Sandplay Therapy

As well as offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and talking therapies to children & young people, Sparkle in the Light provides a specialist Jungian Sandplay Therapy service.

Sandplay Therapy is a powerful yet very safe form of psychotherapy, which is based on the work of Swiss Child Therapist, Dora Kalff and also draws on the psychology of Carl Jung.  Sandplay Therapy is an expressive therapy that promotes healing as clients create a representation of their inner world through the use of sand, water, and symbolic miniature figurines. 

Sandplay offers the child the chance to create a picture, image, story or sculpture in a box of sand, known as the sand tray, which is a representation of their deeper inner world.  There will be a variety of small objects for the child to choose from, which they can use to make whatever they choose and what feels right for them.  Or they may just choose to sculpt in the sand, adding water if wished or leaving the sand dry.  The child does not have to talk during their time in Sandplay, but a free and protected space is provided for them to express whatever they wish.  

Sandplay Therapy is effective for children and young people who are experiencing a range of emotional problems, including symptoms of trauma, adverse experiences such as loss or separation, and attachment difficulties.   

Sandplay is primarily a non-verbal, non-rational way of working, and may therefore be used alongside other therapeutic approaches or talking therapies.  Sandplay Therapy is based upon the idea that:

“Play is the child’s natural medium of self expression. It is an opportunity which is given to the child to ‘play out’ [their] feelings and problems, just as in certain types of adult therapy an individual ‘talks’ out [their] difficulties“. (Axline 1969 p9)

Sandplay Therapy therefore offers a way to help a child (or adult) to process how they feel.   It creates a meditative  – ‘waking dream’ – state from which children are able to express difficult experiences with or without words.  Sandplay can help emotions (sometimes described as being predominately the domain of the ‘limbic’ or ‘lower brain’ and / or ‘right hemisphere’ of the brain) become integrated with language (often described as being the remit of the ‘upper brain’ and/ or ‘left hemisphere’ of the brain). 

Leading trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk supports Sandplay as an effective treatment modality for healing from trauma and is an approach taught at his Trauma Center in the US.  Traumatic memories are not usually encoded as normal explicit or narrative memories in the neo-cortex / cortical brain.  They are encoded as implicit memories that include feelings and sensations in the limbic brain and brain stem. Therefore, children need to access these areas of the brain in order to process difficult memories or feelings.  Working with thoughts alone may not allow the child to fully process the whole experience in its totality. The symbolism, images and metaphor that appear in Sandplay, work on an unconscious as well as conscious level and are therefore non-intrusive and non-directive. 
Children and adolescents who experience complex trauma are often unable to give voice to what has happened to them.  Sand[tray] therapy allows these clients to process traumatic material through an active, non-verbal, sensory experience that provides a safe, contained space. The use of the sand tray creates distance from the trauma, provides an “as if” character to the processing and gives control of the therapeutic process to the client.” (Robert Aikin, Trauma Center).
Nurturing relationships and play are essential to the successful development of a healthy functioning brain, especially in children and young people who have had difficult or adverse childhood experiences.  The relationship between the child and the practitioner and the process of Sandplay may therefore help the growth of the child or young person’s developing brain, as well as the development of their sense of self.  In Sandplay, the therapist holds space for the child’s psyche to unravel in ‘three-dimensional psychomotor’ structures of their inner world, all that is hidden, forbidden and feared (Kolk, 2014:305). 

Juliette is a Registered Sandplay Therapist (STR) with the Association for Sandplay Therapy (AST).  This involved extensive training, including approximately 160 hours of formal learning via live or online training courses run by Dr Barbara Turner and Eunice Stagg, over 50 hours of monthly group and 1:1 supervision with Dr Barbara Turner and Eunice Stagg, a personal Sandplay Therapy process of approximately 25 trays, as well as 10 assignments over a four year period.  

Juliette considers it a great honour and privilege to use Sandplay Therapy with children and young people affected by adverse childhood experiences. She respects the guiding principles of the Association for Sandplay Therapy, which are to work with loving kindness, clarity of mind, heart and action and humility in the practice of Sandplay Therapy.  

Juliette aims to be a mindful, trauma-informed therapist, with a focus on connecting and creating a safe & protected space for children & young people to explore their inner world & authentic self, thus facilitating change and the healing process.  Her practice is informed by trauma specialists, including Dan Hughes’ P.A.C.E., Bruce Perry’s ‘neurosequential’ model and Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. She works within a humanistic framework, respecting for example the values of empathy, compassion and non-judgemental acceptance.   

Sparkle in the Light believes that every person has an innate and unique creative essence within them, which, like a precious gemstone, needs the right nurturing environment in order to sparkle to its full brilliance. The more we can look through a lens of resilience and see each other as worthy, competent and successful, the more we will be able to demonstrate these qualities.   

Sandplay helps me to feel less stressed.  When I’m stressed in my mind I can let it go.”

“Sandplay gives me a bit of time to clear my mind.  When I have a bad day, my mind goes out of control.  It helps me to calm down when I’m…getting angry. It helps me to get my thoughts out and I think, ‘Ok, I don’t have to worry about that anymore’. It helps me quite a lot.”

“Sandplay helps me to feel calm.”

[Sandplay helps me] because it’s calming.  It’s all quiet.  When we do art [it makes me feel] happy.  I don’t normally go out of the class [to do art] a lot. [Sandplay] makes me feel like I’m by the sea.  I like it because it gets my imagination going…[that’s important] because it makes me feel happy.”

Feedback from Young People About Sandplay Therapy

Parents & Carers 

A leaflet for parents and carers about Sandplay Therapy can be found here: Sandplay Leaflet.  Below is a helpful video for caregivers all about Sandplay Therapy.

As a ‘VIG practitioner’, Juliette is also really pleased to be able to offer Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) to parents or carers to support them to use play therapeutically with their own child.  Please see the Consultancy page for further information.

For an excellent article for caregivers on how to help traumatised children, written by Dr Bruce Perry, please click on this link: Helping Traumatised Children.