Sandplay Therapy is the activity in which boxes of wet and dry sand and a collection of miniatures are used by patients to play out their inner world in the sand. My experience working with Sandplay Therapy, for almost a decade now, with both adults and children, has taught me the transformative power that lies within this non-verbal method. Time and time again I have seen people approach the wet or dry sand, working with the ‘prima materia’ (that is the simple medium of the sand) to build a picture of their inner world, their psychic fantasies, their conflicts, and dreams.
In his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” Jung describes his breakdown after the separation from Freud. He was, as he testifies, in a chaotic emotional state: “after the parting ways with Freud, a period of inner uncertainty began for me. It would not be an exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation. I felt totally suspended in mid-air, for I had not yet found my own footing”. In the midst of the crisis, he started playing with sand, rocks, and other materials, recollected his childhood memories of building sandcastles. Gradually he understood the importance of a free play of what he called 'the inner child’ as a path towards reconnecting to his creative abilities.
Just as Jung described it, so I have seen the loss of this creative part in many other adults. In an extroverted reality that emphasizes functioning and accomplishments, growing up too fast, losing this 'inner child', is one of the greatest tragedies that could lead to the loss of playfulness, creativity, and to a decrease in the ability to be spontaneous, joyful and have pleasure in an intimate relationship. In this context, Sandplay Therapy is an opportunity to reconnect to our creative part, as it encompasses the ability to play in a free and secure space that enables a renewed touch with the abandoned internal resources, creativity, and potential for growth.
The therapeutic process that takes place using this tool is a complementary side to the analytic work. Working with Sandplay is not about interpreting the meaning of fantasies created in the sand, neither is it a relational play (though transference always exists). Rather, it is a non-interpretative free, and secure space to express the pivotal point where the inside and the outside meet – a preverbal process in which the psyche can work, develop and grow.