Sandtray Therapy Class: Client Interpretation #1, Student #1

Sandtray Therapy Class: Client Interpretation #1, Student #1

Sandtray Therapy Class: Client Interpretation #1, Student #1

Sandtray Therapy Interpretation

This sandtray was created by a male adult counseling student on a night when he clearly had a cold and was very tired. This was an exercise done in sandtray therapy class.

The themes throughout this sandtray are those of threats, uncertainty, and choices including whether or not to face one’s troubles.

The elephant was the miniature first chosen and placed in the center of the tray, self chosen to represent the client. He described the elephant as “portraying slow and calm” though not necessarily feeling that way inside. He then made a watering hole next to the elephant and placed a handmade paper boat in the water, quickly choosing a menacing shark to place in the middle of the waterhole. He then placed a lizard at a right angle to the elephant, a person (Sheriff Woody) mediating or overseeing their interaction, and a whale in the water looking away from the shark. Then he added a dinosaur with its head buried in the sand almost waiting off to the side of the lizard, a tiger clearly coming up on the elephant’s back, a fish laying to the edge of the water, a frog, and a large starfish in the front corner.

To the client, the elephant represented himself, as a large, slow, calm presence though not feeling calm inside. The lizard represented conflict that was immediately considered by the elephant and looked over by the sheriff, an “observer of safety.” The tiger was the clearest and largest threat, at the front of the tray and also coming toward the elephant directly. The elephant was aware of but not facing this threat. The shark was also a threat, possibly to the boat (also the client’s self) and the whale (a more aware self). Finally, the fish was “helplessly flailing,” not facing the threat of the shark while the whale seemed less concerned and in control. The frog was an onlooker to the current conflict, as was the dinosaur, though the dinosaur was “next” in possibly needing to become aware of a threat or conflict.

When asked what would happen if the client turned the elephant to face his biggest threat, the client chose to try it out. It felt good to him, “stronger” and ”louder” and “no longer calm” but OK with this feeling. Also, the lizard became less important and immediate. He agreed the fish was making a choice to be helpless, and after turning the elephant, he advised this fish to be “smart” and “fast” and escape the shark using his intellect. He unburied the dinosaur’s head, noticing himself that it was in the sand, so encouraging him to be aware of his own conflict and face it head on.

In summary, this client seems to try to portray a strength and a calmness though he is actually feeling threatened and having difficulty facing these threats/conflicts within him. He feels he must use his intellect rather than physical strength and overall wants to choose an alternative to helplessness. He is feeling stronger and seems to know he has the power within him to make strong choices.

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"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.

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