miniature objects and figurines in colored sand. The scene created reflects the child’s own inner world and gives the child the opportunity to resolve conflicts and experience healing.
Playing in sand is a fun and relaxing sensory experience that encourages a child’s natural expression of emotions. Many children are unable to put their thoughts and emotions into words. The nonverbal and unstructured nature of sand tray therapy allows children to play freely and develop their own expressions of situations. Children feel safe because, even though they are creating their own internal worlds, their creations are thought of as separate or “make-believe”. It is easier for a child to create a scene in a sand tray than it is to talk about the issue. Subconsciously, the child can make the connections to their own life and begin to work through their problems.
As the child creates a world that reflects their own internal struggles, the therapist observes the child’s choices of figurines and monitors the child’s engagement, noting any symbolic meanings or common themes. The therapist may act as a guide, but rarely interrupts the child’s play. A safe space is provided, and the child uses the sand tray to subconsciously find the answers that are already within them as they begin to make assumptions and behavior changes without cues from the therapist. When a child makes changes in their make-believe world, they are often inclined to make a similar change in their real world. Sometimes photos of the sand tray are taken so that any changes made to the scenes can be reviewed over time.
Sand tray therapy is well-suited for young children who often cannot express their feelings in words, but it can also be helpful for teens and adults who have trouble expressing themselves. It is an effective treatment for a variety of issues and is often used for those who have experienced some sort of traumatic event, neglect, or abuse.
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