When people hear the word “therapy,” they probably imagine going to a therapist’s office, sitting on the couch, and sharing their feelings while the therapist helps them to process. While this is the most common form of therapy, there are alternative methods. One such method is sand tray therapy, which allows people to articulate their emotions through the use of objects, rather than using traditional talk therapy methods.
What is sand tray therapy?
As a therapeutic modality, sand tray therapy is considered an expressive therapy. The client receiving therapy services leads the sand tray sessions with the guidance of a therapist who facilitates the sessions.
Sand tray therapy uses a rectangular tray, often with blue interior walls. The tray is filled with sand and miniature figures that a client has selected to create scenes or worlds. Since the client leads sand tray therapy sessions, they can create whatever scene they like. Some may choose not to create a scene and instead just experience movement in the sand by using their hands or other tools.
The benefit of sand tray therapy is that the client is not expected to verbalize what they are feeling. Instead, they use the miniature figures in the sand tray to represent their emotions or possible internal conflicts or challenges. This makes sand tray therapy a non-threatening way for clients to explore uncomfortable feelings or deep wounds.
With the help of a therapist, the client explores the meaning behind the scenes they create in the sand tray, with the ultimate goal of alleviating any psychological symptoms they are experiencing.
Sand Tray Therapy for Trauma
Sand tray therapy is commonly used as an alternative to talk therapy approaches for the treatment of trauma, or as a therapy for PTSD. The use of the expressive sand tray approach can create more safety for the client and allow them to communicate about the trauma experience, which understandably can be difficult.
One study that assessed the use of sand tray therapy for treating trauma revealed the following benefits of this modality:
- It creates a safe way for clients to communicate their trauma experience to the therapist.
- Clients often feel safe undergoing sand tray therapy because there can be distance from the trauma, and there is no right or wrong way to arrange figurines in the sand tray.
- Over time, the client’s work in the sand tray will evolve. In the beginning, the scenes they create will represent a wounded state, but as time goes on, they will create scenes that represent healing.
In summary, sand tray therapy allows clients to resolve a traumatic experience by communicating their memories and emotions in the form of scenes in the sand tray. By working through their memories in this way, clients can come to a state of resolution.
Other Uses of Sand Tray Therapy
While sand tray therapy has been found to be beneficial for treating trauma, this is not the only use of this modality. Studies show that this therapy method can also be beneficial for the following conditions:
- Internalizing problems (ie: depression and anxiety)
- Externalizing problems (ie: behavioral issues)
The bottom line is that sand tray therapy is effective for both children and adults, and it can be used to treat a wide range of mental and emotional health conditions. It is a suitable modality for those who are resistant to traditional talk therapy methods, or who may be hesitant to open up and share their deepest emotional struggles with a therapist.
Find Sand Tray Therapy Services Near You
For those in New Jersey, Bridge to Balance offers a variety of creative and expressive therapy methods, including sand tray therapy. We also offer training on sand tray therapy, for clinicians looking to incorporate this service into their counseling practices. We have offices in Voorhees, Hamilton, and Piscataway. Visit our website today to learn more.