SandPlay Therapy, what sand play therapy is and how it works

Who I am
Philippe Gloaguen
Author and references
Fonte: Alamy

"In sand play it is as if something that was previously invisible suddenly becomes visible emerging from the deep layers of the unconscious ”wrote Dora Kalff (1904-1989), a pupil of Carl Gustav Jung and creator of Sand Play Therapy.

«SandPlay Therapy is one therapeutic technique which is based on the free expression of individual imagination and creativity and which can be used with children, adolescents and adults »explains psychotherapist Chiara A. Ripamonti, president of the Del Paesena Association for SandPlay Therapy (AISPT).

The patient, choosing from a multitude of small objects at his disposal, can create a sort of painting inside a box containing sand.

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«Despite the apparent simplicity, SandPlay Therapy is in all respects one psychotherapeutic technique which can only be applied in one's studio psychotherapist who has acquired a specific specialist diploma »points out Ripamonti.

Consequently, "it is very different from sand play activities that parents, educators or teachers can play with children, but which are devoid of any therapeutic value ".

How Sand Play Therapy works

La sand play therapy fits into the tradition of analytical psychology: it integrates verbal work with the production of images, therefore it can be a particularly useful tool with patients who have communication or language difficulties.

The child is offered to play using one or two sandboxes of standard size and with a blue background, which recalls the concept of water.

In the therapist's room there are dozens of objects which constitute a kind of miniature universe (for example animals, plants, characters, buildings, but also natural objects such as stones, shells, wood) that the child can place in the sandbox without constraints and with which he can play.

«Initially, the child symbolically expresses the deep emotional contents and conflicts that animate him inside the sandbox and which, in the protected space of the sandbox, can emerge freely. When he is able to give expression to his internal world in the sandbox, a process of re-elaboration and attribution of meaning of the experiences necessary to regain psychological well-being is activated ».

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The figure of the therapist

«The role of the therapist is that of share the experience that the child is living through play, welcoming his emotions, but without directly interpreting what has been represented: in fact, the interpretation would interfere with the patient's psychic process. Instead, the therapist's task is to be present and emotionally involved, facilitating the child's play, without however directing him ».


A session of SandPlay Therapy lasts 45 50-minute. You can use this technique with children aged 5/6 onwards to treat different types of discomfort: for example anxiety disorders, behavior disorders, eating problems.

The overall duration of therapy varies from patient to patient: "Each situation is different: it depends on many factors, such as the severity of the problem, the defense mechanisms and resistances, but also the internal resources available".

Furthermore, in the case of children, "it is very important that both parents share the importance of psychotherapy for their child, vice versa the conflict situation between the parents will influence the child's attitude towards the therapeutic experience which will probably be less effective".

Updated on 01.10.2022

  • psyche
  • sea
  • play with sand
  • 1-2 children years
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