What Is Sand Tray Therapy?

Sand tray therapy is a technique which can be used to facilitate healing in adults, adolescents, and children. It assists them with expressing their thoughts and feelings when they may not be able to find the words they would like or when words are not enough. It’s not only therapeutic, it can be used for self improvement and creativity. 

A sand tray therapist’s office is equipped with a specially proportioned sand tray with a blue interior and a large collection of miniatures, including human figures, fantasy and folklore figures, animals, buildings, objects from nature, vehicles, and others. The miniatures represent all of the elements of life-the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the comforting, the frightening, the happy and the sad.

New Beginnings has a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has received extensive and specialized training in the use of the sand tray. She knows how to provide an accepting environment in which the client is invited to create a world in the tray using the sand and miniatures. Though some people express hesitation about sand tray by saying that they fear they are “not creative enough” to use the sand tray technique, creativity is not necessary. There is no right or wrong way to build a world in the sand. After the client has finished building, she or he tells the therapist about the world, sometimes making up a story about it. Together the client and therapist then discuss the ways in which what has been experienced in the sand relates to the client’s life.

How Does Sand Tray Therapy Work?

People think not only in words but in images. The use of the sand and miniatures activates this nonverbal manner of thinking, allowing the client to express images, emotions, perceptions, and conflicts about which they may not be able to talk. New solutions to emotional struggles can be experimented with through the “play.” The meaning of the work in the sand tray comes to light as the client shares the world with the therapist. Through the sand tray, emotional struggles which previously were not conscious or could not be talked about are brought into awareness so that they can be understood and resolved. An increased capacity for self-expression, self-awareness and communication can be developed through the use of sand tray.

Who Can Benefit from Sand Tray Therapy?

The use of sand tray is very effective with children who are not yet mature enough to express complex thoughts and feelings. Sand tray therapy is also a powerful therapeutic tool for adolescents and adults because it can be used along with verbal therapy. Working in the sand tray allows clients to move to a deep level more quickly than they might when relying on words alone.

 

Play Therapy

What is Play Therapy?

Many people hear “Play Therapy” and ask “Why would I not only drive my child all the way to see a therapist each week but why would I pay to have them play with a therapist?!” That is a great question!! There are many different types of play. Children ENJOY all different kinds of play.  Both active and quiet play serve purposes in children’s social and cognitive development.  Running around outdoors or on a playground provides exercise to kids and a healthy outlet for their energy. Quiet play, on the other hand, develops fine motor skills and cognitive learning.  That much is common knowledge. Fewer people may realize how play can function as a method of healing as well.

 Our Training…

 New Beginnings offers Play Therapy through a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Our play therapist has received in depth and rigorous training  where she has learned to use specific toys and activities to help your children work through problems or issues they are struggling with. Play therapy has shown positive correlations in a child’s ability to feel positive emotions, strengthen attachments to their therapist, and improve verbal or nonverbal communication of feelings. 

 Types of Play Therapy:

 Together with your therapist, you can decide as part of your child’s treatment plan if you would prefer that your child’s play therapy will be more directive or non directive. Your therapist will explain the benefits of each option depending on your child’s needs. One is more hands-on, the other leaves room for the child to set the course.  

The directive approach begins with the therapist or counselor establishing goals for the child during play.  For example, if a child is struggling with anger issues, a therapist may give that child a doll house, establish a conflict between the dolls, and encourage him or her to work through the conflict without resorting to anger or violence.  By displacing the conflict onto the dolls, the child is able to approach familiar situations with a level of personal detachment that allows them to develop more rational solutions. 

 

​The non directive approach assume that if a child if left to play openly, their issues will eventually surface on their own. Through this method, the therapist observes the child’s natural course of play, only intervening when a destructive behavior is identified.  Even then, the therapist’s only role is to subtly apply rules or limitations.  The more unhealthy behaviors the child exhibits, the more rules are applied to play.  The more the child begins to act appropriately, the more the therapist loosens the figurative leash and allows the child more freedom.

 

Why does it work?

 

Children are naturally drawn to toys.  It stimulates their sense and drive for exploration, creativity, and expression. At the same time, children exhibit less capacity for many key processes in adult psychotherapy such as rationalization and self-reflection.  It’s not their fault.  Pre-adolescent children simply haven’t developed those areas of their brains yet.  By exchanging those cognitive skills with skill sets that children are already comfortable engaging, the therapist eliminates one of the biggest hurdles in acclimating the child into a therapeutic environment. In short, by engaging a child with toys, you offer them a comfortable bridge into what might otherwise be an uncomfortable situation.