Sandplay therapy is a form of psychotherapy used with children as well as adults, for the purpose of healing through connection with the deep psyche. Its founder was the Swiss therapist Dora M. Kalff (1904-1990), who based her theories on the principles of Jungian psychology and on the work of famed child psychiatrist Margaret Lowenfeld.[verification needed]
Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung believed the human psyche is constantly moving toward health and wholeness in a process he called “individuation.”[verification needed] The psyche does this through the symbolic content of dreams, imaginations, somatic experiences, and many kinds of expressive art. In Jungian psychology, bringing this symbolic content to conscious awareness is an important part of the healing process for individuals.
Margaret Lowenfeld discovered that children quite naturally use symbols to recreate their inner “worlds” as they manipulate and play with objects in “floor games.”[verification needed] She later developed a method using this process, which she called “World Technique.” Dora Kalff collaborated with Lowenfeld, designed “the tray,” and added sand for a means by which children and adults alike can bring psychic contents to awareness. This therapeutic practice Kalff called “sandplay.” The term defines a specifically Jungian approach, not to be confused with “sandtray” therapy, which is used as a generic description for various methods within play therapy.
Sandplay therapy is a process intended to facilitate the emotional healing and full personal development of adult, adolescent, and child clients. The therapist utilizes a safe and encouraging environment that may sometimes involve dreamwork, talk therapy, or other methods of opening to the imagination. Importantly, however, the client is given the opportunity to choose from hundreds of tiny objects and figures in order to create in a sand tray a picture of her inner “world.” The scenes that take shape in the tray are comparable to the symbolic images that occur in dreams. Immersed in childlike play, the client loses (much as a child does) the inhibitions of conscious awareness and enters the world of the unconscious. The activity is multidimensional––using eyes, hands, body, mind, and spirit––and thus has a profound resonance with the client. The therapist “witnesses” the scene without direction or interpretation, responding only to the client’s comments. A “sacred space” is held allowing the individual to connect with deep psychic contents in her own space and time. Psychological analysis or interpretation may occur at a later date, if so desired.
References / Further reading
- Lowenfeld, Margaret (1979) The world technique, London; Boston : Allen & Unwin, (ISBN 0041500679)
- Lowenfeld, Margaret (1991) Play in childhood ; with a foreword by John Davis, London: Mac Keith Press; New York : Distributed by Cambridge University Press, (ISBN 0521413311 (USA)) (ISBN 0901260843 (UK)) (Originally published in 1935)