Counselor Rachel created this video to discuss “Sandtray 101”. In this video she shares what sandtray therapy us and how it can help with healing. A transcript of this video is available below.

Video Transcription: 

Hi everyone. This is Counselor Rachel with Huntsville office location in Garrett Counseling, and I’m here to talk to you today about Sand Tray 101. So what is sandtray therapy? Sand tray, not to be confused with sand play, is a specialized therapeutic tool that we use here at Garrett Counseling, and for which we are the trainers in Alabama. So sand tray is the use of a round or rectangular tray, often painted blue on the inside rim and blue at the bottom, to represent sky and water. This tray is filled with a very specific type of sand, also known as Jurassic sand, smaller toys called miniatures, that we use in the sand to help the client build as they like. However, miniatures are not randomly selected toys. These objects are very carefully selected by your therapist to represent a variety of genres, including religion, death, money and finances, people of all shapes and sizes, races, cultures, gender, fantasy creatures, animals, both wild and domestic, dinosaurs and natural earth-based elements.

So to understand the effectiveness of sandtray therapy, it’s helpful to understand the neuroscience behind it, or how the brain is involved. So in the deepest part of the brain lies something called the limbic system. And then in the limbic system, the whole system supports emotional behavioral and long-term memory. And within the limbic system is something called the amygdala. The amygdala is the portion of the brain that stores memory, including trauma, and it’s also the alarm bell that keeps us safe and utilizes our fight, flight or freeze response. When this portion of the brain is processing information, it’s always going to be visual with images, not words.

In order for a therapist to access and aid their client with this trauma, they have to find a visual or nonverbal way of communication. So how do we use it? Where are the potential benefits? Generally, when a therapist utilizes sand tray therapy, the therapist provides a client with a directive or a topic for the client to center their sand tray creation around. So this use of creative nonverbal, remember communication, stimulates the right side of the brain. And so the right side of the brain is what we call the emotional side of the brain. It deals with things like art, and music, and feelings. Therefore to address emotions, feelings, or trauma in therapy, a non-verbal form of communication has to be integrated into the therapy.

So sand tray therapy addresses trauma from events we’ve experienced that have gone beyond a bad day, and have affected how we see and react towards the world and others around us. So for example, when a person experiences trauma and this trauma is not processed properly, their worldview changes, and they turn to maybe troubled relationships, or practicing unsafe lifestyle choices, or maybe even alcohol and drugs. This person attends therapy, ready to change, hopefully. And then the therapist introduces the client to sand tray therapy.

Nonverbal communication is initiated with the right side of the brain. So through the sense of touch and working with the sand, the right side of the brain is stimulated. And also the sand just provides an easily manipulated landscape so that the client can kind of create as they want and use whatever type of miniatures they want without feeling limited. So we as therapists provide a safe and judgment-free space for our clients to create as they need. Therapists process the sand tray creation with their client at the end of the session, so then that verbal communication is stimulated, like with our left side of our brain. So before you know it, we have a whole brain integrated treatment system, and whole brain healing can begin.

Thank you, and no brains were harmed in the making of this video.