Depth Psychotherapy in Petaluma
The Deep & Containing Work of Sandplay
Jungian sandplay therapy is a gentle form of psychotherapy in which the client creates scenes out of small figures in a box of sand of a specified size. Most often people think of sandplay as a child therapy technique; however, although sandplay is very helpful to children, it is also used widely with adolescents and adults, which is how I use it in my practice.
Sandplay therapy is well-suited for working with a wide range of issues. In my practice, clients frequently use sandplay to address grief, loss, trauma, depression, anxiety, life transitions, gender identity issues, and relationship problems. By using the power the symbol, sandplay is integrative, bringing together image, feeling, thoughts, and bodily sensations into one scene that the individuals can see in the tray sitting before them. It is not uncommon for clients working in the sand to make a scene that helps them to finally find the words to express some longstanding pain or, or some new, emerging part of themselves. This is because sandplay is thought to operate on a deep, preverbal level of the psyche and in non-verbal parts of the brain, so that elements hidden away in these places can find expression.
The tray itself is thought to be containing—meaning it helps the individual hold, in a manageable way, various feelings, ideas, attitudes, memories, and experiences. This is particularly helpful when the client expresses divergent, and even conflicting thoughts or feelings in the tray; these can be reconciled into a new form that hold the truth of both sides. The more the inner workings of the psyche are mirrored back to the person in the tray, the more the psyche tends to develop along the healthy teleological lines it was meant to.
Clients consistently report two primary things to be about sandplay work. First, that it helps them begin to know, name, and describe parts of their experience that were previously unknown to them. For example, when a client puts an image of a hurt child in the tray because she was drawn to that image on the sandplay shelf, when she looks at the tray, she begins to reflect on the ways she herself has been hurt and how that hurt is related to what brought her to therapy in the first place.
Second, clients regularly report feeling that even when they make a tray that is mysterious to them (i.e., that they don’t know exactly what it was about), the process of making the tray feels good to them, and they begin to feel better when they do. “Better” can mean different things to different people. Some clients say that the more they use the tray, the more they feel like themselves. Others report feeling more in-tune with themselves, while others describe feeling like they are more in-sync with life.
If you would like to learn more about sandplay and depth psychotherapy, please contact me.
Sil Machado, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in Santa Rosa specializing in anxiety, depression, trauma, and LGBTQ issues. He utilizes an integrative approach to psychotherapy and counseling, drawing from time-tested and evidence based practices.