Children and Sand Tray Therapy

One of the techniques that the Family Christian Counseling Center uses in children's counseling is the sand tray. The therapists at the Center use this method as an addition to traditional therapies. Sand tray therapy is defined as “The therapeutic use of a collection of miniatures in a sandtray. It is a non-verbal expressive and projective mode of psychotherapy where the sandtray and the miniatures are the medium of communication. It is client led and the therapist is only the facilitator. The process seeks to promote safety and control for the client so that emotionally charged issues can be addressed utilizing the sandtray”.

Different children – different sandtrays

In the Journal titled Child Abuse and Neglect an interesting article titled “Differential Aspects of Sandplay with 10- and 11-year-old children” divided the study up into 2 groups, those who have experienced abuse and a control group. The purpose of the study was to find out if the experience of these 2 groups in the sand was different. The results were that there were differences in three of the dependent variables: a) content, b) theme, and c) approach. The clinical group as a whole had difficulty staying within the boundary of the box, had more regressive play and developed more disorganized pictures. The conclusion of this study (in 1997) this may serve as a useful assessment tool in therapy.

Sand Tray Research since 1997

Since 1997 a number of studies reported in national journals have documented the efficacy of this type of therapy, a few of the studies are highlighted below:

- Porat and Meltzer (2013) described the way sandplay has made significant inroads in the healing process of Israeli children impacted by the trauma of war.
- McCarthy (2006) described the way using sandplay helped with somatic memory recovery after trauma.
- Lacroix et al. (2007) demonstrated its effectiveness with refugee children recovering from a tsunami
- Tanaka (2013) illustrated the way sandplay can support clients impacted on by natural disasters

Sandplay therapy is now used and taught around the world, in national and inter-national conferences. The growing practice-based evidence continues to document a variety of contexts and client populations for which Sandplay Therapy has effectively supported change.

It is true that more research needs to be done on this (and all other research based therapies), the therapists at Family Christian Counseling Center are committed to bringing you and your family the therapies that are researched and trusted. All therapists who work with children have advanced sand tray training because there is much involved in viewing a child’s world and bringing healing. To read more about our child trauma services click here. If you think your child could benefit from the child counseling services of the Center please call us at 602-325-1233.

Sources for blog

Lacroix, L., Rousseau, C., Gauthier, M. F., Singh, A., Giguere, N., & Lemzoudi, Y. (2007). Immigrant and refugee preschoolers’ sandplay representations of the tsunami. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 34, 99-113. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2006.09.006

McCarthy, D. (2006). Sandplay therapy and the body in trauma recovery. In L. Carey (Ed). Expressive and creative arts methods for trauma survivors, (pp. 165-180). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Porat, R., & Meltzer, B. (2013). Images of war and images of peace in sandplay therapy. In E. Perroni (Ed.). Play: Psychoanalytic perspectives, survival and human development (pp. 133-153). Hove, UK: Routledge.

Tanaka, T. (2013). Sandplay therapy of 5th grade who have experienced the great east Japan earthquake in the course of psychotherapy. Mainly the development of self consciousness.  Archives of Sandplay Therapy, 26, 19-29.


1 Comment

  1. Ellie Davis on February 12, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for this information on sand play therapy. My son could really benefit from this type of therapy. I’l have to do some research and find the best therapy services in my area to do this with.

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