Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / Sandtray Therapy Lesson Plan - Party Hats & Monsters

by Sand Tray Therapy Student
(Decatur, GA)

Sandtray Therapy Lesson Plan - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Sandtray Therapy Lesson Plan - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Party Hats on Monsters in Sandtray Therapy– a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and play therapy technique for Bedtime Fears

Rationale: This technique is adapted from “Fifteen Effective Play Therapy Techniques” (Hall, 2002). Children often have difficulty in expressing their fears and feelings verbally. This sand tray therapy / cognitive behavioral therapy technique uses bibliotherapy, play therapy, art therapy, and the sandtray to help them face their fears in a nonthreatening way.

Purpose: To help child face and express bedtime fears, and help them find their own power in making those fears less scary. Note: This technique should not be used with a child who has been sexually abused, since the message could be that somehow the child could have made the monster go away.

Materials for Sand Tray Therapy / Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Technique: The book, Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly or the youtube retelling at
Playdough, construction paper, glue, googly eyes, toothpicks, markers, sand tray

Directions for Sand Tray Therapy Technique:
Talk a little about bedtime fears with the child. If the child is afraid of monsters, read or view the book, Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly together. Talk about how the monster disappears. Then tell the child that we are going to work on a way to make his or her bedtime monsters go away.

Then, have the child draw a monster/scary dream, or make one from play dough that looks like the monsters he or she is afraid of when he goes to bed. Cut out the drawing and/or sculpture and have the child put in the sand tray.

Talk with the child about the drawing/play dough sculpture. Then ask the child what he or she could do to make the monster/bad dream less scary.

Ideas include making the monster friendlier looking by drawing a different face, using a superhero figure to get rid of the monster, gluing party hats on the monster, tearing the monster up in little pieces, burying the monster in the sand or trapping him with toothpicks or a net.

Ask the child about what happened to the monster or where the monster went once the monster is disposed of.
When the monster is gone, the child can be encouraged to draw a picture of a happy dream to take home with him or her.

I did not use sandtray with this client—I was going to his house and that tray gets heavy, but the techniques are similar.

I was seeing a six-year-old boy, Jak, who was afraid to go to bed at night, and kept everyone else in the household up all night. When I asked him about it, he said he was afraid of the monsters under the bed and in the closet.

I read him the Ed Emberly book, whereby the monster disappears by the pages changing colors. Then, Jak drew lots of monsters on the paper. He proceeded to make them less scary by drawing hats on them and then sealing them away in an envelope. We put lots of tape on the envelope to make sure the monsters stayed inside. He then put the envelope under his pillow.

Possible extensions of Bedtime Monster Sandtray Therapy:
The same technique can be used with other anxieties and fears, such as fear of bugs.

How to Use The Sand Tray for Sand Tray Therapy Link:

More Ideas on Sand Tray Therapy

For more free ideas on creative therapy visit the link below:

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Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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