Sand Tray Therapy Class: Happy/safe place lesson plan (Student #6)

by Sand Tray Therapy Student

Happy/Safe Place Mini Sand Tray for Sand Tray Therapy Class.

Rationale: A positive imagery can be a very powerful tool for a child to have especially after experiencing a traumatic event. It can help them to relieve some of their anxiety and help them to feel both psychologically and physiologically relaxed. This exercise will help the child to create a more concrete, tangible way to externalize their happy/safe place.

Materials: Pen, paper, shoebox, sand, miniatures that will help express all the different senses, polaroid camera (or a digital with access to a printer).

** This lesson should be used during the initial sessions of therapy with the child since it will be utilized throughout their therapeutic journey**

1. Explain to the child that he/she will be building a happy/safe place. It can be any place in the entire universe and that it does not have to be a real place. It can be created completely from their imagination.
2. On a sheet of paper, have them describe their happy/safe place by answering the following questions:
a. What kinds of things are in your happy place? (animals, electronics, toys)
b. What does your happy place sound like? (beach, trains, cars, animal sounds, music)
c. What does your happy place smell like? (ocean, trees, a scent)
d. What does your happy place feel like? (soft bed, warm, cold, sand in your toes)
e. Is there a name for your happy place?
3. Have the child pick out their miniatures for their tray to create the place that they have described.
4. Bring out the shoe box filled with sand and explain to them that will be where they will be able to set up their happy place then allow them to set up their mini sand tray.
5. After the child has completed putting all their miniatures in the tray, begin asking them to describe each element in detail and where they came up with the idea of adding that as part of their happy/safe place.
6. Once you have completed that, let the child know that you will be saving their happy/safe place for them so that they can pull it out during each session and will always have access to it.
7. Take a picture of the sand tray for the child and allow them to take it home with them. Let them know that if at anytime they are feeling anxious or scared and need a safe place to go, they can look at the picture and imagine that they are there.
8. This will be a good time for the clinician to work with the child about using imagery as a relaxation technique and practice it in session and in sand tray therapy.

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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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