The client is given the possibility by means of figures and by the arrangement of the sand within the area bounded by the sandtray to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three dimensional form and in a pictorial world that is comparable to the dream experienced.
Dora Kalff, 1986
What is Jungian Sandplay?
Jungian Sandplay or ‘Sandplay’ first emerged as a therapeutic method in the 1950s. Having studied the ‘World Technique’ as developed by the English psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld, Dora Kalff a Jungian Analyst, saw its potential for a further application through the lense of Jungian psychology. Supported and encouraged by Carl Jung, she spent a number of years developing this method and called it ‘Sandplay’. In 1962 Kalff, fluent in a number of languages, began to train therapists, starting with Jungian Analysts in America and later travelling to a number of other countries. Central to the philosophy of Sandplay is the understanding that the sandtray, the miniature figurines and the therapeutic holding provide a ‘free and protected space’ within which deep layers of self-healing can take place. Both Kalff and Jung believed that an image could offer greater therapeutic engagement and insight than words alone. Jungian Sandplay therapy offers clients a way to connect with deeper levels of their experience, developmental need and the healthy integration of the fracturing impact of trauma. Through this method new areas of awareness can be brought into consciousness, stimulated by the broader sensory experience of working with sand and miniatures, and their symbolic resonance. Like dreams, which through their scenes and story can guide us and provide insight into everyday dilemmas, Sandplay scenes similarly include forms, figures and actions that can be symbolically explored. In conclusion, Sonu Shamdasani editor of Jung’s Red Book writes as follows:
….historical reflection suggests the spirit of Jung’s practice of the image, his engagement with his own figures, is indeed more alive in Sandplay than in other Jungian conclaves.
Shamdasani, S, (2015). “Jung’s Practice of the Image”. Journal of Sandplay Therapy, 24, 1.
The Sandplay Process
Jungian Sandplay Therapy may be offered in conjunction with talk based therapy. It can be uniquely helpful when words fail to get to the heart of the true experience a client may be wrestling with, or when something intuitive arises that may require tactile exploration or symbolic /non-verbal expression. By using miniature figurines and sand to create pictures in a small sandtray and inviting symbolic possibility, unconscious contents can become visible and the innate healing capacity of the psyche is activated. Sandplay is primarily a non-directive, creative form of therapy using the imagination. Jung (1963) referred to the importance, from a therapeutic point of view, of finding the image that lies behind the emotion. A series of sandplay images portrayed in the sandtray creates an ongoing dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the client’s psyche, which activates a healing process and the further development of one’s individual sense of self.
Jungian Sandplay is often sought by people who wish to discover more about their own sense of self, identity and, purpose. It is available to anyone who would like to explore their inner world more creatively and to those who find talk-based therapy inadequate in meeting their particular needs. It may be of particular interest to people who experience a level of disillusionment or loss of connection with the world around them. Because it offers access to deeper, collective layers of human experience and meaning, such as myth, fairy tale and spirituality, Jungian Sandplay can provide effective therapeutic support in working with the more difficult human feelings such as hopelessness, despair and futility and also where individuals may fear feeling uncontained or overwhelmed. Jung’s insistence on an innate sense of wholeness within the human psyche provides an important antidote and sense of hope to those who feel fragmented or vulnerable. Sandplay offers a unique perspective on the relationship between our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ lives. Those therapists privileged to witness the healing capacities of the psyche attest to the wonder and power of symbolic language.