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Marie Makinson

Prof. Leon Petchkovsky

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Sandplay Therapy


Sandplay shelves
Sandplay Therapy is an active creative form of therapy with a long and distinguished history. It emerged in London in the 1930’s as the ‘World Technique’ developed by the paediatrician Margaret Lowenfield. She introduced the basic tools of sandplay: the tray filled with sand and the collection of miniatures that together give containment and form to the inner psychological world of the client.

From the beginning it was accepted as an effective therapy for children and became widely practiced both in schools as well as places providing clinical services for children.

Dora Kalff was a Jungian analyst who studied with Margaret Lowenfield. In the late 1950’s she developed ‘Sandplay Therapy:’ a combination of Lowenfield’s original technique and Jungian psychology. Sandplay Therapy which is grounded in Jung’s ideas about psychology and symbolism is suitable for both adults and children though the therapy is adapted to suit the age and development of the client.

It is now widely practiced throughout the world especially in Europe America and Japan. The international body for the development of Sandplay Therapy is ISST based in Zurich. It defines guidelines for training as well as guidelines for becoming a teaching member ISST insuring that high professional standards are maintained. At the same time it provides an international forum for the exchange of professional experience with Sandplay Therapy.

Sandplay miniaturesLike Jungian psychotherapy, Sandplay Therapy is a process that is governed by the containing boundaries of stability and commitment as well as by a code of ethics.

The initial session and meeting between the therapist and client is usually the time when the client’s needs are accessed and the protocols of Sandplay Therapy are discussed. Sandplay may also be included within psychotherapy as a single session or a series of sessions.

Sandplay Therapy supports and works at depth with the unconscious processes of the psyche. Some talking is necessary to establish rapport and some context for the work however clients are encouraged to make use of the materials and creative opportunities provided by the therapy room.

There is a choice of working with wet or dry sand contained in different trays. There is also the choice to use the miniatures or any of the other materials provided such as art and craft materials and natural materials such as stones or shells.Jungian Sandplay tray

The therapist’s role is to quietly observe the making of the tray and to document the process and this includes photographing the tray before it is dismantled. The detailed documentation is important in the period when the client and therapist work together to explore and integrate the images in the trays. This stage is as important as the creation process. It involves working at depth and making space for the created images to communicate with the conscious personality.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to do sandplay except it is not about producing something perceived to be pleasing to the therapist. The guiding principle is to stay attuned to ones inner subjective experience. Dora Kalff referred often to the “free and protected space” given by the sandtray and the container of therapy itself. It is a place where the invisible may become visible and the inner person revealed.

Jungian Sandplay tray