For Professionals

This segment of my website is offered to therapists who may be interested in my work and methods. I intend to be responsive to your requests or inquiries about Expressive Arts therapies, particularly Sandtray. I am interested in hearing from you about topics you may want addressed. Please contact me here.

I have been teased for decades about being a Sandtray “pusher.” This may be true as I certainly have found Sandtray to be a powerful approach for people who are able to use it, including myself. This is why I encourage any professional with a bit of curiosity on the subject to give it a try. There are ways to explore the Sandtray process without a large financial commitment. Sandtray is an excellent part of self-care. I invite you to review the comments of several colleagues below. I have included sample photographs from a variety of people.

The Sandtray approach offers these advantages:

  • Requires no skill
  • Is strength based
  • Does not evoke competition or shame from others’ comments about what is made
  • Is multisensory: awakens sight, touch, smell, sound, vision, movement, and proprioception
  • Evokes implicit memory and/or frame of mind
  • Invites creativity, freedom, and flexibility
  • Facilitates the integration of physical, intellectual, and emotional experiences to promote a more cohesive sense of self
  • Can be a bridge between the explicit and implicit parts of oneself, improving communication
  • Taps one’s innate resilience
  • Supports self-mastery
  • May be both pleasurable and meaningful

Self-care for Therapists

Unaddressed therapist distress places clients in jeopardy. The inherent nature of working with suffering people exposes us to compassion fatigue or vicarious traumatization, risking burnout. Sandtray journeys can make us more effective in the treatment room. Expressive Arts, Sandtray in particular, helps us clarify our own personal and professional issues. The system of symbols that is language tends to be removed from our profound and deeply personal experiences. Nonverbal and less-verbal approaches evoke the less actively available aspect of our mind which dwells in the right hemispheres of our brains, where implicit thought and image reside.

Even when therapists believe that they are consciously addressing countertransference issues, unconscious material continues to be transmitted. When we are feeling stuck with a client or a personal problem, Sandtray work can shed light on issues that we could not identify by intellect alone. I encourage therapists to use Sandtray as a way to bypass a judging intellect. Sandtray affords us a way to “metabolize” our countertransference reactions and to learn to recognize and enhance personal resources. It also offers the opportunity to explore and heal issues that may arise from our own past experiences when they are evoked by clinical work.

Psychotherapy is different from many other professions in that we do not all apply the same set of actions or tools to each client. We do base our services on a body of knowledge and skills. The art of knowing when and how to apply what we have learned is based on our personal interactions with our clients. This therapeutic process deeply engages all aspects of our lives—our perceptions, memories, beliefs, and automatic reactions as human beings, including both what is readily known to us and what is implicit. The more we learn about ourselves and how we function in the world, the more helpful we can become as therapists.

The client /therapist relationship is embedded in a dynamic relational space that is co-created in our moments together. During therapy a client becomes a healthier functioning person within the context of this vital relationship with the therapist. As clinicians, we have the challenge of entering a lived, authentic connection with our clients while maintaining appropriate and reliable boundaries. We use what we know, who we are, and what is in our hearts to aid others to improve their lives. While creating a safe environment for our clients to explore and grow, we share affective states with them, providing both resonance and containment. Not having a script for these functions requires that therapists continually review and develop our own approaches and processes for this work. Sandtray can be helpful in supervision/consultation to increase our capacities for flexibility, tolerance, and self- regulation, and to better honor our clients with compassion, empathy, and respect.

Professional's Comments…


What is Sandtray Therapy?

Margaret Lowenfeld’s Sandtray methods are designed to access the innate healing powers within an individual’s life. Using what is created in the sand world we can reach into the depths of our lives and bring forth the images that we routinely rely on for perception and decision making. Sometimes our experiences are beyond words, and at other times our words do not accurately reflect our experiences. Sandtray can reveal how the non-cognitive aspect of our minds influence daily life. New perspectives gained through these sessions begin to clarify what actions one may take to heal, recover, and grow.

Sandtray can be a profoundly revitalizing and deeply intimate experience with one’s self. The therapist does not interpret or analyze the sand world but may function as a Witness or guide to enrich one’s focus, to explore and to harvest the wisdom from lesser-known parts of one’s life. Individuals make their own discoveries. Control lies with the Creator of the world. With a therapist’s aid, a world Creator can unfold fresh personal meanings. As people more clearly identify and harness the implicit aspects of their own lives, they become increasingly self-empowered to make healthier choices.