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Sand Tray Therapy

What is Sand Tray Therapy?  

Sand Tray is a form of expressive therapy in which an individual, in a “free and protected” space (the sand tray along with a safe person), creates a concrete manifestation of their world using sand and miniature objects.  The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s inner self and allows them the opportunity to process and heal areas of their life that they were not able to before.  It is a powerful therapeutic technique that facilitates the mind’s natural capacity for healing.

Neurobiology of Why Sand Tray Works
Implicit Memories

 Use of sand reaches memories that are stored below the level of consciousness. 
 When these memories are activated, the person believes that the trauma is occurring in the present moment and the brain sends a message to the amygdala, which is the fear   sensor of the brain.   
 When these memories are triggered in an unsafe (or perceived unsafe) environment the body or brain will do whatever it needs to feel safe, usually a form of dissociation or  detachment. This is the body and brain’s way of protection when the trauma is too much to handle.  A child might respond in a more behavioral way such as acting out throwing toys and possibly sand. 
 These unhealthy defense mechanisms of the brain often cause PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and other obtrusive behaviors. 
 With Sand Tray, these memories can be brought to the level of consciousness in a safe environment with a safe person. Thus the brain will be more willing to allow them to be processed instead of dissociating and then the healing process can begin.   


Left Brain/Right Brain 

 Left brain: Analytical, reason, control, realistic, language 
 Right Brain: passion, creative, feelings, imagination, nonverbal, expresses self through images and arts

 Trauma is often only housed on the right side of the brain, where there is no language center.  With trauma a person is often not able to access both sides of the brain at the same time.  
 Sand Tray accesses the right brain and often the person is able to bring up things that they were not able to before.  
 When it’s processed with a safe person, the individual is able to activate both the right and left side of the brain and healing happens faster. 
 It is critical for the left and right brain and the body to integrate for holistic healing. 
 Sand Tray integrates the body (hands making the tray), the right brain (creativity, expression of self) and the left brain (processing it with therapist). 


Sand tray therapy can be used with anyone who might not have equal success with verbal therapeutic methods. Grief and trauma can be fully processed because the creativity of the sand tray can be accessed in a new way.   


If you are interested in experiencing the magic of the sand tray please let me know.  

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