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Sand Tray Therapy

March 23, 2021 • Kelly Montgomery

Do you want to know more about sand play therapy?

A child playing on the beach is a similar scenario in sand tray therapy.. This therapy allows a healthcare provider to get to know a child. Playing therapy is appropriate for children aged 3 to 12 years old.


Having irrational worries about a serious illness is natural. However, if it becomes obsessive and disrupts your daily social function, you might be experiencing health anxiety or previously known as hypochondriasis or illness anxiety disorder. This condition can be associated with a person’s excessive exaggeration about the physical symptoms of the disease.

Sand Tray Therapy

A person experiencing hypochondriasis might be overly concern about typical body sensations. This misinterpretation of body functions may result from different reasons. Some of the possible causes are extreme stress, anxiety disorders, childhood trauma. It may also be rooted in other mental health issues such as depression.

There are two categories for people with anxiety: care-seeking and care-avoidant. Care-seeking individuals tend to spend a lot of their time seeking medical advice. They tend to look for several treatments from multiple specialists. The latter avoid medical care because they don’t trust doctors to take their symptoms seriously.

Health anxiety commonly occurs in people in their early or middle adulthood. However, children may also experience obsessive thoughts on their medical condition. Children, in particular, might express their emotions, thoughts, and negative feelings through playing. So how is this related to sand tray therapy?

Sand tray therapy can be a helpful technique. It is a therapeutic yet creative method to release stress and express negative thoughts. During the sessions, sand tray therapy allows the participants to construct their situation and illustrate their present mood. British pediatrician Margaret Lowenfeld developed this in 1921.

This type of therapy permits an individual to create his own ‘little world’ through various toys and different colors of sand. The situation that is created can be a reflection of the individual’s own life story and gives him the opportunity to get rid of challenges, resolve problems, and gain self-acceptance and confidence.

After studying psychodynamic psychology, Lowenfeld decided to utilize sand trays as a form of therapeutic technique. She focused on establishing sand tray therapy and its integration into child psychotherapy in 1928.

Nowadays, there is an application of humanistic strategy in sand tray therapy. This approach focuses on the ability of the patients to find answers or solutions within themselves. Allowing them to realize their problems could facilitate healthy behavioral change freely. If the clients are having difficulties in expressing themselves vocally, they can substitute it for traditional therapy.

Interested in sand tray therapy and the benefits that sand tray therapy can provide your family? We’ve listed some of the frequently asked questions below.

Sand Tray Therapy Works

A therapist starts by providing a child with a sandbox. It typically contains toys, figurines, and miniature objects. The child is generally free to play around with the tray as the therapist observes from the sidelines. They study the recurrent symbolism to the overall organization of the items on the sand. As the treatment progresses, the therapist may add or remove toys. They may also introduce new recreational activities.

What is sand tray therapy?

A mix of play and art, sand tray therapy uses world-building exercises. Sand tray therapy helps a child process an unpleasant or traumatic experience. The approach focuses on providing a safe space for creative expression instead of psychotherapy, which involves in-depth discussions.

What is the difference between the sand tray and sandplay therapy?

Although both approaches use sand for therapeutic purposes, they have defining differences. In sand tray therapy, a strong client-provider relationship is critical to facilitate treatment. The patient has to open up to the therapist while the provider actively supports their recovery.

On the other hand, sand play therapists do not interfere with the patient while in their sand world. Sandplay therapy can help individuals who are not as comfortable or capable of verbal expression.

Is sand tray therapy evidence-based?

Yes. Studies show that sand tray therapy is instrumental in helping children who have gone through trauma, abuse, and neglect. Although their experiences may differ, there are common threads in how child victims express themselves through sandplay. Allowing children to create a world that reflects their lived experience enables the therapist to gain insight into their mental state.

Through this, they can support the child’s recovery. Sandplay content usually becomes more organized in subsequent sessions. Results like these suggest progress in the patient’s recovery.

What are the benefits of sand play?

The textile experience of handling and can help a child’s physical development. As they shift items around during sandplay, it improves their muscle control and eye-hand coordination. More importantly, the open-ended nature of sandplay encourages creativity and imagination.

How do you make a sand tray?

Although you can buy a pre-made sand tray, you can also try making your own. You can use plywood sheets as the base and craft boards for the sides. Secure the tray using wood glue and nails before painting the structure. Once the paint has dried, add sand and figurines.

How do I become a certified sand tray therapist?

You would have to complete a minimum of 120 hours of education. The coursework will touch on critical areas in sandplay therapy. It will discuss the theoretical roots of techniques in handling complex trauma. You may also enroll in specific electives to deepen your knowledge.

This therapy uses world-building exercises. The more time a patient spends in therapy, the more effective the therapy would be.


How does playing with sand help a child’s development?

Engaging in sensory activities builds neural connections that support a child’s cognitive development. It also gives children the freedom to tap into their imagination and create without limitation. Sand play can also promote social skills. It teaches children to compromise, share resources, and negotiate when playing with a group.

What age is appropriate for play therapy?

Play therapy is appropriate for children aged 3 to 12 years old. Basically, it is for those who have yet to develop strong problem-solving and social skills. Although it is primarily for children, individuals of all ages can benefit from play therapy.

Why would a child need to play therapy?

If a child is experiencing developmental delays, play therapy can uncover the root of the issue. It is necessary to understand that children do not yet have fully developed cognitive capabilities. They are, however, to make sense of the world mainly through play. Through this form of therapy, a provider attempts to look at how a child sees the world. Play therapy can also be for children exhibiting behavioral problems.

What is Jungian sand play therapy?

Sandplay therapy is a nonverbal therapeutic approach based on the work of Dora Kalff and Carl Jung. The person-in-therapy gets free rein to create an internal and symbolic world in a sand tray. Sandplay can provide a way to express the unconscious mind and help a patient recover from trauma.

Is play therapy evidence-based?

Studies show that playtime helps support a child’s physical and mental development. It can also help those who have gone through a traumatic experience. Play therapy allows children to communicate and resolve their distress the best way they know-how.

How does play therapy help a child?

Play therapy allows a healthcare provider to get to know a child through play. For instance, they may give a child a playhouse to gain insight into the family situation. Based on their analysis, a therapist can provide the necessary support. Through this, they can help the child find the answers to their problems.

How is kinetic sand used in therapy?

Children can manipulate kinetic sand as they wish. It gives them a sense of control over their play environment. Research shows that the freedom to create and take down their creations helps them recognize their agency. Over time, sand play can contribute to their cognitive development. Additionally, kinetic sand is an excellent sensory play option because of its density. It is more moldable than beach sand.


Like any other mental health illness, having health anxiety can also negatively impact your professional and personal lives. Constantly worrying about the wrong diagnosis or even exaggerating your symptoms is mentally exhausting.

Undergoing therapy with your family can be emotionally demanding. You can ask your therapy provider to help you choose a suitable therapy for your family therapy.


It is possible to develop health anxiety within the family. Having a family member who excessively worries about your health can lead to a poor understanding of yourself. Sometimes, it may also lead to look for evidence to confirm a serious disease conveniently.

And this could not be more frightening for you. The family must take part in the healing process. Much like any other mental health condition, it is always better with a support system.

Undergoing therapy with your family can be emotionally demanding. If your children cannot verbally communicate with you as their parents, maybe it is time to consider other options.

Through sand tray therapy, the child can express themselves creatively and freely. It can also help recreate scenes that reflect reality. Through this, it is easy to visualize how to eliminate the obstacles possibly.

In sand tray therapy, healing through play and imagination can take place. It can help facilitate the exchange of deeper thoughts.  Then, it can lead to an open discussion of emotions, thoughts, and feelings. The family can connect on shared experiences as well as grow together.

The stigma on seeking mental health and having a mental health condition significantly affects treatment for most patients. In some cases, psychotherapy and medication are not enough to provide progressive results. Your therapist and psychiatrist can help you choose suitable therapy for your family.

Categories: Family Support