What is Sand Tray Therapy?


To further explain how Sand Tray Therapy works, I have provided a personal example.  I share this example to explain the process and to share a personal struggle of mine that I was able to overcome through the process of Sand Tray Therapy.

In the picture I built this sand tray because I was feeling stuck and unhappy in my career.  First, I ran my hands through the sand and unconsciously drew a butterfly in the sand.  The butterfly represented my gentle soul and spirit.   I internally desired to give the world more positivity, happiness, and joy, but was unable to accomplish this, because I secretly was unhappy.  When I sat with the butterfly symbol in the sand I was able to understand what this symbol represented to me.

After drawing this butterfly, I selected another object that stuck out to me.  I called this object  the “thinking person.”  I could have selected all of my objects at one time, but I selected one object at a time to get a new experience from the sand tray.  I placed this object above the butterfly.  The thinking person represented an unconscious decision or conflict I was faced with.  I needed to know more about this conflict, so I grabbed more objects.

At the center of the butterfly, I placed a mummy object as the butterfly’s body.  The butterfly, or rather my spirit was feeling trapped, dead, and stuck.  Symbolically the butterfly was unable to move due to the constraints.  This object helped me to access the source of unhappiness and why I was feeling stuck.  I relate this object to my life and my career at the time.  I felt my spirit was being trapped and unable to fully shine at my job.  My sprit was crushed when people at work complained, were cruel to my students, or criticize my department or myself.  My job was challenging and it was not a happy environment for me.  I needed a career that I felt fulfilled by  and continue to provide meaningful experiences to others.

The mummy object was the first object that was instrumental in helping me to uncover the root of my unhappiness and discover what was causing the feeling of being trapped or stuck. Although, I still needed more time to fully process my thoughts and feelings.  The mummy object did not help me understand the whole story or find a solution. I needed more objects to accomplish this task.

The next object I picked was a “fire woman” and I place her on the right upper wing of the butterfly.  As I placed her, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of anger.   I was angry and frustrated with abrasive people.  I was not comfortable with this anger, but I allowed myself to sit with my anger and acknowledge my pain.

After I sat with my anger, I was ready to move forward and I needed more objects to gain more insight.  This time I chose a shovel and a wheel barrel and placed it on the opposing side of the angry fire woman.  This represented a rebuilding phase.  Specifically, I had to make a decision to stay at my job or venture out on my own.  The thought of creating my own company caused me physical exhaustion, and I was experiencing a sense of being lost and feeling alone.  My first thought was, ” I am going to have to figure everything out on my own.” This was an exhausting task to rebuild and it brought out other emotions, such as fear.

Next, I selected a cobra and placed it above the shovel and wheel barrel.  This object scared me and represented the great fear I had about starting my own business.  I was left with questions, what if I fail, what if I lose money, and where do I even begin to start?  This fear was so great and it was causing me to question whether I should proceed further toward a private practice.

On the opposing side of the Cobra, I placed bones of a dead animal.  These bones represented my spirit dying.  If I did not face my fears and find a more suitable career, then I believed my spirit would not flourish.  If I was not able to fulfill my dreams, then I envisioned my kind, happy soul dying.  If my soul died in this way, then it was impossible for me to bring positivity, happiness, and joy to others.  I know if I continued to live my life in this unhappy way, then I would become complacent and mean/angry.  I wanted better for my future, so I needed a solution.

The last object I chose was a pair of open hand-cuffs.  This object became my solution and my source of strength.  The hand-cuffs were open, I was no longer trapped or stuck.  This object  represented my freedom and allowed me to acknowledge that I am not stuck and follow my inner pilot that is directing me to do great things with my counseling gifts.  What an amazing message I received from my inner self!

Through the process of Sand Tray Therapy, I was able to process my thoughts, experience my feelings, and find a solution to my problem.  This tray is a meaningful tray that helped me on my path to launch my private practice, Counseling with Love, LLC.   It is amazing what our minds can show us when we listen and let our guards down.  If you have not tried Sand Tray Therapy, then give it a try and see what it could do for you!

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