Through the sandtray, barriers can be torn down and healing paths created where no such thing previously existed.
A humanistic approach is applied in sand tray therapy that assists people to find solutions to their problems, using the sand as a tool for healing. Through creative expression, a person in therapy is able to manifest in the sand the things they would otherwise not be able to vocalize or address in traditional therapy. The person is treated as whole and healed, knowing that the process of sand tray therapy allows the person to find the answers that are already within them.
This nonverbal approach involves the use of miniatures. People in therapy are encouraged to use miniature toys, figurines, and objects in the sand in ways they choose while the therapist observes and later analyzes the person’s interaction. The person in therapy can add water to the sand and place the miniatures in the sand tray in any order. The design of the sand tray is guided by their imagination and their subconscious. The result is a microcosm of their inner world. The world within the sand tray is expressed through symbolism and metaphor, and may not even make immediate sense to the person creating it. But aided by the therapist, a person in therapy—even a child—can begin to recognize the relationship between the creation in the sand and their own inner world.
Many children are unable to verbalize emotional states, particularly in the face of trauma, neglect, or abuse. The nonverbal nature of sand tray therapy and the familiar medium of sand can help children achieve feelings of comfort and security. With little instruction from the therapist, the child is free to play and develop their own expression of situations. Often, the children will experience a sense of independent play and begin making assumptions and behavior changes without cues from the therapist. This method of therapy can serve as a valuable and powerful outlet for children and an incredibly insightful method of gaining access to traumatic experiences.