Sand tray is a form of therapy that is often used with children but can also be utilized with adults as well. The purpose of sand tray is to allow the client to create a scene using different toys (people or objects) in order to communicate with the therapist. What the individual creates can be interpreted by the therapist in order to gain insight into that person’s thoughts and feelings. It also provides the individual with the opportunity to reflect on their thoughts and feelings, resolve conflicts, overcome barriers, and create greater self esteem.
Sand Tray therapy can be used in the treatment of various mental health concerns but is particularly helpful for children who struggle to express their emotions and those that have experienced trauma. Because sand tray therapy can be non verbal, children can feel more comfortable and secure, therefore revealing more of what they are experiencing. This approach does not require instruction from the therapist which often leads to the child playing more independently. When the child begins to play on their own this allows for the therapist to gain information based on decisions the child makes and how they engage in play. An example of when this method is most effective is when a child has experienced abuse. Children in these situations are often told to remain quiet and threatened with harm should they begin to talk.
These children come to therapy anxious and are on guard against what they might say. The relaxed approach with sand tray allows them to establish a feeling of safety that can help them in sharing their story either verbally or non-verbally.