top of page

Jungian SandPlay Therapy

Working in a World of Image, Imagination & Symbolism, Dora Kalff completed her PhD in Austria and worked with along with Carl Jung (a contemporary of Sigmund Freud). She travelled to England in the 1950’s and worked alongside Margaret Lowenfeld in London. Margaret was developing therapy for children as at this point there was only psychoanalytical therapy available, which was not accessible for children. Margaret’s focus was on play and she developed ‘The World technique’. Part of this method included using sand trays, one with water and models and one filled with sand. On her return to Vienna, Dora began to integrate her Jungian understanding with the techniques she had learnt in London and as these developed she named her developing therapy ‘SandPlay’.


SandPlay therapy is a psychotherapeutic model that is now used for children and adults throughout the world. Clinicians work under the umbrella organisation of ISST (International Society of Sandplay Therapists) and BISS (British & Irish Sandplay Society) is the UK organisation of ISST and through these world wide organisations Sandplay is promoted and it’s professional standards maintained. This is the organisation that began with Dora Kalff. Its focus is the clients creation of a ‘picture’ or a miniature world, in a tray of dry or wet sand in the presence of a trained practitioner. The non-verbal nature of Sandplay can bypass the limitations of verbal interpretation, allowing the creator to directly access and remedy psychic conflict through the symbols in the tray. As they work with the sand clients enter a world of creativity and playfulness and their deepest inner conflict, potentials, blocks and possible solutions can begin to emerge and appear in their trays. It is a creative and gentle way to express one’s inner emotions and experiences and it is an extremely non-directive therapy. Sometimes it is not possible to capture life’s experiences verbally, they are ‘beyond’ words but with Sandplay the miniatures that are used can provide expression for the client. It is a powerful, moving therapy that offers transformation and gives a voice to the unconscious.

SandPlay is non-threatening, it is a gentle and engaging model of therapy that can be especially valuable for working with clients young and old, who have trauma in their pasts; deeply ingrained in their subconscious, and too painful to articulate or even understand. Through the calming medium of sand, emotions and traumas can be ‘worked’ through and a road forward to healing discovered.

Sandplay can:

  • Increase self awareness.

  • Provide healing, personal growth and development.

  • Clarify personal relationship issues.

  • Make sense of one’s past.

  • Integration of life experiences.

  • A means of expression of the ‘unspeakable.’

  • It taps into a natural healing process and given the right conditions, the psyche heals itself.

Examples of SandPlay work
The Therapeutic Process: What to expect

An assessment will be completed at session 1, and any questions answered regarding what to expect and how sessions are structured (very loosely). At this session you may or may not complete your first tray but you will certainly have the opportunity to view the miniature collection. The collection is extensive and the miniatures hold both the obvious meaning as well as a symbolic or archetypal one. Sessions are 90 minutes long so as to give space and time to be able to relax and become more immersed in the experience. At the start of a session there will be time to talk with your therapist, this may last for 20-30 minutes and the model of therapy followed is psychodynamic (psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious processes as they are manifested in our present behaviour, the goals of this model is to raise awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on the present). In some sessions you may not wish to do a tray and that is your choice but if you do, then I will move to the side, i will be taking notes but these are on miniatures used, placement etc and I shall try to be as unobtrusive as possible. I will not instigate speech between us but if you want to talk, tell me something or make a comment, of course I will respond. It is best to try to work in silence though if you can, and this will get easier as you get comfortable in the room, with me and used to the process. Working in silence allows you to hear the ‘inner voice’. You will choose the tray you wish to work with and begin. You may know what you wish to do, maybe as you arrived a miniature caught your eye or perhaps you are unsure, you may walk along the shelves and just look, pick things up, touch and replace, or even sit and simply run your hands through the sand, make patterns or build. You choose. There is no ‘right or wrong way.’ I will let you know when we are nearing the end of our time, if you have not finished and indicated this to me. I always encourage clients to sit for a few minutes once they believe they have completed their tray, just to sit quietly for a moment and observe what they have created. Then I will ask you about it. I do not give very much feedback at this stage, nor are you expected to give any information, descriptions or explanations of what you have created, this is your choice. After we are finished, you leave the room, leaving your completed tray intact. I would ask that you do not take photos of your tray. (I can explain the reasoning behind this in person).

SandPlay is not a ‘quick fix’ and it is expected there will be many trays, an average is 10-20 but often many more. You may wish to come weekly, fortnightly or monthly, again, you decide. When i recognise we have come to a natural break or perhaps a conclusion in our therapy, I will suggest we stop. I would then prepare what is called ‘A Review’. I place all the photos of your work on a USB stick for you, with notes and we would have a session to go through and discuss the work you have done together.

Clients may return at any time if they wish and begin ‘another process’.

bottom of page