Exposure Therapy: Facing Your Fears Sandtray Therapy Lesson Plan Student #4

by Sand Tray Therapy Student
(Sandy Springs)

Exposure Therapy / Sand Tray Therapy Confronting Your Fears Sand Tray

Exposure Therapy / Sand Tray Therapy Confronting Your Fears Sand Tray

Exposure Therapy / Sand Tray Therapy Confronting Your Fears Sand Tray

Rationale: This activity is useful for individuals who have phobias to help them face their fears. This tray utilizes the concept of exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. It allows the client to be exposed to their fear without any danger in order to overcome their anxiety. This lesson plan would be beneficial for clients with mild phobias.

Materials: Pen, Paper, Various miniatures, including ones that look like the clients fears, and sand tray.


1.) Have an opening session where you talk to the client to get to know them and to assess what it is they are afraid of. Have the client write out what it is that scares them, then draw an accompanying picture that corresponds with their fear.
2.) The therapist will find out what exactly it is about the object, thing, or idea that scares the client, so they can begin to try to understand what it is that is going on with the client.
3.) Have the client create a tray with miniatures that represents happiness to them. This could be anything, such as family, friends, hobbies, environment, nature, etc. The client is always right in creating their tray.
4.) Have the client select a miniature that reminds them of their fear. The client will start by looking at the miniature.
5.) The client will continue by holding the miniature in their hands, getting a closer look at the miniature
6.) The client will add the miniature that reminds them of their fear into their happy tray. E.G: A client who is afraid of a spider might put a spider miniature into the tray full of happy things. The goal of this is to show the client that the thing they fear will not hurt them or the things that make them happy.
7.) The client will remove everything in the tray except for a miniature representing him/herself and the miniature representing their phobia.
8.) The client will proceed to bury the phobic miniature in the sand. This will represent their ability to overcome their fear in the tray, and presumably be able to apply this concept to real life and eventually confront the fear head on.
9.) The client will add back into the tray the things that make them feel happy, safe, and secure. The goal of this is to show the client that fear is only real if you let it bother you. If you face fear head on and bury it in the sand, then you can overcome it and go on with your life.

This exercise allows for exposure to an object that brings a client anxiety. Over time, the client will find it more manageable to deal with the phobia. After a couple of times, the client will be able to move on to confronting the actual phobia and not just through the miniatures.

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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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