How to use Sand Tray Therapy with kids in Play Therapy - Help For Play Therapist

by Sand Tray Therapy / Play Therapy Student #8
(Atlanta, GA)

Play Therapy Sand Tray: How to use it in Play Therapy

Play Therapy Sand Tray: How to use it in Play Therapy

I can remember playing in the sand box when I was younger – creating little fantasy worlds and acting out different scenarios in the sand with friends. However, I must admit that, as an adult, I never knew that the play therapy with sand tray therapy could offer as many therapeutic benefits as I experienced in class. Going into the play therapy sand tray therapy assignment, I did not know what I wanted to depict. So, I allowed my mind to fall on how I was feeling at the moment; and whatever pieces spoke to me in said moment, I placed them in the sand.

The first piece I placed was the castle. Next, I placed the princess, the soldier, and all the scary insects and creatures surrounding them – in that order. I then drew a line in the sand and created another small “kingdom”. This one had another castle, another soldier, a shark, and was surrounded by hearts. After, I looked at the creation, I started to dissect it. I explained to my “therapist” that this world represented how I viewed my life during a very difficult and fairly recent experience.

The upside down castle represented Atlanta during that difficult time. I was the princess being held captive by the hurt, disappointment, and the broken heart I had experienced here - my world was turned upside-down. The bat, rat, and creepy crawler all represented the things that I feared the most – isolation, feelings of low-self-esteem, betrayal, depression, etc. – surrounded me and kept me from ever feeling like I could overcome and be happy again. The line in the sand was the division I felt from the place I was in and the time when I was happy – with my family in Birmingham.

My parents are represented by the shark (my mom) and the soldier (my dad) and the (3) hearts around the castle (my family home) represent my siblings and the overall love that I feel every time I am there.

I was absolutely floored and overwhelmed by emotion after completing this play therapy sand tray therapy assignment. I did not know the level of negative feelings I was still harboring for this experience, nor did I know how much emotion this exercise would bring out of me. Because of this assignment, I was able to finally see my feelings and can now fully begin to openly and honestly process them – putting me one step closer to feeling whole again.

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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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