Often the hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect has wrestled in vain.
One form of play therapy that some of our therapists specialize in is sand tray. This is a safe way for clients of all ages to find some control over their lives in a healthy way.
Sand tray, or sand play as some models refer to it, allows a safe and contained space for the builder to create a world in the sand by selecting and placing different images representing real or imaginary people, places, or concepts in the sand.
Clients can choose from any of the miniatures representing the real and imaginary world in which we live, including people, animals, plants, buildings, fences, bridges, stones, vehicles, cartoon characters, safe and scary images, spiritual figures, and mythical creatures. The miniatures soon become a powerful way for clients to make sense of their lives and feel empowered by finding solutions through the sand. The builder has complete control of the world and often finds his/her own solutions through story telling about the world that was created.
How does it work? As infants even before we develop verbal language, the brain begins focusing on images to make sense of the world. The images often lead to story telling even without the use of words. This can best be understood by recalling a favorite childhood memory. Your brain will compose a visual picture of the memory even before you are able to articulate the memory with verbal language. Children are better able to grasp this concept since they are not tainted by the stigmas society tends to instill in us as adults.
Adults who are willing to try sand tray therapy often discover new revelations and peace through the sand. From individuals, to families, to couples, sand tray therapy is useful for all ages if you allow yourself to be open to the process.
The developing field of neuroscience is helping us understand the importance of communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain in order for full integration and processing of experiences, including traumatic events, to occur. Sand tray, along with other experiential approaches, allows the right creative side of the brain to become activated in creating the world. As the “world” is witnessed by an objective, fully present therapist who is able to hold the healing space, the builder’s right side of the brain communicates with the left by translating the information into verbal language to explain it, make sense of it, and integrate it through their experience.
Therapists also incorporate the use of miniatures into other therapy approaches, including EMDR and mindfulness practice. The images help clients gain a clearer picture of their lives, find solutions within their control, be empowered through visualization exercises, and learn to be in the present.