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S & SYMBOL w o r k

Emotional Healing Personal Development with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Mark Pearson

Helen Wilson

S & SYMBOL w o r k
Emotional Healing Personal Development with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Mark Pearson

Helen Wilson

Adolescents and Adults Mark Pearson • Helen Wilson .S & SYMBOL w o r k ANDPLAY & Emotional Healing Personal Development with Children.

Includes index. ISBN 0 86431 340 3. Wilson. Edited by Jane Angus. Writers Reign Cover and text design by Polar Design Cover photography by Lindsay Edwards Sandplay photographs by Helen Wilson and Tess Pearson Printed in Australia by Shannon Books National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Pearson. Melbourne.acerpress. I. Bibliography. no part of this publication may be reproduced. Sandplay & symbol work: emotional healing & personal development with children. 3. Helen. Sandplay – Therapeutic use. 2. Mark.89165 Visit our website: without the written permission of the publishers. Camberwell. 1. Play therapy. Title. . Victoria.First published 2001 by Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd 19 Prospect Hill Road. 3124 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Copyright © 2001 Mark Pearson and Helen Wilson All rights reserved. adolescents and adults. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia and subsequent amendments. stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or otherwise. II. 616. The material in the photocopy masters may be reproduced by individuals in quantities sufficient for non-commercial application.

symbol work and ERC in Australian group programs Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom – the Jungian heritage and contemporary sandplay 24 24 26 29 31 32 33 34 36 37 38 41 41 44 45 46 46 48 50 50 50 51 51 53 Some aims of sandplay Emotional and psychological safety How can sandplay help clients? The value of play Dealing with aggression The role of the therapist Stages in the sandplay process After the sandplay The contribution of play therapy Sandplay and transpersonal psychology Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods Elements of the process Some uses of sandplay Trusting the inner healer The free sandplay method Overview of the process Some ways of beginning Gestalt role-play with sandplay figures The focused method Directed methods Stages in sandplay sessions Sandplay for families and groups Sandplay with couples v .Contents Introduction Chapter 1 The language of symbols The development of sandplay 1 4 4 6 8 10 11 12 15 15 18 20 21 23 23 How does sandplay work? Differences between sandplay and symbol work The evolution of sandplay as used in ERC Sandplay and symbol work in ERC Basic principles underlying ERC and sandplay practice What supports emotional healing? Sandplay literature and research Sandplay as an aid to counselling in schools Sandplay and multiple intelligences Sandplay and academic improvement Sandplay with abused children Sandplay and grieving Sandplay.

Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 54 55 60 61 63 67 69 72 72 74 75 77 78 80 82 83 84 85 86 88 88 91 92 93 94 95 96 99 101 103 The basic steps of a counselling session Relationships Families and school Emotional and physical release Self-esteem Spiritual direction and personal review Chapter 5 Expressive support processes Bioenergetics Music to support bioenergetic exercises and movement work Energy release games Drawing after sandplay and symbol work Other media Chapter 6 Professional orientation Basic rules and advice for facilitators Guidelines for facilitators Learning to observe Preparing the counselling room Integration Evaluation. review and recording Equipment Sandplay with different age groups Contraindications Sandplay and nature Using symbols in professional supervision Getting started with sandplay – a six-point plan Advice for parents of child clients Training Conclusion Sandplay stories Appendix I: Appendix II: Appendix III: References Glossary Index of exercises General index Self-discovery worksheet: The different parts of me Gestalt role-play exercise Record form for sandplay sessions 115 116 117 119 125 129 130 vi .

Helen completed training in transpersonal psychology and holotropic breathwork with Dr Stanislav Grof in 1998. She has used sandplay and symbol work in a wide range of applications with individuals.Ed. she also conducts training in ERC. vii . She was. Dreamwork and Sandplay. He now works as a psychotherapy and counselling trainer in Brisbane. a Certificate in Sandplay Therapy. sandplay and transpersonal therapies in Brisbane. Breathwork Therapy. Helen Wilson Helen is an emotional release counsellor in private practice in Brisbane. Helen and Mark are both recognised as Senior Trainers by their professional body and are foundation members of the Queensland Transpersonal and Emotional Release Counsellors Association Inc. He regularly runs programs for various welfare agencies and education departments around Australia. Together with Mark. then founded a remedial reading clinic. and is completing M. couples. He was a primary school teacher. on the staff at The Portiuncula Centre. and for the Australian Council for Educational Research in Melbourne. For five years Mark held a senior staff position at the Living Water Centre. He is the co-author (with Patricia Nolan) of Emotional First-aid for Children (1991) and Emotional Release for Children (1995). for several years. Helen has completed all three levels of training in Emotional Release Counselling and Transpersonal Studies and holds the PostGraduate Diploma. families and groups. Melbourne and Sydney through Turnaround. Blue Mountains. then directed courses at The Portiuncula Centre in Toowoomba for eight years. He has completed further studies in Transpersonal Psychology with Dr Stanislav Grof. He is also the author of Emotional Healing and Self-esteem – Inner-life Skills of Relaxation. She is the founder of Turnaround through which she and Mark offer personal and professional development programs. majoring in Behaviour Management. and a degree in Human Resource Management. as lecturer in Emotional Release Counselling for Children. He has worked briefly with handicapped children and conducted individual and group programs for emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.The authors Mark Pearson Mark has been conducting Certificate Courses in Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) and sandplay around Australia since 1989. studies. Visualisation and Meditation for Children and Adolescents (1998) and for adults: From Healing to Awakening (1991) and The Healing Journey (1997). Sydney and Melbourne. NSW. and members of the Queensland Association for Family Therapy. Toowoomba. She has a Certificate in ERC with Children.

We would like to acknowledge the initial training from Patrick Jansen. Many thanks are also due to our trainees. whose inner journeys. and to Kathy Halvorson for the exercise on page 62. probing questions and generous sharings have enriched our experience of sandplay. viii . Special thanks go to Pru Beatty and Alana Vaney for contributing stories of their use of symbols. We would like to thank our clients who have kindly given permission for photographs and stories of their exploration to be used. a student of Dora Kalff. and all the writers on sandplay who have supported and enlarged our understanding.Acknowledgements We are grateful to the many clients over the years who have entered willingly – in great trust and faith – into the realm of the symbolic and given us the privilege of witnessing their journey of transformation as well as giving us valuable learning experiences about sand and symbols.

similar to the ones we may have used in kindergarten. The sand calls out to be touched. When the sandplay figurines become symbols they begin to express the language of our unconscious. adolescents and adults in schools. hospitals. frightening things. We play and add figurines.Introduction The language of symbols A round the walls of the sandplay room are shelves filled with small figurines: little people. skeletons. buses. It forms a bridge between verbal therapy and 1 . We may begin our session by arranging the sand – heaping it into hills and valleys. model cars. military equipment. animals. primitive dolls and much. We may begin to understand ourselves more clearly. It has been used with children. We share what we wish with the sandplay facilitator. thoughts. As we look at the shelves we may feel that some of the symbols reach out. recognises itself in them. miniature household items. funny things. birds. We probably do not realise it at first. welfare agencies and private counselling practices. they become significant symbols for us as our inner meanings are projected onto them. We might feel greatly repulsed or attracted – that’s usually a clue that a symbol is important. gradually seeing them as representing our feelings. shaped. endearing things. At other times we simply allow the symbol to call us. flowers. expressive counselling and psychotherapy modality that has been in use for well over fifty years. trees. We take the figurines that we like. moved. and grow within the warmth of their acceptance. Sandplay is a hands-on. religious things. but the symbols stand out for us because something inside us resonates. longings and unconscious drives. and start to arrange them in the sand. Connection to what is unconscious in us supports emotional healing and personal development. attitudes. jewels. Sometimes we will choose symbols to represent themes about which we are already conscious. rivers or coastlines. In the middle of this treasure trove of figurines – silently waiting to become symbols for our inner world – is a sandtray. trucks. fish. or we may simply begin to feel better. The figurines on the shelves can represent parts of ourselves. The repulsion or attraction can be an expression of the unconscious. buildings. much more.

sometimes apparently following its own intricate fantasy codes. In dreaming. but the symbols are not stored away in our unconscious. video clips. Sandplay and symbol work make time and space for our deeper selves to emerge. Working at the sandtray facilitates this sifting and integrating process and exposes much that may previously have been hidden or buried to us. to individuation. 2 Sandplay and Symbol Work . as well as the collective unconscious. Strengthening this connection is therapeutic. can support personal healing and beyond. our unconscious invents its own symbols. our unconscious emotional state – if we allow it – selects the symbol figures. Sandplay and symbol work help create congruence between our inner world and outer worlds. our unconscious is continually washing up both treasures and less appealing items. using metaphors from our newly forming personal mythology. combining elements of both. In almost every culture throughout time people have sought understanding of dreams and the symbolic language of the personal unconscious. Sandplay allows the deeper aspects of the psyche to be worked with naturally and in safety. wants to bring harmony with all parts of ourselves. Like the ocean. Each of us has a constant drive in the psyche that wants to make sense of our inner and outer worlds. However. and to support the use of a variety of Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) modalities. moods and energy states. arranges them and begins to make itself known. who employ images in an effort to convey exact nuances of feelings. Another scene with a bright. even though we are not aware of thinking about it. Sandplay and symbol work processes are a little like working with dreams.the expressive therapies. We even hear clients use imagery for describing their inner processes: ‘I feel as if the sun has just come out from behind a cloud!’ The language of symbols has been used by poets and writers. if acknowledged. sometimes choosing from our memories. It can be used both for diagnosis and as a treatment. Working with sandplay symbols helps us develop language for this inner process and we become more articulate. Sandplay is a unique way to allow form to be constructed around unconscious material. ready to be selected. listened to and attended to. Kalff (1980) writes about the need to allow images of the Self to emerge as part of the healing journey for clients. and is highly effective in reducing the emotional causes of difficult behaviours. We can be surprised by what has been created in the sand and the way in which our unconscious. Dream imagery has been used since the development of psychoanalysis as one of the main ways of exploring and healing the psyche. computer games. They are outside us. sunny day usually conveys to us a sense of hope. This is an in-built mechanism in the psyche that. When we see dark clouds in the sky in a movie we know that something gloomy or difficult is about to happen. given the opportunity. autonomously expresses itself with freedom. Symbols are regularly used in popular culture – in films.

The client and facilitator soon leave behind the world of intellect-based labels and descriptions and enter a realm where the self-development process unfolds. Many clients initially regard sandplay as a bit of a lark and so commence work in the sand with ease and a feeling of safety.Transformation can happen at the level of metaphor. Around the world different approaches to sandplay have emerged. while constantly expanding our understanding of the psyche. The ERC method is client-centred. The ERC method of using sandplay described in this book has evolved from the original Jungian approach and mirrors Jung’s theories. refraining from imposing these onto the client. The experiential nature of ERC training creates understanding of the different levels of the psyche. Greater freedom and healing potential have been gained through use of other expressive ERC modalities such as bioenergetics. The multi-modal approach of ERC is ideal for safely allowing the psyche to open through work with symbols. as well as providing comfort and competence in supporting any possible dramatic emergence of emotions. One aim of this book is to excite the reader’s interest in using the sandplay and symbol work process for personal development: for self-discovery. for emotional healing and for the spiritual quest. From these experiences may emerge a professional interest in training to support others using these methods. It can help us explore the treasures of the inner world. energy release games. body focus and emotional release process work. This book is designed to help the reader use the language of the unconscious. coupled with the use of our own inner analysis as a basis for offering the client open-ended self-discovery questions. Incorporation of some Gestalt techniques has expanded its efficiency. Because the sand picture can be created without words it is a very supportive medium for clients who may find verbal exchanges difficult or who work best in a visual. Intrapsychic changes are facilitated which might remain unexplored in a more cognitively focused session. At its core are the skills of suspending judgement and interpretation. Introduction The language of symbols 3 . non-verbal mode. Our particular approach to using and teaching sandplay within a wider context is to prepare facilitators to deal with the range of emerging feelings and outcomes. as the figures are related to and arranged in relation to each other. Essential skills to support client integration are also gained through experiential training. It does not impose a framework or ideology. They soon begin to contact deeper parts of themselves or gain significant insights. let go of what is no longer needed and begin to be able to support others more effectively. art work.

The symbol work acts as an intermediary. new connections. fears and hopes can emerge. 1983 andplay can contribute to satisfying the soul’s longing to know and reveal itself. This linking between inner and outer can bring meaning into the way we live our daily lives as well as supporting us in shedding the inherited emotional loading. longings. Sandplay allows us to drop into a mythic realm of our psyche. and between client and facilitator. given the proper conditions. this need is manifested in acting-out behaviour. forming new relationships. laden with our meanings. opening the way for a sharing of complex ideas and personal issues between client and counsellor. the usual ego certainty and control is gradually suspended. Sigo. the mythic or symbolic realm of the unconscious and an intrinsic spirituality. feelings. is often felt as a sacred space. As we work with the symbols our issues. Problems can be seen in a larger context. Images of the Self. S How does sandplay work? Acceptance of the concept that the psyche has a self-activated in-built. The use of symbols allows the unconscious and conscious mind to project multiple meanings. corrective. This bond between inner and outer. Creating the symbolic structures in the sand adds the dimension of depth to the process of self-discovery and healing. The symbols.Chapter 1 The development of sandplay A basic postulate of Sandplay Therapy is that deep in the unconscious there is an autonomous tendency. It is a prime facilitator of the individuation process. Most clients find the process deeply satisfying as it creates clear links between their personal life. take tangible form and become clear to us. This work heals wounds that have blocked normal development. 4 . the connection between our inner and outer worlds helps us recognise direction in our lives and become more complete. Unpleasant or negative experiences in the psyche that need to be released or healed might include blocked feelings. can then be moved about. This process of revelation cuts through our sense of being trapped in a superficial world. healing drive and organising principle (inner healer) means that we are able to regard the contents of the psyche as needing to be released or containing dynamic tensions that are seeking expression. While allowing issues to emerge for clarity and release. Estelle Weinrib. for the psyche to heal itself. With children.

Sandplay provides visible form for what is already inside the client. anger. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 5 . it is essential that these positive energies find expression. agitation. In the quiet concentration that follows the first steps of shaping the sand. negative beliefs. enhancing cognitive understanding of self and of the issues expressed in the sandtray. For the facilitator this means not having to work or plan a strategy to overcome defences. When they begin to touch the sand or inspect the figurines a recognition and resonance begins. It is a space where there is safety for the relaxation of automatic filtering of inner material and where the client grows more comfortable in trusting that the fantasy. As the client surveys the scene. This enables the client. Meanings may become clearer at this stage. explore. whereas adults normally create a static scene rather than act out a dramatic sequence of events in a single sandtray. or the story may seem to the client to be entirely imaginary. pictures and stories created will bring relief. It is clear then that clients come to the sandtray or the symbol shelves with their own unique blend of therapeutic needs. In the free sandplay process clients are encouraged to avoid planning their symbol selections or sand formations. specific and non-specific dissatisfactions. frustration. with support from the facilitator. Sometimes there can be more immediate feedback from the picture or story. disconnection. attitudes and scripts about self. The free sandplay method provides the client with a protected context in which unconscious resolution can take place more freely than in verbal articulation and exchanges. to observe. For our progression to psychological health. Forming the sand supports a shift in awareness from cognitive and verbal to kinesthetic involvement. unfulfilled needs. there are positive qualities. comment. disappointment.unresolved conflicts. hurt. armouring. and is felt as either a positive or negative attraction to a symbol or sand formation. This allows relaxation of defence mechanisms and frees set ways of thinking. Jung’s word for the part of the unconscious to which material that cannot be accommodated or integrated by the ego is relegated. a story or picture emerges as the figurines are arranged. sadness. in the form of insight. The freedom to create anything they wish enables clients to drop any defences. The play element of sandplay is important. defensive attitudes towards the world. This supports the emergence of emotional issues. unconscious at first. reconstitute and heal destructive and sabotaging tendencies. associations between the symbols begin to appear. Much of this unresolved material is contained in the ‘shadow’. Next comes some satisfaction with either the sand shaping or the gathering of a collection of figurines – which may at this stage seem to have no connection or relevance to each other. The kinesthetic focus on the sensation of the sand and the movement of the hands also opens new ways of communicating and knowing the self. skills and talents that have similarly not been developed or expressed. Children usually create a story or movie-script type play. Along with these so-called negative aspects.

Any insights or gains made come from within the client and can be clearly recognised by the client as their own internal power. Blocked energy is freed and the client appears more alive and more communicative. It is designed to allow the unconscious to emerge at its own speed and according to its own readiness. without judgement. Frequently a process of transformation begins to take place. their pathology’. The power is with them – or within them – rather than being with or in the counsellor. This provides the motivation to continue. enhances self-esteem and is in itself very satisfying. Sandplay allows non-verbal integration. Feelings and understanding about the creation in the sandtray do not depend on verbal articulation. By making concrete or visible any conflict or tension the client is then able to reconstruct the situation and gain insight and a clearer understanding. It eventually develops self-trust. their problems. Apart from the opening instructions and interaction in the second stage of sharing the story or picture. The aim is to encourage a client to explore and then discuss a specific situation or their 6 Sandplay and Symbol Work . inner resources and creative problem solving and enhances intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. rather than any therapeutic interpretation of the sand picture. Bradway and McCoard (1997) state that there is a suspension of judgement during the sandplay and during the process the facilitator ‘accepts the uniqueness of individuals and their ways of coping and dealing with their wounds. which may or may not be fully understood by the client. Sandplay aids metacognition – thinking about thinking. It has a specific thematic focus. intuition and intellectual clarity.blocked feelings and whatever else may be waiting for resolution in the unconscious. It acts as an aid for reflection. The process enhances self-esteem as the client is actively involved in creating the picture. Symbol work is directed. helping clients to think about their own cognitive processes. sandplay is not directed by the facilitator. The freedom to create. The use of symbols and sand gives form to the client’s perception of what is happening in their life. Differences between sandplay and symbol work Sandplay is an undirected process that utilises the therapeutic benefits of free play. often accompanied by spontaneous problem-solving. More often with adult clients this process of transformation involves a clearer cognitive understanding of self. There is a move from a negative mood to a more positive state. The sand construction and the arrangement of figurines in the tray express and reflect a strength for the client from which they may have been disconnected. Sandplay activates the self-healing tendencies and so it is the client’s experience of the process which holds the potential for healing. It reinforces a positive sense of self because the client is the creator of their own healing process.

Relating to the counsellor. can begin the process of transforming a difficult situation. Through this deeper dimension the client. Many agencies which supply a counselling service are limited in the number of sessions they can offer and so naturally have a problem-solving focus. A gradual introduction to the value of working with symbols through a simple structured exercise may give such a client enough experience to gain confidence and develop internal trust in the process. It allows the gathering of detailed information that can be helpful in suggesting ongoing management strategies both for the client and for carers. tangible qualities support a deepening of the counselling process. may be a daunting task for a distressed client. however. a first step in seeking solutions. Symbols reflect back the material and images held in the psyche. Both adults and children exhibit an ability to understand the meanings of symbols.feelings about it. we have developed many ways of using symbols that can more directly and simply provide doorways to address important issues. sometimes due to client preferences. There are many clients who can gain trust in the undirected sandplay process via a structured symbol work exercise. In confronting the reality of the limits in the amount of counselling a client may be able to access. Signell (in Bradway et al. Play and creativity are ingredients Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 7 . Their three-dimensional. Few counsellors have the opportunity to offer regular ongoing sessions. The question is often put: ‘If sandplay is so effective why use symbol work exercises?’. 1990) found that some males found it difficult to ‘play in the sand’ and felt a need to focus on solutions. The symbol work exercises certainly can support clear identification of problems as part of assessment. Symbol work is an extension of sandplay that allows a focus on a specific problem or issue. Symbol work allows a counsellor to guide a client in the creation of pictures and stories that represent their most troubling issues. supported by the structure of a symbol work exercise. imagination and life force that comes with the interplay of conscious and unconscious’. sometimes due to budget limitations. Many adults have moved far away from connection with the world of imaginative play and creative expression. For them the ‘blank page’ approach of sandplay can sometimes feel overwhelming. spread across several shelves. even if they don’t know what to do about it. Signell writes. Choosing a symbol from thousands of figurines. access to a language that can express their truth without the need for immediate conscious understanding. telling their life story with the aid of a few symbols supports outer trust. Symbol work enables the facilitator to gain information and rapport to assist in moving the counselling process forward. Many adult clients come to counselling with a belief that they should already know or be ready to explain what is wrong. that sandplay and the use of symbols are important because they offer ‘a rare opportunity for loosening up and experiencing free-flowing of feelings. Working with symbols gives the client an opportunity to draw upon a universal vocabulary..

G. adults who have lost this connection may respond well to structured steps. What can quickly be seen from symbol work exercises is that self-discovery and counselling are not about focusing on or finding faults. Symbol work exercises help expose. Gaining the overview also brings a feeling of hope and strength which enables clients to acknowledge their pain and begin the healing process. even though there may be ‘things’ that a person is doing or responding to that are not healthy or ‘right’. The symbols mediate between ego consciousness and the unconscious in a way which still allows some gentle guidance from the ego. Drawing. At the Institute they adopted a holistic approach. Lowenfeld left an orthodox paediatric practice to found one of the first psychological clinics for children in England in 1928. very quickly. Symbol work exercises focus attention on the contents of the client’s unconscious while the emotional release counsellor offers support in a way that is not intrusive or judgemental. The exercises quickly lead a client to gain an overview of previously unconscious patterns of reaction. writing in a journal or reflecting on a personal collection of symbols can support the translation of the experience in the counselling setting directly into everyday life. By 1930 her clinic was known as the Institute of Child Psychology and had become a research and training centre as well as a clinic. Floor Games (1911) inspired the creation of what Dr Margaret Lowenfeld called the ‘World Technique’ (1999). Both sandplay and symbol work exercises can be used to great advantage to work through a normal developmental conflict or to regain a sense of balance after a traumatic incident. The evolution of sandplay as used in ERC A non-fiction book by H. She credited her child clients with the discovery of this method. Lowenfeld hoped to find a medium which would be attractive to children and would give them. such as construction material. guiding questions and clear instructions. balanced relationship between conscious and unconscious.for ongoing emotional health and the development of self-knowledge. Gaining this overview is an empowering experience. that the expert on who we are and what we need is actually inside us. helping them reveal their inner life and articulate their concerns. This overview reinforces the basic principle in ERC that each person has their own inner wisdom. Initially. and the facilitator. behaviour and ways of relating. Wells. a language to establish communication. patterns or themes of behaviour or reaction and hence activate or excite interest in self-discovery. She gathered objects to be used by children in their therapy sessions and through the development of her World Technique she used children’s natural inclination to play. and results in a more harmonious. equipment that supported movement and 8 Sandplay and Symbol Work . and provided various play media. and the therapeutic process may lead them to reclaim these abilities.

Many of our exercises have been used with children. Kalff’s approach to sandplay was taught in Australia for a brief time by Jungian analyst Patrick Jansen while he was co-director of the Living Water Centre in the Blue Mountains. She taught the process there from 1966 until her death in 1990. sensing it as a symbolic tool that could be used by children.destruction – clay. Lowenfeld’s book. a student and colleague of Carl Jung and Emma Jung. NSW. and after some years of using it with children. reprinted 1999). explains play as a healing modality and is still in use today. sandplay became a natural component of the ERC approach with children. Kalff had a lifelong interest in the East and found the Asian philosophies supportive of her work with sandplay. The methodology of Frederick Perls’ Gestalt role-play dreamwork was adapted for use with sandplay symbols. Play in Childhood (1935. Based on many of the same principles as ERC. They have proved to be ideally suited to contemporary counselling. in London. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 9 . They may be blended with other approaches and can operate at the level of readiness of the client. and others. and allow a gentle. enabling clients to be even more expressive and deepen their understanding of their symbols. attended a lecture by Lowenfeld in 1954 and was very impressed. adolescents and adults for more than ten years. Dora Kalff. hammers. which was Australia’s first educational and personal development centre to combine Jung’s and Kalff’s work with the experiential modalities of transpersonal and Gestalt psychology. Kalff named the newly developed process ‘sandplay’. She had long-term friendships with Tibetan Buddhists. Great flexibility in supporting the client also came from extending the process to include emotional release process work if indicated. had several meetings with the Dalai Lama and found support from her study of Zen Buddhism with its focus on one’s own inner resources. punching toys – and materials for expressing fantasy – such as blocks. She developed an interest in Lowenfeld’s work. but direct focus on areas of difficulty. dolls and art materials. The symbol work exercises presented in Chapter 4 have been developed since 1990 as an extension of traditional sandplay. adolescents and adults. The symbol work exercises have been created for use within individual and group counselling and personal development programs. By 1956 Kalff had completed her studies required for certification as a Jungian analyst through the Jung Institute in Zurich. found it to be equally valuable when used with adults. Kalff found that sandplay was enthusiastically welcomed in Japan – where it was seen as similar to their tradition of miniature worldmaking. Returning to her practice in Switzerland Kalff spent some time integrating her understanding of the Jungian approach to symbology and consulting with Jung on the process. We have designed them to be used as a segment of a counselling session. She spent 1956 studying with Lowenfeld. We trained at the Living Water Centre.

reactions. journal writing and drawing • self-awareness. personal development facilitators and spiritual directors. body awareness exercises. Recently created family communication exercises (Pearson. Accompanying this is an intrinsic interest in self-discovery. sound and movement in the counselling process. by Rie Rogers Mitchell and Harriet Friedman (see page 121). in-built movement in the psyche towards emotional and psychological healing. dreams and fantasies. moods. but they are designed for parents and children to explore at home.For a detailed history of sandplay and a comprehensive bibliography on the subject see Sandplay – Past. It is the aspect of ERC most relevant for classroom teachers. ERC is an Australian development and has been described by Pearson and Nolan (1991. It deals with both the strong and subtle emotions that may be behind our behaviour patterns. management of emotions. Another principle relates to the way we can heal through involving body. students and seekers in learning new ways of self-understanding. Processing may deal with anger. These skills have an educational aim and involve clients. The exercises fall into several broad categories: • encouraging clients to talk about themselves during the initial consultations – encouragement is given via the use of discussion questions. 1998) are designed to be both preventative and therapeutic. or jealousy. who may support a trial run with at least a child and one parent. even if this interest is covered over by difficult feelings from the past. etc. 1998). Processing is the part of counselling work where strong reactive feelings can be released directly. grief. An important component of ERC is the development of inner life skills. ERC training programs have been in operation around Australia since 1989. with the use of body focus 10 Sandplay and Symbol Work . The effectiveness of this experiential approach is enhanced by using breath. This involves counsellors in supporting clients to gain the skills to understand and deal with their inner life – their feelings. There are several fundamental principles of ERC that are particularly relevant to sandplay and symbol work. It is designed to be used by trained and experienced counsellors. self-discovery and enhanced communication between parents and children. irritation. and relating to and supporting others. self-discovery. Sandplay and symbol work in ERC ERC was introduced in 1987. Emotional release process work is a central part of ERC. These are exercises that encourage self-expression. based on the research. The games are usually modelled by a counsellor. mind and feelings. 1995) and further by Pearson (1997. ERC is a collection of modalities that are coordinated by these main principles. writing and methods of several pioneers in the field of psychotherapy. The first is that there is a natural. counselling and consciousness research. body sensations. and it usually involves some physical and emotional expression. Present and Future.

These layers may come to consciousness and be expressed a number of times before emotional healing is complete. resentment • anger. hate • hurts beneath anger • sadness. love. sense of order • self as valuable. Gestalt role-play and dreamwork • breathwork. sense of own resources. The emotions contacted are often – though not always – found in layers. an adult process (not used with children). openness. Basic principles underlying ERC and sandplay practice The following principles apply to ERC generally and to the way sandplay and symbol work are undertaken in ERC. sense of strength • reinforcement of positive sense of self. Sometimes clients may find themselves seemingly stuck in a loop. directed symbol work. irritation. safe anger release and work with reactions • using symbols through the work with sandplay. It can be the counsellor’s role to provide a safe environment so that surrender of defences allows the client to contact deeper layers of feeling. often using visualisations • relaxation and meditation. The following layers can also be observed at times in a client’s series of sandplays: • chaos. as if we were mining down from the surface layers of personality towards the real self. emergence of spiritual qualities. that allows deep emotional release and self-discovery • self-esteem work. inner conflicts • rage.• emotional release processes that may include energy release through sound and movement. Staying angry can feel stronger than feeling vulnerable to hurts. • Emotional healing takes time and rest just as physical healing does. cycling through the top three layers. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 11 . bioenergetic exercises. ERC aims to support a client to release feelings and reveal what is under the surface of consciousness. frustration. grief • tenderness. • • • • • Carey (1999) lists the stages or layers as: chaos beginnings of integration of the psyche conflict separation – development of a separate identity relating to the world healthily.

training and experience of the counsellor. between the biographical. or returns us to health. • ERC supports clients in rediscovering their own resources and as much as possible refers directorship of the counselling process back to them. The experiential nature of ERC training can prepare a counsellor to develop empathy and openness. if clients feel safe enough to allow release in the counselling room there is usually a reduction in the tendency or need to act out in daily life. • ERC begins by developing outer and inner trust. so that long-held-in words. • Interpretation of an individual’s inner world and its symbols by an external observer can inhibit self-discovery. • It is helpful in counselling sessions to support the reversal of old shallow breathing patterns. A trained counsellor develops a sense of ease with the feeling world that is conveyed to the client. expansion and creation. perinatal and transpersonal levels of our psyche. This skill supports finding the best ‘doorway’ through which to support entry into the client’s inner world. 12 Sandplay and Symbol Work .• ERC allows personal exploration to move between the conscious and the unconscious. the less the risk of unconscious projection and discomfort with any dramatic material from the client. creating a climate of permission for deep release. and may bring a release of held emotions and energies. Many ERC exercises help breathing expand and this helps a client open to feeling. dream or fantasy symbols. The natural state of energy and emotions is movement. What supports emotional healing? ERC is based on the premise that feeling emotions and energy and expressing them (in appropriate ways) keeps us mentally healthy. Inner trust develops through inner world exploration that allows strength to emerge. sounds and movements can release safely. It is therefore important not to advise a client about what their inner journey should be or give a set meaning to any sandplay. • Safe use of the methods depends greatly on the stage of personal development. and to let go of judgemental thoughts and actions. • The emotional release counsellor should be able to move between modalities in order to meet clients ‘where they are’. Outer trust grows through the personal meeting with a counsellor. • The difference between acceptable behaviour in the counselling room and in everyday life needs to be clear. However. The more personal development work the counsellor has undertaken. with the feeling of total acceptance and a simple and clear framework for the processes. statements. • ERC methods aim to free up restricted sounding and movement patterns.

When the physical symptom is given some sustained attention. feel. Mostly this has been covered over by disappointment and trauma. We call this the ‘inner healer’. When a client is ready. • Positive qualities. When the feelings are blocked or stuck they are experienced as negative. • Negative feelings and memories in the unconscious are active. open to others and to the positivity and creativity of their own inner world. the client can often recontact the underlying feelings and express them therapeutically. ERC methods allow it to re-emerge. or overshadowed by negative beliefs and attitudes caused by past hurt. released. with the support of some deep breaths and inner focus. with its own logic. • In the unconscious there are often links between the causes of strong reactions in daily life and past difficulties. what the client needs to remember. ERC can support the clearing of unfinished business from the past so that they may live more fully in the present. • Under physical tension and pain there is often some emotional holding and emotional pain. Making the positive material conscious again empowers it to be expressed and to become an active part of the personality. forming the basis for cooperation in the counselling endeavour. This usually leads to relaxation. A state of calm and positivity is restored in the body and the mind. feelings and memories in the unconscious can be inactive. ERC works to help clients become more in touch with their body. Long-term emotional healing is based on trusting the wisdom of the inner healer. There is support for them to become less defended. accommodated and integrated. Problems in the counselling process can arise if the facilitator has a preset notion of what ought to happen and when it should happen. • We each have an in-built interest in self-discovery. This inner force reveals. having an influence on how we make choices and live our lives. • Each psyche has a natural in-built.• Since emotional healing takes place in the body and its energy. they cause disruptive or destructive thoughts and they are finally expressed as negative actions. • In a healthy system the body. For sustained emotional healing it is vital that the shadow aspects of the personality be explored. Bringing them to consciousness is the first step in disempowering them. as well as knowing what they are feeling and thinking. A natural trajectory of the ERC process is the assisting of clients to heal their inner hurts. release or integrate. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 13 . ERC opens and frees trapped energy and allows the natural inner healing mechanism to direct the emotional healing work. Feelings that are too confronting to experience or express bring into play an attempt at suppression. The inner healer can emerge when a client gains trust in the facilitator and their own inner world. They are held in muscular tension or ‘armouring’. intelligent movement towards wholeness. mind and feelings work as a whole.

Directing feelings symbolically towards the causes of emotional containment or self-criticism enhances the therapeutic benefit. When there is a protective shut-down of feelings the unconscious material can have a pervasive negative and limiting effect on the psyche. • Children often have to turn their frustration and anger inwards. The impact of traumatic events can build up in the unconscious from as far back as our time in the womb. to the original hurts. blame of others. For a client to begin to let go of defences requires a readiness and willingness to feel what was being defended. etc. They can come to new emotional freedom through feeling and expressing these underlying hurts in emotional release process work. projection onto others. The power of these scripts is reduced by repeatedly allowing times of deep feeling (in a safe. • Traumas are events so painful emotionally or physically that they have to be separated. • Repression is an unconscious mechanism whereby thoughts. or repressed. • Defence mechanisms are those reactions which tend to come up at times of stronger feeling to protect us from underlying emotional pain. Defences include denial. continual argument about details. • Angry and violent outbursts and over-the-top reactions come from the backlog of repressed feelings. They may have come to believe that they were to blame for what in reality were shortcomings in their early environment. intellectualising of feelings. supported space) of what could not be fully felt in the past. from consciousness. However. The main principle in emotional release process work is the support for a client to reconnect with any incomplete emotions in order to begin their release. negative beliefs about self and behaviour patterns connected with defence and survival. in order to feel and release it. This can take time. through movement and through sound. when it is being healed and its impact on the personality is reduced. ERC supports the re-integration of all real aspects of a client’s personality.• Many of us have a part of our personality constellated around the hurts and disappointments of childhood. To help resolve present emotional crises the client may be supported to connect with emotional layers underneath. ERC aims to create supportive conditions in which a client can feel safe to gradually open to what has been repressed. Many clients carry significant amounts of repressed material which causes problems in their inner and outer life. feelings and sensations are locked away from our usual consciousness as a protection from emotional pain. 14 Sandplay and Symbol Work . When mobilised the feelings can release through the body. clients benefit most when there can be some separation from the hurt inner child constellation. Healing old feelings allows separation from any negative legacy of the past. Any patterns of being self-destructive. taking on blame. This focal point of our childhood scripts is a combination of repressed feelings. or being continually self-critical can gradually be healed by being expressed in the counselling room.

They recommend student participation Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 15 . adults molested as children. reported their use of sandplay for counselling children in the American journal Elementary School Guidance and Counselling (see page 121). Mitchell and Friedman (1994) discuss research and publications on sandplay. Deep under anger there is often hurt or sadness. They discuss the sandplay process in a way that corresponds to the ERC approach. aliveness. In the years since 1994 there have been five new English language sandplay books. O’Brien produces some of Australia’s first statistical evidence for the effectiveness of these dynamic experiential methods. one of which has been authored by a Queensland guidance officer. the relation of sandplay to art therapy. They note that children seem calmer and happier. Mitchell and Friedman list a wide range of sandplay applications discussed in the Masters and Doctoral papers. Patrick O’Brien. They also list non-English publications: 72 journal articles (mostly from Japan) and 13 books. 7 Masters theses and 12 Doctoral dissertations. Sandplay literature and research Along with a detailed history of sandplay. For example. a primary class teacher. sense of self. authority. assertiveness. Their article concludes with the statement that productive personality development and effective learning are enhanced when repressed energy is released and can transform into available positive energy. In the English language they list 87 journal articles (many from the International Journal of Sandplay Therapy). the energy of anger can hold so much of our potential: strength. When hurt is healed the original underlying state of love and tenderness is again accessible. as well as several exploring its general effectiveness. Sandplay as an aid to counselling in schools Canadians John Allan. the use of animal imagery. work with abused children. 24 books. His 1998 dissertation is an analysis of using sandplay and associated modalities with children in a school setting. women’s spirituality. The International Society for Sandplay Therapy holds many papers on sandplay and many detailed case reports submitted by sandplay therapists as part of their certification process (for web page information see page 124). structures for cognitive analysis of sandplay. There are research papers and case reports covering sandplay in a classroom with learning disabled children. including ours. a professor of elementary school counselling. Under negative feelings are positive feelings. We are aware of several Australian sandplay research papers. rites of passage.• In the psyche there are layers of feelings. O’Brien draws links between the sandplay and symbol work processes and Howard Gardner’s (1983) theories of multiple intelligence. and Pat Berry. and exhibit a sense of humour after the sessions. 21 conference presentations. Allan and Berry found that classroom teachers comment on a student’s relaxed mood and enhanced ability to become involved in school work after sandplay.

Lois Carey (1990. • Family counsellors use it with children and families to explore family boundaries. such as their restatement of content and reflection of feelings to support the client’s identification of meanings of symbols and sand pictures. The fifth session also involved his eight to ten sessions. • Jungian analysts monitor and support the individuation process. Vinturella and James (1987. Their case study of a male second grader. referred by the school psychologist. Their findings mirror the many verbal reports we receive from Guidance Officers who have graduated from our courses. The introverted orientation is used in the solitary construction of the picture and the extroverted orientation is used in the telling of the story. While the sandplay sessions did not take place within the school setting. and further supports the link between these two approaches. They also strongly recommend that a counsellor using sandplay use person-centred techniques. The teachers also reported an improvement in peer relations. who created a sandplay with the boy. with the child responding positively to normal controls and limitations imposed by teachers. structure and dysfunctional patterns of interaction in the family system. there are reports from teachers that the boy’s concentration in class improved greatly. • Gestalt counsellors use it as a tool to separate figure from ground and resolve polarities through enactment. after which they note a dramatic improvement. which had been non-existent prior to treatment. 16 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Vinturella and James also describe how sandplay supports both introverted and extroverted clients. see page 121) reports on sandplay therapy over six months with a nine-year-old boy with speech and language disorders. see page 122) present a case report of an eightyear-old boy with dramatic mood changes and aggressive behaviour that frequently resulted in negative consequences at school. They suggest the counsellor might gently offer open-ended questions to help a client tell the story. • Child-centred counsellors create a climate of acceptance in which the child’s self-regulatory and actualising tendencies are maximised. Vinturella and James describe a variety of ways sandplay is used by counsellors of different therapeutic orientations: • Behaviourists use it as a diagnostic tool for obtaining baseline information. • Psychoanalytic therapists use it to detect unconscious conflicts. Over six sessions this boy worked through some aspects of the recent death of his father. referred for counselling due to inappropriate behaviour in both classroom and playground. reported the student’s gains from sandplay as: • a reduction in impulsive and aggressive behaviour • improvement in social skills • an ability to channel energy into art and soccer. This is a similar approach to what is called ‘self-discovery questioning’ in ERC.

many reports from trainees show that working with their own children does not produce the same therapeutic benefit as working with a neutral counsellor. Another exponent of sandplay in primary schools. While there are many ways parents can help their children with ‘emotional first-aid’ at home (see page 96). guiding power of the psyche. However. they say. either through projects. followed by a time devoted to addressing issues raised by teachers or parents. help the child’s ego to deal in a tangible way with painful unconscious struggles and negative feelings. They recommend that themes. She found that the experiential nature of ERC and the use of symbols enhanced the degree of self-disclosure and increased the number of times children made and shared supportive comments. and may prefer to simply move on to another activity or topic. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 17 . They maintain that once this is activated the child will act out play themes that are significant to their own struggles. She recommends sandplay as a viable. Allan and Brown’s observations show that the externalisation and projection of conflicts.Vinturella and James further suggest that parents could be trained to facilitate sandplay with their children at home. low-risk intervention for school counsellors that has been found to be highly successful. In their article ‘Jungian play therapy in elementary schools’ Allan and Brown (1993) discuss the Jungian emphasis on activating the self-healing force in a child’s psyche. In their case study with an eight-year-old male. In Australia Helen Tereba (1999). they report that ‘the opportunity to release his hurt and aggressive feelings freed up the positive. Carmichael (1994). related reading material or a leadership role in classroom discussions on a related topic. to create and pilot a primary peer support program called ‘Time Travellers’. Parents can show an interest in discussing their children’s sandplays. through drawing and sandplay’. as part of her Masters in Counselling project. She found that sandplay was most suitable for students with low self-esteem or poor academic progress. used ERC exercises. We expect this program to be published in the future. She conducted this in a Brisbane primary school. outlines the role of the counsellor and typical stages in the sessions. many children will not want to discuss their sandplays. Successful treatment. having integrated the contents. toys or symbols that become significant for the child be somehow integrated into classroom activities. including symbol work. in the counselling context. Allan and Brown propose a simple model for counselling in schools where there is a need to balance the needs of the child with the needs of the school. Counselling in this context should have an initial inner world focus. This was designed for children affected by separation or divorce. This article clearly relates Jung’s ideas to counselling with children. but also on the positive alliance with the teacher and parent. is based not only on the positive therapeutic alliance between counsellor and child. and this may support a positive effect on the parent–child relationship. or who exhibited very active behaviours.

From a basis in cognitive psychology Gardner identified seven intelligences: • verbal/linguistic intelligence – relates to words and language • logical/mathematical intelligence – deals with inductive and deductive reasoning. O’Brien asks ‘Does Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences have an application for counselling?’. with sandplay as the major modality. which rate highly in the number of intelligences utilised. emotional responses. Sandplay and multiple intelligences The theory of multiple intelligences was developed by Harvard researcher Howard Gardner (1983). also support the value of sandplay as a modality that can integrate many of the intelligences. self-reflection and an awareness of metaphysical concepts). informal phone reports and ongoing supervision. numbers and relationships • visual/spatial intelligence – includes being able to visualise an object and to create mental images • bodily/kinesthetic intelligence – relates to physical movement and the knowledge of the body and how it functions • musical/rhythmical intelligence – includes the ability to recognise tonal patterns. Referrals for counselling were made on the basis of expressions of physical violence and failure to follow teacher directions. A link between the intelligences and ERC is discussed by Pearson (1998). Through a formal research questionnaire. O’Brien had previously undertaken training in the use of ERC exercises and sandplay. rhythm and beat • interpersonal intelligence – used in person-to-person relationships • intrapersonal intelligence – based on knowledge of the ‘self’ (includes metacognition. He originally proposed that we have seven different ways of learning and knowing – seven intelligences. An interface between this theory and the counselling process has been researched in Australia by Patrick O’Brien (1998). The findings. This theory has been effectively used in school curriculum development around the world. He worked with the sample group using ERC and non-directive play therapy. This question was addressed in his doctoral work based on ten Australian case studies in a school setting.A growing number of school guidance officers and school counsellors have trained in sandplay and symbol work with the authors. while illuminating the application of multiple intelligences as a foundation theory for counselling. they continue to report great progress and satisfaction with these methods. using sandplay as his primary counselling method. Gardner found that children’s learning increased when more than two or three intelligences were operating in learning tasks. He writes: ‘Such is the 18 Sandplay and Symbol Work . The findings support the effectiveness of a counselling approach which utilises multiple intelligences.

a finding that is in accord with the clinical observations with ERC and sandplay.nature of sandplay. Interestingly. ‘It would appear that sandplay is the cornerstone of a framework to counselling with multiple intelligences.’ When the freedom of the non-directive approach is offered through sandplay. just as we have found that non-directive play therapy and ERC empower children by encouraging choices in the use of media (hence intelligence). When the counsellor maintains an attitude of allowing. children will more readily move to the use of another intelligence. An important finding in O’Brien’s study was that the group (all with behaviour problems) did not tend to use the logical/mathematical intelligence. Students with significant behaviour problems may find it difficult to engage with traditional behaviour management programs. dominance of use of a set intelligence is reduced.’ O’Brien found that all but one client preferred to use the interpersonal intelligence in their counselling sessions. clients can naturally make choices in their expression and use a variety of intelligences. His results imply that counsellors should use more than the traditional verbal strategies. O’Brien developed and used multiple intelligence questions for his counselling practice. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 19 . Rather than primarily using the logical/mathematical intelligence – favoured in most behaviour management programs – he found that children prefer to solve problems using a variety of intelligences. This study found many links between a proposed multiple intelligence framework for counselling and ERC and sandplay. The existence of a range of preferences indicated that counsellors do need to accommodate this range. O’Brien found that the non-directive and least intrusive interventions were the most effective. He also found that the multiple intelligences technique seemed to lower resistance within the child and diminish the impact of ego defences. Integration can occur in any of the seven intelligences. rather than prescribing. These are similar to the ‘self-discovery questions’ that ERC counsellors routinely use. and that the clients came to counselling with their own unique intelligence preferences. As confidence in the use of one intelligence grows. Use of intrapersonal questions was generally effective and caused the intrapersonal intelligence to act as a hub – assisting the children to make sense of the counselling activities in a personal way. silence from the client may allow another intelligence to be used. that it seems to include the use of all of Gardner’s seven intelligences at various times throughout the play session. Baloche (1996) also found that giving clients choices adds significantly to their motivation and creativity. This finding has implications for school-based programs where the reasoning process is most often used as a basis for attempting to change behaviour.

Sandplay and academic improvement
Noyes (1981, see page 122) presents evidence of the value of sandplay in enhancing the teaching of reading. Noyes began to use symbols, then later added a sandtray, allowing students in her remedial reading classes to access a private space to create pictures and stories. She offered no direction or interpretation and did not draw out her students about their stories or the issues behind them. She felt that the two most important elements were the privacy of the play and her silent acknowledgement and acceptance of whatever pictures they made. These elements resulted in a feeling of security and freedom in the students – two elements identified by Dora Kalff as essential for successful sandplay therapy. Not surprisingly, Noyes found sandplay to have a calming effect on the students. It engendered an ‘immediate and deeper rapport between teacher and child’. She attributed the increase in academic growth in her students partly to this rapport and partly to the fact that the pressure of their inner life was decreased by engaging in sandplay. Students’ minds were clearer and they were able to focus on academic tasks with greater vitality and motivation. Noyes also points out that the sandplay process draws on the right side of the brain and that this helps the student to make ‘leaps of insight necessary to become a “top down” reader’. Working in the sand trains and activates the creative right brain in the visual skills needed to connect the graphic information on the reading page. Noyes observed that types, and times, of changes in students varied. Sometimes change occurred immediately, sometimes after a few weeks of sandplay. One significant change she noted was more academic improvement than she had been accustomed to in her many years of teaching children with learning and reading disabilities. Other staff reported a decrease in the number of these students being sent to the office for bad behaviour. Attendance also improved. Noyes compared the average growth in reading age of her pupils over the two years before using sandplay, as well as the year when it was used, as measured on the Woodcock test. The improvement averages were: • 1st year – nine months • 2nd year – eight months • year when sandplay used – one year and six months. She found her sixth graders took to the sandplay with the most enthusiasm and their scores showed the greatest improvement. Alana Vaney, a special education teacher in one of our training courses, has been using symbols with great success as an aid in teaching literacy. She writes:
The little hands hover excitedly over the basket of symbols I am handing around. Kay really wants the glistening, snow-white fairy and Robert hopes no one takes the roaring dragon. Hands are itching for the missile blaster and others for the little green alien. ‘I want the house!’


Sandplay and Symbol Work

‘The army tank’s mine!’ These are the responses of a small group of seven-year-olds who are finding it hard to enter the doors of literacy. What they have so tantalisingly before them are all sorts of creatures, from little dogs to magical wizards and a myriad of objects, from trees to furniture. These symbols are kept in my cabinet with glass doors, arranged somewhat like Grandma’s china cupboard. They are taken out for the special occasion of learning. When, for instance, a child selects a family of dinosaurs, trees and little people, a story naturally unfolds. The toys are manipulative, kinesthetic, stimulating and fun. They can be arranged in the sand in a group story or on large pieces of paper as individual ones. The children tell the stories as they move the symbols. A tree becomes a forest, a mirror a lake, and the sand is often desert or beach. I help the structure of their storytelling by providing cards saying: BEGINNING: ‘Once upon a time in the middle of the night ...’, AND THEN: ‘The little dinosaur was all alone in the desert’, AND THEN: ‘A wicked little snake came along’. This goes along until the END card. A HOW DID THEY FEEL? card adds the emotional aspect. Young children also love to arrange the alphabet tiles in sequence and then find the right place for their symbols according to beginning, middle or end sound. This process naturally leads to stories as ants crawl over astronauts, wizards and witches work magic and frogs crawl into flowers! I’m discovering new ways to use the symbols every day. Sometimes I arrange a few symbols in the centre of a circle at the end of a class and invite the children to choose one favourite. We can Gestalt that symbol or just say a describing word about it. This strengthens self-esteem and language skills simultaneously. Even Grade Seven spellers have latched on to symbols, finding it a challenge to pick a few to spell! Often in schools it’s hard to find time to work with children individually in ERC but I’m discovering many ways for the numinous magic of symbols to infuse learning with a sense of wonder.

Sandplay with abused children
Miller and Boe (1990), describing their ‘Tears into Diamonds’ program, achieved great success using sandplay and storytelling in a hospital setting with children who had been extremely traumatised (see page 122). The ward housed about fourteen children between the ages of four and twelve years. After a year of research, they designed a program using two treatment modalities that communicate on a deep level through metaphor: sandplay and storytelling. For the storytelling they used fairy tales and children’s stories matched to the child’s sandtray and history. They discuss the treatment of two girls, aged ten and eight, who were seen twice a week for sandplay therapy over an eighteen-month period. They felt that addressing the trauma in a non-threatening way was vital as children are vulnerable to developmental disturbance from trauma and have a crucial need for ‘consistent attachment to an interactive, resonating adult figure’. They note that traumatised children may experience massive numbing, emotional
The development of sandplay

Chapter 1


withdrawal, and/or aggressive behaviour, and found that sandplay helped reduce these symptoms. They comment that children in a highly disturbed emotional and cognitive state can hardly begin to describe the trauma, let alone deal with it. So verbal therapy offers very limited use in these cases. They found that nondirective play was particularly useful for traumatised and abused children, as through the play the child can finally be in charge. They quote research showing this type of imaginative play decreases anxiety and aggression. They found that the stories gave hope by introducing the concept of psychological transformation. A sandplay therapist who specialises in sexual abuse treatment, Grubbs (1994) has found sandplay to be highly effective with these clients. Working from a Jungian background, Grubbs describes the process of twelve sandplay sessions with a twelve-year-old boy who had been sexually abused. He observed a development in this client from a chaotic, self-destructive and hostile world expression, to sandtrays revealing a resolution of inner chaos, internal ordering and creation of clear boundaries. There was a confrontation and symbolic killing of the perpetrator and the discovery of a safe and enchanted world within himself. An American researcher, Ruth Zinni (1997), working with fifty-two children, found that there were clear differences between the contents and themes of sand pictures, and the approach to the sandplay process, between children referred by a clinic (who had been emotionally, physically or sexually abused or neglected) and a control group. There were clear differences between the children who were experiencing emotional stress and those who were not. She concludes that sandplay is a useful assessment tool in therapeutic work with children. Research on the use of symbols in a sandtray with forty physically and sexually abused children has been conducted through Macquarie University, NSW. Juliet Harper (1991) reports on her study with children aged three and a half to ten years. She used a modification of Lowenfeld’s World Technique, observing four sand pictures by each child. She found that the themes of nurture and protection significantly defined the play of the sexually abused group. The group who had experienced physical abuse displayed themes of conflict and aggression and were closed and disorganised. She found that two striking characteristics of the sand worlds of the sexually abused children were a lack of fantasy and a reluctance to provide narratives. Harper noted that the play of the sexually abused children was compliant and well organised. However, Harper felt that beneath the surface there was a ‘subtle and pervasive emotional disturbance which would perhaps not become apparent until triggered by developmental crises such as puberty, courtship, marriage, or childbirth’.


Sandplay and Symbol Work

My Daddy Died – Supporting Young Children in Grief (1992). My experience of using sandplay and symbol work has been exciting and rewarding – and a little bit like magic! Sandplay and grieving Heather Teakle. who trained in sandplay with Patrick Jansen at the Living Water Centre. A Turnaround trainee. the ERC and symbol work exercises have been incorporated to enhance the group communication. Chapter 1 The development of sandplay 23 . She also describes dramatic behaviour changes in a young hyperactive male client after just one session. that children and adults can make what seems like a quantum leap in understanding of themselves and their situation. I have noticed when using it. Her moving and practical book. and the positive change in their emotional state can be quite profound. Sandplay. energy related to the difficulty moves and there is partial or often complete resolution’. wrote about the use of sandplay in helping her two young daughters work through the grief of losing their father. who works with another Victorian agency supporting children with a terminal illness. It seems to allow people to access strengths and knowledge which were previously inaccessible. She reports: Sandplay and symbol work now has a central place in my practice.An experienced social worker who trained with us is now using sandplay as a regular part of her counselling work with children in a Queensland community health centre. Along with other activities. describes many ways of working through loss. Heather used both directed symbol work exercises and sandplay and writes: ‘In playing out the issue. uses symbols and other ERC exercises with a sibling support program. symbol work and ERC in Australian group programs A group program for children of parents with a mental illness was created by an agency in Victoria.

However. we move away from the contemporary focus on dealing directly with behaviour. Ammann (1991). understanding the benefits of sandplay and the clientcentred. Weinrib (1983). Some components of the paradigm shift are discussed in Chapter 3. there is value in expanding our conceptions of what can happen therapeutically with clients. Experiencing the paradigm shift required to empathically support the full range of emotional release modalities including sandplay. At present there is little research data generated in Australia that focuses on the benefits of the ERC and sandplay methods. F Some aims of sandplay In considering some of the aims of the Jungian approach to sandplay. 1980 or contemporary Western counsellors and therapists who have worked from a cognitive or behaviourist perspective. with a second edition in 1980 with her book Sandplay – A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche. and Bradway and McCoard (1997) and others to clarify the Jungian framework for use of sandplay therapy. symbol work and imaginative play therapy is empowering for the therapist. Deciphering some of the Jungian-based literature may be a challenging task. rational behaviour modification approaches based on the assumption of supremacy of the intellect may have to be set aside in order to understand the therapeutic benefits of working with the imagination and with ERC approaches. and have not explored Jungian psychology. Sigo. self-discovery approach may call for a paradigm shift. Happily this is changing. Dora Kalff. and then in English in 1971.Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom – the Jungian heritage and contemporary sandplay I am deeply moved again and again at the discovery of how close the child’s psyche is to spiritual and healing forces. 24 . while gaining a new language for creation of effective counselling interventions. For those working in an educational setting in Australia. This section provides a brief survey of key concepts of the traditional Jungian approach to sandplay and their links with contemporary ERC. Sandplay. and introduced in the German language in 1966. This material was first described by Dora Kalff. In this section we have used the work of Kalff (1980).

This means that the ego relinquishes its seeming dominance and the person’s psyche re-establishes a connection and continuing relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. She says: ‘only in the relationship to the archetype of the Divine in man can the juvenile really accomplish the transformation to adulthood’ (1980). Many adult clients report a broadening of their own understanding and experience of spirituality through sandplay. Jungian analysis aimed to develop the client’s maturity so that the client could separate from the unconscious and then reconnect to it and continue a relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. • The psyche is moving towards emergence of the Self. The energy release that many clients report when there are shifts and transformations in the psyche is connected with this process.Several basic assumptions from Jungian psychology inform the free sandplay method: • There is an in-built force in the psyche that moves us towards emotional and psychological healing. • The shadow side needs to be explored and safely released. It is a feature of Jung’s approach to the psyche that spirituality is considered a vital ingredient. rather than being at its mercy. This release of energy can give that special feeling of gentle excitement and Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 25 . According to Weinrib. Sandplay allows some expression of the spiritual impulse – even if the client does not recognise this in their cognitive understanding. She believed that since rites of passage have largely disappeared from Western culture or have lost their deep meaning. and these images need expression. besides the physical development. • The unconscious has more power over behaviour and attitudes than the conscious. Kalff aimed to provide opportunities for the spiritual impulse to emerge. In working with children and adolescents. • Imagery is the primary language of the unconscious. • Emotional and psychological problems can arise if this spiritual component is ignored or denied. spiritual deepening occurs. • The psyche has an innate spiritual component. an aim of Jungian analysis and sandplay therapy is ‘to relativise the ego’. An important aspect of psychological health was that there should be some choice about the time needed for the unconscious to express. or driven by its unreleased contents. Kalff repeatedly noticed that in puberty. In the process of what Jung called the ‘sacrifice of consciousness’ the conscious ego is called to give up its control in order to move into connection with the unconscious. This tallies with our own observations and those brought to our group supervision sessions by school counsellors and guidance officers. spirit and the divine. it is especially important in therapy with adolescents – as well as with adults – to deal with the questions of god.

The principles underlying the Jungian approach have many similarities to the approach to self-discovery. Because many clients begin to experience a spiritual or numinous state during sessions. In addition. Emotional release counsellors – and those with a Jungian orientation – aim to reduce the need for ego dominance. this inner order. Dora Kalff writes: ‘I want to emphasise that the manifestation of the Self. elements that have been repressed in Western Judeo-Christian culture’. Estelle Weinrib (1983) writes that the primary aim of sandplay is ‘the re-establishment of access to the feminine elements of the psyche in both men and women.expansion that is connected with an experiential state which Jung so often referred to as ‘numinous’. or that they represent a sign of pathology. This recognition and valuing of a connection with something beyond the ego in the psyche is in opposition to some contemporary therapy and counselling approaches. which is so often a defence mechanism against hurts. where basic human patterns are linked to cosmic forces. The field of transpersonal psychology has moved far beyond the Freudian notion of the compensatory nature of spiritual or religious impulses. self-development and therapy studied in transpersonal psychology. is the most important moment in the development of the personality’. Jung described many sessions with clients during which apparent neuroses vanished once their spiritual impulses were recognised and given some framework. 26 Sandplay and Symbol Work . the individual unconscious is seen as connected to and strongly influenced by the collective unconscious. individual unconscious drives outer behaviour and is a motivator for the apparently more conscious actions. Part of this process involves the emergence of what Jung called ‘the Self’. Our own clinical observations show that the individual psyche is rarely content with simple ego-consciousness. a realm of the psyche in which we are all linked. Sandplay therapy enables a different way of knowing. The collective unconscious is influenced by the archetypal dimension. Most importantly Jung’s psychology recognises that humans have what we would call transpersonal needs. This reduction of defensive ego dominance takes place through releasing unfinished business from the recent and distant past so that the old defences have less to do. sandplay can be a valuable support in spiritual development as well as personal healing. Reducing defences can also support reconnection to basic transpersonal or spiritual impulses. this pattern for wholeness. such as cognitive behavioural therapy and behaviour management strategies. Writers of the Jungian school assume that we have an unconscious and propose that the personal. lacks and attacks. allows a more feminine encounter with the inner self. Emotional and psychological safety Central to Kalff’s model of sandplay therapy is the concept of the ‘free and protected space’ which has both physical and psychological dimensions.

She suggests that sandplay provides the conditions of ‘a womb-like incubatory period that makes possible the repair of a damaged mother-image which. changes into aggression. in 1982. The research did not support this theory. and yet protected. In some counselling contexts today there is often an urgency. This freedom depends in part on the sense of safety established.While recognising that it took many sessions. She observes that this allows subsequent healing of the wounded ego. She points out how a child is born out of the protecting enclosure of the womb into the world. She claims the psyche has an inherent tendency to heal itself. Imagination is directly linked to the unconscious and so its stimulation is a support in helping the unconscious make its contents Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 27 . Kalff used the term ‘mother–child unity’ to describe the ideal atmosphere of the counselling room and the ideal relationship with the therapist. Further they found that when patients felt safe and trusted the therapist the material could flow. This child-like freedom can be seen in both adults and children who move from timidity about using the symbols to deep and serious engagement that is also playful. and still requires the protection of the mother for a long period. the sense of the ‘free and protected space’ may not have been fully established and self-exploration can remain at a superficial level. and begin to build defences. Provided it is happening within the free and protected space. and the ‘recovery of the inner child’. Kalff is here describing the natural healing potential that a child-like freedom to play can support. However. The care and love a mature parent can give the child implants a basic feeling of security. An atmosphere of security is necessary for the child to develop fully according to its own potential. to help clients feel comfortable and ready to disclose. Kalff claims that behind these defences fear is hidden. Kalff writes with conviction about the need to develop this sense of safety for real healing to occur. The development of its strength comes when the free. space is established. when it becomes too great. which. If aggression is repressed it consumes so much inner energy that ‘little remains for anything new in life’. Bradway and McCoard (1997) refer to research at Mount Zion Psychiatric Centre. enables constellation and activation of the Self’ (1980). Kalff describes the complexity and delicateness of the psyche and points out that it is exposed to a wide variety of influences. Kalff found that once this sense of safety was established it allowed deep emotional healing. Sometimes there is an assumption that interpretation by the counsellor is an important element in helping clients release what is troubling in the unconscious. and it is the task of the therapist to prepare the path for this tendency. If bonding and security are absent then a child may retreat to an inner world. due to limited time or budget requirements. It is the loving atmosphere of counsellor and counselling room that begins to allow an opening for a client – child or adult – to come out from behind their defences. that investigated Freud’s early theory that analysts had to interpret repressed mental contents in order to make those contents conscious. symbolic active fantasising by the client stimulates the imagination. in turn.

after his sandplay. Safety is also provided through many subtle elements in the process. he released information which was both useful for the therapist and a relief for the young boy to talk about at last. During these apparent diversions from the formal structure of the counselling session it is essential that the counsellor maintain emotional and physical connection with the client and 28 Sandplay and Symbol Work . as well as reflecting a need to work through feeling endangered. In our practice today we try to allow the same freedoms. Weinrib says that the figures serve to ‘incarnate archetypal images in a manageable size and shape in a protective environment’. which are limited and containing. There is no confrontation. thus adding depth to the work. play games and explore various craft media and even ritualistic destruction that allows emotional release. Often a child’s – and sometimes an adult’s – sand picture will reflect a seeking of their need to feel sheltered. a few minutes to stroke the cat or even time to chat about seemingly irrelevant topics brought up by the child. without moving eyes or head. Recently an eleven-year-old boy. The experience of a safe ‘shelter’ is created through a personal connection between therapist and client. if not destroy. It can be valuable to punctuate a session with a brief walk in the garden. feelings and unfinished business. The tray has the effect of focusing on and then reflecting back inner vision. thoughts. Throughout Kalff’s writing there is an emphasis on meeting the clients where they are and allowing time to develop a trusting connection. The entire area can be seen at a glance. explore the garden. through the sense of order and beauty of the workroom. He was surprised to learn that certainly that was okay. and unconditional acceptance of the client’s degree of participation in the session. Weinrib says that the stimulation of the imagination supported by the active fantasising ‘frees neurotically fixated energy and moves it into creative channels. relaxed setting of the pool. Her own case stories point to the importance of following the client’s interests and finding as many ways as possible to bring forward their creative expression. asked if he could go for a swim. give a sense of boundaries that protect the sand world. Safety is also experienced when the client is given unconditional acceptance and freedom from any imposition of the counsellor’s will. A premature demand for rationalising in such a womb-like space can disturb. Times of informality and ordinary play can greatly support the overall sense of safety and freedom. Her methods include allowing the client to leave the workroom. the spontaneous healing process. The physical dimensions of a sandtray. and no intellectualisation or interpretation.known. Being with pets or animals will often allow a softening in a defended child. which in itself can be healing’. a brief dip in the swimming pool on a hot day. While he was swimming in the informal. At this point playing in the pool sparked his enthusiasm to communicate – like an unstoppable current. The equipment used in sandplay supports feelings of safety.

The effect of transformation within the psyche is much wider than simply a modification of behaviour considered to be inappropriate. Weinrib suggests that transformation includes significant changes in a person: how they perceive their attitudes. legends. with society and with the transpersonal dimension of their psyche. Cultures in the Western industrialised world appear to have lost this natural connection. the choice of figurines. Sandplay and symbol work provide a bridge between a person’s inner and outer world. Throughout the ages. ridiculed or de-constructed. clarity. Transformation is often accompanied with a feeling of rebirth. 1980). A healthy psyche and therefore emotional well-being are the outcomes when the inner world is allowed to complement and augment ordinary everyday consciousness. and they appear to mediate between these two worlds and connect them’ (Kalff. Generally speaking. The fact that it has taken place is evident from a client’s state of well-being. One of the greatest contributions sandplay and symbol work can bring to contemporary counselling and psychotherapy is the means for sacrificing the dominance of the cognitive. age and gender have no bearing on the outcome. The patience and care that goes into creating a sand picture can help reclaim or rediscover the inner world. The process involves a kind of concrete active imagination that leads to inner transformation and new creativity in outer expression. encouraging and drawing out any expression that is ready to emerge. In trying to clarify what a range of therapists mean by psychological transformation we conclude that it contains highly individual elements. parables and fairy tales have repeated this theme of surrender of the dominant ego so that reconciliation. A person who has begun transformation has increased their relationship with themselves. No special training is needed for a client to create a sandplay. their self-image and their perception of the inner and outer worlds. the process is not dependent – as in verbal therapy – on the client’s capacity to accurately recall incidents and issues. myths. union and well-being can emerge. intellectual power which alone cannot engineer emotional or spiritual healing. their value systems. some general patterns and much mystery. there is one aspect of ourselves that is more strongly developed than other aspects. and the existence of an inner world has been denied. the story or the arrangement of the picture can become for the client part of their Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 29 . their behaviour. These qualities help foster inner connection and relatedness to the depths of the psyche. with others. let alone build a sense of wholeness in the client’s personality. energy and available for listening. How can sandplay help clients? ‘Sand pictures represent figures and landscapes of the inner and outer world. The landscape formation in a tray of sand.

also means that the creation can be altered and reshaped during the process. coming into a quieter more focused state. For some. the sandtray (or the large circle drawn in the artpad for symbol work) becomes the focus of attention in a way that encourages centring. circular forms. shapes or arrangements of symbols are more often seen. providing insight. The need for accessing the spiritual dimension was extensively explored by Jung and is more and more evident in counselling work today. The involvement of body. But the sandtray. This may initially appear as a creation of a protected space in 30 Sandplay and Symbol Work . It is also similar to the way an altar has been the focus of attention in sacred rituals throughout time. as if the burdens of their inner life have been lifted. The images may continue to reveal meaning. is in itself a creative act. which has involved the body. The act of making a story or picture. Clients have reported carrying the image of the sandplay and symbols in their head for some time. The delineated space of the sandtray keeps out distractions. Weinrib suggests that the mere act of creation in itself provides a good deal of satisfaction and release of tension. Growth in self-esteem is evident in clients after this creative process. Many clients report that this process enhances their creativity. or identifying a story that links chosen symbols. even making imaginary new pictures which might emerge in future sessions. Kalff constantly emphasises the need for the psyche to have experiences of centring. the client finds feelings of both calm and excitement. The images have meaning – even if this meaning is not immediately obvious to the rational mind. mind and feelings transforms the inner experience into an outer reality. However. with each sandplay. just as a candle or particular spiritual or religious image might be used in meditation or prayer. Kalff found that there was frequently a significant symbol at the centre. This sense of approaching life more creatively improves self-confidence and self-esteem. as issues are worked through and as trust in the facilitator develops. This focusing effect offers the client the opportunity to open to the transpersonal level of the psyche. mind and feelings. The sense of centring may seem to be entirely absent in new clients whose sandplays may more closely resemble a war zone than a sacred space. and that outer transformation becomes an inner experience. The client rehearses. and a structured means of dealing with some of the conflicts of the inner world. Working in the sandtray gives a space for the exploration. In a similar way intricate mandalas have been used in several Eastern traditions as an aid to concentration and contemplation. a sense of order. new possibilities relating to something outside themselves. As the healing process takes place over a number of sandplays.personal mythology. This progression towards centredness is frequently reflected in a series of sandplay pictures which typically develop from chaos to order and sometimes from order to expressions of the sacred. to come into balance. This therapeutic expression is quite different from the disruptive or destructive acting out that has been the cause of entry into counselling. by its very nature. design and creation of images that correspond with the inner world.

Naturally this resistance is respected. the adult plays as does a child. or movement work. Its value lies in its experiential non-cerebral character’. Many clients may not speak at all for extended periods during their sandplay. Developmental psychologists have analysed the extreme importance of play in the development of a child’s personality and ability to relate to the world. This quickly opens the doorway to release the underlying causes of problems without reinforcing any notion of the client’s state as proof of having – or being – a problem. body focus. Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 31 . Others are stimulated and gain release through a steady stream of verbal expression that supports energy release and psychological relief. This can be a relief from the challenge of dredging up memories. Kalff suggests that this centring experience may have a numinous quality. Weinrib says that ‘some inarticulate patients turn to the sandtray with relief since self-expression through language is so fraught with anxiety for them’. Weinrib says that the ‘playing aspect seems to provide access or an initiatory rite of entry for adults into feeling. Weinrib explains: ‘Sandplay is not a game of rules. the focus is removed from immediate behaviour problems. This energetic and emotional transformation depends on the client’s deep trust and sense of safety with the therapist. three-dimensional aspects of sandplay and symbol work there is the therapeutic experience of playing. In beginning with play and allowing the unconscious contents to be projected onto the symbols. for many clients the very act of recovering the ability to play can provide them with the tools they need for an autonomous processing of their conflicts. Offering choice and respecting the individual’s inner guidance also has an empowering effect that supports the client in feeling some control. sandplay therapists.the sand. emotional release counsellors and facilitators of many other counselling forms see daily with their clients that supported play in the counselling context can also facilitate deep emotional healing. affect and the world of childhood. A client is always met where they are and in ERC a range of alternative supportive modalities can be offered. repressed fantasies are released and possibilities for reconciliation occur’. personal details or data that may be required by traditional therapeutic methods such as verbal therapy. Lost memories are found again. storytelling. The value of play In addition to the concrete. Sandplay helps overcome conscious and unconscious defences through the fact that the first activity most closely resembles play. and evolve to be an expression of a centred emotional state or even an expression of the Self. In fact. such as drawing. Play therapists. emotional dysfunction and physical symptoms. It is free and encourages playfulness. Occasionally a client who has developed strong cognitive control may at first resist sandplay as either too threatening or too childish. In sandplay. with seriousness.

Discharge of destructive impulses allows a new. hitting. Many will come up with new strategies for more effective living and even report that some of their difficult behaviours seem to have dropped away as a result of journeying into their psyche. Sandplay offers the possibility of acting out an inner impulse in a safe way. moving gradually into the depths of their personality. or as islands. The ritual aspect is evident in sandplay with clear geometric arrangements in the sand or with the figurines. being allowed to have exaggerated feelings and having the ‘process’ of heightened reactions accepted and dealt with respectfully. Weinrib (1983) writes that the free and protected space of sandplay ‘provides a safe and sealed container where unredeemed demonic energies can be transformed by enabling the expression and playing out of repressed aggressive needs’. Sometimes this is accomplished by squashing down the sand formation. embarrassment or resistance. Sometimes the client’s energy and movements while creating the sand picture and selecting the figurines reveal a sense of ritual.Some clients may begin the process with diffidence. Circles marked in the sand. Frustration. Dealing with aggression Sandplay encourages a creative regression that enables healing. relaxed mood and frequently leads to clearer more fluent verbal communication. creative problem-solving and a positive commitment from the client to their own therapeutic process. mountains or lakes. then open to the transpersonal. It provides the dual benefits of containing the process and allowing movement forward. In Virginia Axline’s account of her work with Dibs (1971) the expression of the boy’s hostility to his father – when the father doll is upturned and buried in the sand – seems to be a major turning point in the therapy. The sandplay is contained in clearly stated space and time boundaries. burying symbols. The client becomes absorbed in the activity and works with great concentration. not having to be rational or sophisticated. condescension. Frederick Perls (1969) says ‘the way out is through’. jealousy and revenge are all frequently released using symbols in the sandtray. Allan and Berry (1987) refer to the value of clients releasing repressed energy. Soon some play emerges which may be conducted in a ritualistic atmosphere. in ERC we extend this safe and protected space with cushions to provide release for large motor movements such as jumping. 32 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Traditionally the movement is contained within the sandtray. scepticism. There can be a great relief in not having to come up with answers. conflicts and unfinished business. However. After this progression they typically emerge with a stronger and clearer engagement with the here and now. aggression. we see that clients will more readily go through their issues. kicking and tumbling followed by relaxation. Generally. upending symbols or removing symbols. often appear. anger.

Parents regularly report that they have observed. We have found that intruding rational interpretations – whether correct. or projections by the therapist – divorces the client from the healing connection with their inner material. the role of the therapist using sandplay is to listen. The role of the therapist In general. including familiarity with symbolism • have had many meaningful personal experiences as a sandplay client • be familiar with the stages of development as they appear in the sandplay process • have studied and compared many sand pictures • have a capacity for acceptance of the client • respect the individual nature of the process Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 33 . in relationship to the inner world. the greatest benefit is derived by the client from their own experience in the sandtray rather than the counsellor’s intellectual understanding and feedback of what they think happened. a movement from chaos and battles towards happier ordered scenes. or the child’s teacher has observed. he made his first verbal communication with his father after the doll-burying session. indicating the reduction of emotional turmoil that has been responsible for aggressive behaviour. while the facilitator is not focusing on problems in the session. Weinrib (1983) states clearly that the success of therapy depends on the therapist’s familiarity with the developmental stages in the process reflected in the sand pictures. significant positive changes in behaviour after a few sandplay sessions.So. This way there is less chance of the client being unduly influenced by the therapist and also less need for any defensive rejection of new insights. 1971). These stages include: 1 at least partial resolution of key complexes 2 a sense of the depths within – referred to as the ‘Self’ – and the special energy connected with these depths 3 the balancing emergence or recognition of the anima or animus (Jung’s terms for what he saw as the contrasexual balancing forces within the psyche) 4 a new ego attitude to the transpersonal and to daily life (Kalff calls this the emergence of the ‘relativised ego’ capable of relating productively to both the inner and outer worlds). In many cases we have observed a change in the sandplay. emerges. Ultimately. the symptoms. observe and participate empathically. the difficult behaviours gradually disappear once the underlying causes have been safely addressed. Weinrib recommends that a collective interpretation of a series of sand pictures be left until a solid sense of self emerges and a renewed ego. An effective therapist using sandplay should: • have undertaken deep personal psychological transformation and healing through experiential work • have had adequate clinical training. In the case of Dibs (Axline.

However. Many clients feel clear benefit even after one or two sessions with the symbols and there are many reports of children exhibiting major behavioural changes after only one session. This may be reminiscent of the ceremonies and atmosphere of some traditional tribes and the early mystery religions. Some begin that way and then develop a taste for more ongoing healing work. The sandtray can be seen as sacred ground where a physical symbolic ritual enactment takes place.• not intrude their own agenda during the process • have adequate knowledge of the principles of ERC and transpersonal psychology • respect clients whose sexual. Generally sandplay is experienced with a sense of suspended analysis and gradually emerging cognitive understanding. This seems to allow emotional and psychological healing rather than simply gaining insights. It is not the number of sandplays or 34 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Weinrib describes it as being more like a spiral with ‘various elements of the personality appearing in symbolic form at different levels of development’. maintaining a reassuring interest. or a long-term healing and growth goal. wordless rapport. some of the extraordinary cures and emotional healings that we see with clients – similar to those reported by Kalff (1980) – occur when a client works regularly over a period of time. Weinrib (1983). The ability to be very present. They seem to agree that there is no strictly defined order or distinct linear trajectory to the process. rather than an attitude of expecting preset outcomes and directing the process to achieve these set goals. general positive adjustment to the world. This silent accompaniment can help repair the feeling of isolation from which many clients suffer. without intruding. The therapist must be able to help create a supportive atmosphere for sandplay as it can take on a kind of ritualistic aura. Some have limited goals and limited time and may come with a particular problem to solve. religious or social orientation differs from those of the therapist. cultural. is linked with an attitude of discovery or study of the psyche. There is no theoretical definition of what completion means in terms of the inner process. Completion can relate to one specific issue. The motivation and goals of clients can vary greatly and this will impact on the stages of the process and the depth of the process. Allan and Berry (1987) and Bradway and McCoard (1997). Most typically cognition catches up with behavioural and emotional changes rather than preceding them. The therapist must have the ability to empathically participate in the client’s act of creation and in so doing develop a deep. Some clients ask for sandplay and symbol work only in times of crisis. Stages in the sandplay process Several writers have attempted to delineate stages in the sandplay process: Kalff (1980).

a final stage of the process will be a session of review – frequently accompanied by photographs and drawings from previous sessions. This can lead into the fourth stage where sometimes the Self – or the totality of one’s self – can be sensed and touched. clients tend to more actively seek constructive outlets in life for their renewed energy. 3 As the process moves on there emerge varying degrees of resolution of problems. At this stage. 6 Figures or symbols of the opposite sex begin to appear regularly and in an orderly fashion. indicating connection with what Jung called the animus/anima. At this point the client may have experienced a sense of the sacred. but the sense of completion with an issue which both client and counsellor come to recognise. These pictures may have a chaotic quality and express ‘untapped raw energies’. I know that at least 6–8 weeks are needed before a situation that is just becoming visible as it emerges from the unconscious. These stages may often merge and overlap. at this stage there is more energy. The client may choose a single figure of the same gender with which they now consciously identify and this may appear regularly in the ongoing process. 1 The first sand pictures are usually realistic scenes and may give indications of the problems and their possible resolution. 5 After this connection with the larger Self there is evidence of the transformed ego in the sand pictures. Sandplay pictures now appear more creative and better organised. This gives a client time to allow the threads of insight and the terrain that the psyche covered to come together with new meaning and fresh impact. 4 This stage appears with images of centring or unions of opposites with religious or spiritual symbols and mandalas. She says: ‘From my past observations. spiritual figures or abstract religious symbols may reappear or appear for the first time. 2 The pictures often show that the client has dived into deeper levels of the personality. This seems to release energy which allows deeper work on the psyche. 7 As the process draws to a close. Patients report a sense of having touched ‘home’. This has a balancing effect. 8 For some. particularly into the shadow and personal unconscious. The figures are more clearly metaphors for aspects of the self. Offering weekly sessions. Kalff considered that it took some weeks for unconscious issues to appear and be worked out in outer life. According to Weinrib’s (1983) overview there are eight main stages in the traditional sandplay process with adults. awareness and assurance around the meanings.symbol work sessions that is significant. Whereas in the early stages the client unconsciously projected onto the figures. can push through into the outer life. although the images and sand scenes may continue working in the Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 35 . It is as delicate as a newly sprouting blade of grass that needs attentive care’.

knights. A client may have a sense of being supported now by something deeper or stronger – the transpersonal dimension of the psyche – and may have a new sense of worth. robot men. Working from a Jungian perspective these comments. This is expanded in Chapter 3 (page 51). The therapist. Sometimes archetypal amplifications – that are evident to the therapist – have been offered. Allan and Berry (1987) summarise the common stages they have observed in children’s work. Sandplay therapists whose training includes Jungian analysis and who use sandplay in the model of Dora Kalff used to take photographic slides of completed sandplays and these were shown weeks – sometimes years – after a period of work seemed complete. ‘anything that moves is shot!’. Animals are in their correct habitat. Weinrib points out that at the eighth stage the conscious ego. while not imposing their analysis. if not distinct stages. Bradway and McCoard (1997) suggest that this review could be offered years after the end of a sandplay series. roadways are ordered. commenting that these stages appear in cycles: • chaos – many figurines dumped into sandtray. may be used to evaluate the picture. After the sandplay After the sandplay is finished Weinrib suggests that the therapist may: • ask the client to tell the story of the picture • ask relevant questions • elicit the client’s comments and associations about the picture • speak of matters suggested by the client. Reviewing the sandplays with slides is valuable for clarifying and formulating the experience of the unconscious. vast upheavals and mingling of sand and figurines • struggle – battles between monsters.client’s psyche for many years. However. fences are in place. having experienced something greater than itself. may suggest aspects of the sandplay that the client could reflect on and possibly research further. emotional release counsellors. often no winner • resolution – order is being restored. 36 Sandplay and Symbol Work . in the light of Jungian symbology. armies. In contemporary sandplay with children over three or four sessions we recognise a sense of progression. there is more balance. gives up some of its autonomy and paradoxically at the same time experiences itself as stronger. crops and trees bear fruit. Amplification is used primarily with adult clients and is simply a way of sharing with the client helpful information that may enable the client to investigate further traditional meanings of their symbols. The slide show reinforces change and understanding. use their private analysis as a basis for creating questions that might support further self-discovery by the client. no apparent order. when using sandplay and symbol work.

Sometimes the counsellor can support the client to make these connections. she was endeavouring to allow the inner healer to direct the play therapy. She says she tries to ‘communicate understandingly and simply. It assumes basic goodness. by her client. intelligence and trust in an inner healing mechanism. Axline felt it was important not to offer any behaviours or physical mannerisms which could be construed. This client-centred approach fits well with sandplay. recognition in line with his (client’s) frame of reference. Reviewing the concrete expression of the client’s inner journey is often very supportive. as implying a judgement on her part of good or bad. Clearly she felt that to imply anything which could be interpreted by the client as a way to proceed would put the counselling process at risk of going off track and actually missing something important for the client. The events that took place and the outcomes are ‘at work’ in the psyche without the person having to do anything. An aspect of the ‘free and protected space’ is freedom from suggestion by the therapist and freedom from the need to comply. Often new insights emerge during this review time. and accept them. This way of being echoes Carl Rogers’ person-centred approach. Review then takes place after several sessions – usually after about six or eight sessions. no rush to do everything today – then. perhaps. In her work with Dibs. Axline Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 37 . The contribution of play therapy Virginia Axline (1971) describes the use of toys in a large sandtray as part of her therapeutic work. Dibs would catch more and more of a feeling of security and of the rightness of his own reactions so he could clarify. The attitude of the therapist and the interactions detailed in Dibs provide support for the way a sandplay therapist could behave. right or wrong. Without using ERC terminology. no concealed standards of behaviour or expression that were not openly stated. This inspiring classic shows the way work with symbols and sand can be integrated into another compatible method of therapy. Axline sums up a way of being with her difficult client that strongly mirrors a way of being for which a sandplay therapist would aim: If I could get across to Dibs my confidence in him as a person who had good reasons for everything he did. no pressure for him to read my mind and come up with a solution that I had already decided upon. I wanted him to lead the way. During the review connections between the images in the sandtray and what is happening in both the inner and outer life can be made.The ERC approach differs in that a Polaroid photo is taken of the completed sandtray which the client keeps as a record of the process. and if I could convey the concept that there were no hidden answers for him to guess. I would follow’. Axline explains that her method of interacting scrupulously avoids suggesting any desire for a particular behaviour in the client. Weinrib considered the slide show a valuable tool in supporting ego strength. understand.

rather than the compensatory or pathological symptom assumed in early Freudian theory. expand our awareness through self-discovery and investigate a spiritual path. Axline’s approach in her play therapy is to deal with intrapersonal experiences. The discovering of a spiritual identity is seen as healthy. It took a long time. In sandplay we often see this process unfold before our eyes in the sandtray. is seen as normal and natural and part of the journey of life. It acknowledges that the human need and search for higher meaning is a sign of health. especially emotions. often without the need for many words. for something more than the usual level of consciousness. Some behaviour management programs conducted in Australian schools aim to teach social responsibility and respect for the rights of others. but when he felt there was no need of defence he stopped defending and allowed the damned-up emotions to flow out and then moved into a happy state. The ‘way of being’ of the therapist supports the development of a sense of dignity in the client – who often is brought to the sessions under the label of having a severe problem. Virginia Axline says of Dibs: ‘I hoped that he would find experiences in the playroom that would help him know and feel the emotions within him in such a way that any hatred and fear he might have within him would be brought out in the open and diminished’. In transpersonal psychology the hunger for meaning. She echoes the hopes of many emotional release counsellors. and had emerged with feelings of strength and security’. before he can learn to respect the personalities and rights and differences of others’. The Dibs case study describes how the young client has ‘poured out his hurt. In commenting on the growth of her young client. has developed a strongly client-centred approach with emphasis on supporting positive aspects of a client to emerge. or being problematic in the school. with its roots in humanistic psychology. A study of Axline’s mirroring technique in communication with this client provides a good basis for learning how to keep the channels of communication open with a sandplay client. social or home setting. Transpersonal psychology recognises that part of our task in life is to deal with emotional healing. She says: ‘The child must first learn self-respect and a sense of dignity that grows out of his increasing self-understanding. freedom and emotional support to play out his troubles. In many traditional cultures this search is widely accepted as healthy and a foundation for lifestyle orientation.gave her client the space. and open to exploration in a balanced and earthed way. and trust that this will flow out in improved interpersonal connections. Sandplay and transpersonal psychology Transpersonal psychology. It is often assumed that this can be learned via the intellect alone. bruised feelings. Sandplay and symbol work allow in-depth exploration and recognition of the intrapersonal domain. There is 38 Sandplay and Symbol Work .

and that a deeper level of the psyche could often only communicate important messages via symbols.recognition of the developmental stages in what Ken Wilber (1980) refers to as the outward and the inward arc – the journey from subconsciousness to self-consciousness. The art of being able to allow the psyche time and emotional space to express and grow brings more sustainable well-being than attempting to direct the process from the ego. Some of those involved in the transpersonal movement have researched and developed Jung’s observations on the psyche’s in-built drive towards healing and wholeness. behaviourist or cognitive approaches where significant direction may be given by the counsellor. to be acknowledged and integrated over time. and through work with many hundreds of trainees. to know more about their inner world and to explore levels of consciousness. Symbolic language. The harmony and trust that develop with the client as we follow the process of inner healing enhances their feeling of being supported and trusting their inner self. and recommends time spent in non-ordinary states of consciousness as the most effective way of allowing this mechanism to do its work. which transcended the demands of their ego. in an attempt to reach out to the outer world. Jung considered that symbols were the language of the unconscious. especially the ‘free and protected space’ – the ‘temenos’. know the world and find their place in it. and from there to superconsciousness. They respond well to a counsellor who is familiar with transpersonal concepts and who can accept and support their interest in spiritual enquiry. to turn within. allowed messages which might be too powerful or too painful to face. wait and support this force to manifest may require a paradigm shift from traditional training in Freudian. Grof (1988. fantasies or sandplay work. through clinical observations. Jung guided his patients to look within to the Self. The inward arc is of interest to many adolescents and adults who develop an interest in deepening contact with their inner world and discovering their spiritual identity. Difficult or neurotic behaviour is seen as a sign that Chapter 2 A gathering of wisdom 39 . 2000) calls this mechanism the ‘inner healer’. whether in dreams. the totality of what they could become. To sit back. Several of the Jungian writers on sandplay refer to this healing force in the psyche and agree that it needs supportive conditions. Some adolescent clients are ready to begin the inward arc. From the theory of transpersonal psychology behaviour is seen as a symptom of forces within us. As we work with a client our minds may be attempting to understand the inner guiding force in the client’s sandplay so we can work in harmony with it. He supported them in exploring their deeper wisdom. Through our own inner exploration with sandplay and symbol work. we have seen the extent of the innate logic of this inner healing mechanism. The lack of support for adolescents in our culture to begin the inward journey accounts for some of the suffering they report in counselling sessions. Most child clients are participating in the outward arc of their psyche.

Understanding and training in recognising these expressions and supporting clients who may be in an ongoing process of healing and resolving these areas of the psyche is extremely valuable for counsellors. Verney and Leboyer have begun to detail the impact on our psyche of the womb time and the birth experience. In our culture the ego has often been regarded as the leader. Transpersonal psychology and the framework which Jung developed acknowledge various levels. that should ideally work in balance. While it may be true that many of us need to strengthen the ego. Psychology that deals primarily with the ego may ignore the notion of hierarchy in the psyche. Modern consciousness research has explored the impact of perinatal experience in setting up a pattern for how we deal with life. Deeper and more subtle parts of ourselves may not have a chance to develop and contribute to our life. Researchers such as Grof. When a safe and protected space is provided by the counsellor this healing can occur more effectively and directly. it can happen. and perinatal themes do emerge in sandplay and symbol work. A predominance of the ego as the director of our life may restrict our development. stages and parts of our psyche. While it would be unusual for sandplay to open experiences in the psyche relating to the perinatal domain. there is also a stage in inner growth at which the ego is ready to surrender its controls and find support from deeper forces within. 40 Sandplay and Symbol Work .healing is trying to happen. This is where a counsellor with transpersonal training can accept and nurture the newly emerging spiritual questioning of a client. making attempts at release through difficult behaviour no longer necessary. the supreme director of our personality. Janov. not necessarily as a sign of ill health.

repressed fantasies are released and possibilities for reconciliation occur. whose main role is to observe and at times participate with empathy – the client can bounce ideas off the facilitator and through sharing the inner world gain deeper access to it • a calm. concepts and memories. The basic elements of the sandplay process are discussed. Sandplay integrates body. shaping and breaking down sand formations – offer many possibilities for selfawareness and expression beyond verbal exchange • the facilitator. Images of the Self. Through the sand picture the client releases old feelings. contained in the sandtray • the symbols. tray and water become a malleable tool that takes on the contours of the psyche as it is constellated at the time. with both the free play and directed sandplay methods outlined. 1983 I n this chapter we introduce concepts important to the application of the sandplay and symbol work methods. feelings and mind. The client-centred approach of trusting the inner healing mechanisms of the client is described. supportive environment in the counselling room. affect and the world of childhood. the adult plays as does a child.Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods In sandplay. arranged along the shelves • water. Estelle Weinrib. Lost memories are found again. and embodies new insights. imagery and unconscious – the driving force behind sand pictures and stories • the client’s hands: their sensitivity. The use of sandplay with families and groups is introduced along with some practical stages observed with counselling clients. The sand. Elements of the process There are seven main elements involved in the traditional sandplay process: • the sand itself. Sandplay is used to 41 . which is like a protective womb encouraging motivation and supporting the opening and resolution of inner tensions. Sigo. symbols. their movement – building. with an emphasis on the support the counsellor’s attitude and workspace can provide. with seriousness. The playing aspect seems to provide access or an initiatory rite of entry for adults into feeling. often used to help shape the sand and add another tactile sensation to the process • the client’s personal mythology.

reclaim forgotten qualities. expand self-knowledge and explore personal mythology. For children this makes it different from the sandpit at school. It provides a terrain on which the whole psyche can portray all its colours. at a safe distance from the everyday world and everyday concerns. at first. mysterious depths of the shadow side. For a few clients the sand can evoke a yearning for these experiences. Touching the sand may evoke emotions about touch. Within the boundaries of the sandtray the client makes a visual representation of the inner world. The sand can be dry. find the sandless symbol work more agreeable. with a special representation of inner reality. As stories unfold the client’s inner transformation is represented visually. the volcanic eruptions of conflict or the higher levels of experience. creating delicate formations or shaped into gentle. Fingers flowing through dry sand leave ripples. It also allows the cognitive processes an 42 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Connection is rapidly made through the kinesthetic and visual senses rather than the organising of the intellect. It can represent dark. the client shapes the sand. There is a link to the ocean – which is so often a symbol for the unconscious – and carefree times.resolve personal problems. This inner connection allows more material from the unconscious to be safely revealed. To support this. one with wet sand. the sandtray and the symbols are not treated as everyday toys. The past recedes. The sandtray presents a safe place to explore issues that the unconscious is ready to release. Wet sand is shaped into hills and valleys. The play aspect is vital – this method brings up less resistance than more confronting processes. leaving space for a hopeful future. The qualities of the sand are managed and manipulated by the client. For the client. The transformation of sand from solid matter to malleability can mirror the process for the client. but the dedication of the sandplay to inner exploration gives the unconscious security. or made wet and clinging together. All these can provide space for the unconscious to naturally work out some of its issues. permission and encouragement to open up. with both shade and light. or the toy box under the bed. Dry sand can be blown. The look. the bath at home. rounded formations. A client who is tactile defensive may. soft. but as objects dedicated to exploration of the inner world. the texture and the smell of the sand can bring a link in the memory to times spent at the beach. open up to inner guidance and direction. When water is added the sand turns darker and begins to take on the quality of earth. The feel of the sand is likely to elicit pleasant childhood memories. In this way the sandplay experience is not the same as spontaneous play times. The sandtray becomes a sacred space. The sandplay equipment is set up specifically for counselling and self-discovery. It becomes firm and can be easily formed or shaped. Using their hands. Involving the body allows the analysing mind and its diverting tactics to be left behind. Two sandtrays may be available as contrasting mediums – one with dry sand. being connected to the sensations of their hands means becoming more aware of their bodies. Energy begins to release through the movement.

As has been said. when supported with an attitude of respectfulness. The vital role of the counsellor is to support the emergence of meaning from within the client. safe. the counsellor is aware of their own personal need for inner work. made clear and explored. A transformation. Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods 43 . freedom and self-direction. in order to avoid projection onto the client. What was intangible inside can be externalised. The counsellor becomes a co-traveller on this journey. At the end of the session the counsellor invites the client to do a drawing depicting their emotional state or write down their insights and share what they have learned. one who supports the client’s wish to explore. the meaning of which may not at first be clear or fully understood by either the therapist or the client. although in all forms of counselling there is a stage of problem orientation. Myths link us to the basic patterns of the psyche. attended to and special. What has been unknown. What has been abstract becomes more concrete. for ongoing clearing and journeying. although many clear insights will be evident. In working closely and empathically with clients the counsellor will want to create an attractive and supportive healing environment. Regarding inner work as an exciting journey develops a stronger foundation for growth than a focus on simply managing problems.opportunity to function more clearly. The client’s unconscious. The search for wholeness and metaphysical understanding has always drawn on society’s myths. out of sight or perplexing becomes clarified as the symbols are arranged. Ryce-Menuhin (1992) writes that sandplay gives a non-verbal image within the therapeutic setting. This creates a link-up between personal healing and the collective unconscious. and this is freed to manifest at a later time in another sandplay and in life. the archetypes and the collective unconscious. presents what is ready to be dealt with. This will be a space which supports the client to feel at home. a healing. Through the symbols a client explores many aspects of the psyche. interpretation is not part of this method. to discover and develop personal myths. The self-actualising. and even touches deep into their essence. brought to consciousness. make new connections and formulate new strategies. The effectiveness of the sandplay does not depend on the counsellor’s or the client’s intellectual understanding of the process. Ideally. The counsellor’s conclusions or interpretations are not expressed. and the people we work with. self-regulatory principle of the client-centred approach is at work here. What has seemed like random events takes on the shape of a story or journey. takes place. As the client relates the meanings or the story of the sand picture the client feels a sense of freedom and has the opportunity to understand what is happening in their life in terms of the symbols and the sand picture. This might be a time to draw out any particular implications for the client’s current life. Sandplay allows us. For depth of understanding of this aspect the counsellor’s own inner journey through sandplay training is an essential prerequisite.

actions and outcomes that we would not generate in our daily lives. these symbols form personal stories or myths which inevitably support connection to the client’s innate world of hope. feel relief and begin to deal with that aspect more constructively. 44 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Some uses of sandplay New language Symbols support the development of an extended vocabulary to help expression of inner feelings. share and gain relief through the interpersonal nature of counselling sessions. Shadow release Many of us have been brought up to behave well and hide any negative feelings or destructive urges. Safe space for portraying what is inside allows for integration of disowned aspects and energies. For further discussion on sandplay equipment see page 88. The containment of these actions may be causing some stress. Personal mythology A client can gain language and images that help them describe their inner and outer world. Surfacing of an old wound Some clients may be dealing with the activation of an old hurt. Acquisition of inner world language helps the client express. hopes. Exploration of causes of an underdeveloped sense of self is possible. unload. lakes coastlines or mountainous terrain. These symbols become the client’s personal mythology. We can construct in the tray scenarios. Water is made available. either in a sprayer to lightly wet the sand.The work room is colourful and exciting. Resolution of a specific crisis Some clients feel immediate benefit from one or two sessions in which they explore the dimensions of the most immediate life issue. Resonant symbols are often introduced into new sand pictures and may appear throughout a series of sessions. Sandplay can be used for acting out what is not acceptable in real life. Self-image Both sandplay and symbol work allow the collection of information about unconscious self-images. but which can be fantasised. The symbols on the shelves are presented so that they can be clearly seen and grouped in themes. divisions and urges. although orderly. or in a jug to enable mixing and the forming of rivers. triggered by a change in life or an emotional shock. as well as the gaining of a new viewpoint on self. Often symbolic of newly discovered energies or qualities of character.

An alternative to self-revelation
For a variety of reasons some clients feel threatened by the counselling process. Some clients may take several sessions to relax and trust a counsellor. They may be wary of self-disclosure. Any requirement to verbalise their deepest concerns will activate resistance. However, using sandplay these clients can begin their healing process simply by playing!

Support for feeling and intuition
All of us have preferred modes of operating at different times in our lives. In some cases the tendency of Western society to communicate predominantly through verbal/cognitive processes leaves a client enmeshed in a world of thought. The development of emotional, kinesthetic and intuitive modes of experience may not have been fully developed. For those who are used to operating on a thinking level, sandplay supports a breakthrough to the intuitive and feeling levels.

Trusting the inner healer
‘Inner healer’ is the shorthand name Grof (2000) has given to our in-built psychological healing mechanisms. From his lifetime of psychiatric and psychological research Grof concludes that, given appropriate support and the means for release through surrender of ego control, we have an inner radar that knows what issues, in what order and what timing is required for the healing of our psyche. In sandplay and symbol work we have found that supporting a client in a quiet focus, with direction to increase the connection to their inner world, enables the client to surrender to deeper states of consciousness. This state empowers the inner healer. Grof writes that to ‘support the experiential process with full trust in its healing nature, without trying to direct it or change it in any way’ allows the ‘radar function’ of the inner healing mechanism. This concept of the ‘inner healer’, in association with all the dimensions of emotional and spiritual healing, is very much in line with concepts put forward by Dora Kalff, Virginia Axline and several of the Jungian-oriented sandplay writers (see bibliography). The training of sandplay facilitators emphasises the importance of allowing this inner wisdom to emerge. Learning to trust the way each psyche presents its healing can occur only through direct personal experience and careful observation of clients over several sessions. Trusting the inner healer requires a paradigm shift for counsellors and therapists who may have been trained in approaches that presume it is the counsellor’s role to determine both the issues to confront and the most direct route to psychological health. Developing and nurturing trust in the inner healing process allows greater objectivity on the part of the counsellor. The order and timing of the issues to be dealt with remains aligned to the client’s
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process. Counsellor and client present a team approach as co-journeyers. The confrontational aspect is superseded by the empathic presence which allows the natural unfolding of their process.

The free sandplay method
In learning to facilitate sandplay the most important skill is to reclaim an ability to play. The ability to play and support play is vital for developing trust in the value of play for the client. Through play – which can become quite serious in sandplay sessions – the imagination can express its contents. Imagination is linked to the personal unconscious and its way of expression is guided by the inner healing mechanism of the psyche. This organising principle selects what is necessary for healing and growth within the client. It determines which story or picture needs to be expressed at any particular time. Through the extensive experiential training needed to become a facilitator we learn to respect this inner wisdom in the client. To play is to suspend rules, to suspend the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’, to let go of analysis and the requirements of logic. For adults it may include taking the risk that the story will work itself out without being preplanned. To play is to agree to let the story emerge from our unconscious without interference. Of course, becoming conscious of defensive rational interference will also be part of our healing process. In developing her World Technique, Margaret Lowenfeld (1999) felt that unless the need to play had been adequately accommodated in childhood, then the adult was driven by those same urges, which then projected themselves into the person’s adult life and masqueraded as reality. In playing, children surrender to the forces within them. Their play can be active or passive, reactive or responsive. Young children at play in the school playground often demonstrate a high degree of seriousness and focused attention when they are interested. When we let ourselves surrender from strictly rational plans and simply play, we cross the threshold from the adult, fixed world, to the childlike, fluid world of feelings, images and energies. This is a world in which the inner self can express itself through the stories we create in the sand and with the figurines. The experience of crossing this threshold, many times, prepares us to be relaxed and open sandplay facilitators. This, then, will create the best environment for clients to make their own healing journeys.

Overview of the process
Before the sandplay
• Trust and connection between the client and the counsellor are built through meeting, and the counsellor listening. The process is then outlined and the client introduced to the sandtray and symbol shelves. • The counsellor observes the client and assesses their current emotional state and needs. 46
Sandplay and Symbol Work

• The counsellor reviews the previous session outcomes (if there has been a previous session). • The counsellor and client discuss significant current life events. • The counsellor provides opening instructions and initial directions for the sandplay. These will depend on the presenting problem, assessment, personal history and client’s aims. The opening instructions can range from ‘Would you like to play with the sand?’ to more specific directions (see page 49).

During the sandplay
• The facilitator’s role is to be a loving presence, to observe carefully and occasionally ask questions that encourage self-discovery. These questions are based on the counsellor’s observation and analysis of the sandplay. • Usually the client begins by meeting the sand. They play with and shape the sand, eventually creating a landscape. This is a time of ‘crossing the threshold’ to meet the inner world. • The client is encouraged to take occasional deep breaths to support emotional opening. • The client is encouraged to focus on self – body awareness, awareness of mood, etc. • The client chooses symbols, usually with no analysis or discussion. Any initial interpretations by the facilitator are not shared with the client. • A story or picture emerges. This may take place either in silence or with the client telling the story as they create. The facilitator may ask some questions to extend the client’s experience. • During the sandplay the facilitator observes the client’s facial expressions, posture, emotional expressions – observing clues to their inner state. • The facilitator looks for the main themes. This will allow for follow-up discussion that may connect the play to the client’s life. • Significant spatial relationships in the sandtray may give clues to emotional states and issues, and can be cues for supportive questions. • Supporting deeper exploration: 1 Ask the client about the symbols or story. 2 The client tells the story from the point of view of each main symbol. 3 Ask about any buried, hidden, isolated or non-concrete symbols. 4 Role-play with most significant symbols – ‘I am …’. (see page 116) 5 Dialogue between conflicting or connected symbols. 6 Allow the client to change the picture around. (Any change in placement is always done by the client.) 7 Emotional release work. 8 Draw out links between the picture/story and client’s life.

After the sandplay
• Begin the integration processes. These may include: – writing the story or a summary of inner experience – journalling
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emotional state and self-awareness. closes their eyes. new directions or aims. • Observe if the form created is: – abstract – an expression of feelings – an actual scene – a story. invite them to pour some water over the dry sand and suggest they mix it in. However. future session plans. allowing the hands to make shapes and formations.’ • The client might allows hands to move. if comfortable. Always let the client know that their sandplay will be dismantled after their session. mandala circles. • The client might share any sensations experienced or memories that come to mind. Formations in the sand • The client continues on from mixing the sand. including client’s feedback on themes. the possible unconscious meanings. the client’s body posture. Ask: ‘How does it feel?’ ‘What is the texture like?’ ‘Tell me about its temperature. 48 Sandplay and Symbol Work . This leaves the final picture of the psyche intact. The movement will soon engage their interest. explore.’ Include in the evaluation awareness of the story. connections to life events. Ask: ‘Is there a story that goes with the hands meeting the sand?’ Mixing the sand For those who are new to sandplay or just hesitant. Appendix III. The counsellor would ask the client which they prefer. page 117) Normally the facilitator puts away the symbols after the client leaves the room. Discuss recommended follow-up and homework. Client does completion drawings: 1 ‘Draw how you feel now – use body outlines. as well as connections with current life.’ 2 ‘Record the sandplay through drawing the symbols. (see Record Form. energy state. ready for the next stages. some clients prefer – for a sense of closure or privacy – to put their own symbols away.’ 3 ‘Take a Polaroid photo. and brings their hands slowly into contact with the sand.• • • • – dancing the story – resting – simply invite the client to lie down quietly for a few minutes – discussion. Some ways of beginning Meeting the sand • The client sits (or stands) in front of the sandtray. the emotional expressions.

with you in it.• The client may talk about what they are doing or be silent. Interestingly. is that okay?’ The facilitator then returned to simply observing the action rather than suggesting something different. turning over every grain. A young client (eight years old) created complex and amazing battlefields in the sand. a long time ago. despite the complexity and diverse nature of the structures the sand in the trays was never disturbed.’ • ‘Make up a story – or create a picture – about your life in the future. freedom or absorption into the client’s own world. Some possible opening directions are: • ‘Would you like to play with the sand and then choose symbols from the shelves and place them in the tray?’ • ‘Make a picture or story: – about your life – about you when you were little – about what is going to happen – about yesterday – about all the people you know – about a pretend story with you in it – with all your favourite things in it – with all the most frightening things in it – about the future.’ • Remember that: – it is important to allow and encourage any sense of progression. The young client never actually touched the sand. An adult client who operated earthmoving equipment always chose an implement with a straight edge with which to shape and flatten the sand. change. When invited to do so this client obligingly created a very small indentation in one corner of one tray and said. ‘There. They may choose to talk after. Others meticulously smooth the surface or pat it down firmly. Two sandtrays were used at first because there was too much to contain in one tray. Still others will not relate to the sand as a medium for exploration and will immediately choose symbols and simply place the objects in the tray as it is presented to them. Adding symbols Invite the client to choose objects to add to the tray and make a picture or story. There were ‘camps for the good guys and the bad guys’ complete with foliage to act as camouflage. Sometimes clients burrow to the bottom of the tray very quickly. • ‘Make up a pretend story that happened in a far off place. Inner transformation takes place even if the facilitator does not know exactly what is transpiring during the formation process in the sand. Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods 49 . or they may choose not to talk at all. battle zones where fighting happened and hidden areas where treasures were stored.

Sometimes there is a place for playing around with a theme. for the Gestalt role-play exercise. apart from respect for the materials and the counselling environment. page 116. volcanoes. this method points the psyche in a certain direction that may be required to deal with an immediate serious problem. Often the figure will symbolise some aspect of power or energy that the client has disowned. or a task. caves. etc. and sometimes feels threatening. 50 Sandplay and Symbol Work . This method was created from Frederick Perls’ dreamwork method. The client can be invited to role-play either one of the symbols chosen from the collection or one of the symbols created in the tray. and only a few of the structured questions. Roleplay with younger clients may take the form of a game. They are best used with clients who have already experienced the free play method. Too wide a choice. may increase scattering of attention. Offer the client specific parts of the symbol shelf to choose from or direct them to choose from one shelf at a time. and it enables older clients to integrate specific meanings and messages from their inner world. – the client is always right in their choices and arrangements. or a story that becomes the starting point. at times we use the symbols and sand as a tool in order to help a client evaluate and express an issue or open to positive parts of themselves. Gestalt role-play can also be used if there are only sand formations and no figures. When working with these clients.– there are no rules for the client. graves. The focused method This slightly more directive method of sandplay has proved effective for clients who may be challenged by so many choices or who may exhibit a very short attention span. The role-play exercise works best with clients over nine years of age. Directed methods Sandplay is usually play with minimal direction or intervention from the facilitator. they can become more themselves – own the positive qualities. with an emphasis on movement and sound. From this settled position the figures are arranged. By becoming it. The client selects symbols and sits at the tray. The symbol work exercises that follow in Chapter 4 are a form of directed sandplay. instead of enhancing a sense of freedom. Every effort is made to reduce visual or noise distractions. close blinds and doors to eliminate outside disturbances. Gestalt role-play with sandplay figures If you notice a particular attraction or repulsion for one of the figures in the sandtray. See Appendix II. or have permission to release anything negative. Essentially. the exploration can be deepened with role-play. However. such as hills. or you suspect a significant symbolic meaning in a figure that seems to be ignored.

In children’s sandplays battles are common. 6 In discussion with the counsellor. 5 Some acting out of the feelings that arose in the sandplay may follow through emotional release process work. the client may make links between the story and their current life problems. Clients may take time to overcome any sense that there are explicit expectations of them. There may be some role-play of the characters as a way of further expression of negative aspects. The sandplay scene may suggest helpful strategies. Recording through journal writing. isolation. Their focus grows and they feel more at home at this stage.Stages in sandplay sessions In individual counselling using sandplay and symbol work we often observe several stages that the client moves through. 7 Integration and rest may follow next. drawing or taking photographs would complete the session. and experiencing some relief and relaxation in the process. 3 Often chaotic pictures or stories appear. Families working together on a sandplay. This trust relates to the process. and needs less presentation of framework or reasons for doing the sandplay. Adults sometimes suggest that their problems are serious and they couldn’t imagine how ‘play’ could help. inviting the family or a group to participate together in a sandplay. Death. Intellectually. threat. Group sandplay can be an opportunity for more real expression and listening to each other. during which the client may be projecting their emotional problems onto the figurines. 4 Some discussion of the stories usually follows. a sense of excitement often emerges. Some clients will want to fill the sandtray with figurines. discovery and reclaiming of positive aspects. 1 On the first visit there is some initial reluctance or reserve as the client begins to establish trust. can come to some valuable insights about their dynamics. This is more evident when child clients may have already undergone various psychological assessments and may have already seen a number of counsellors. The shared experience of working in the sand Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods 51 . Often on the second and third visits the client moves more easily and quickly into the work. danger and relationships are also some themes in the early stages. 2 As the client relaxes into serious play. opposition. is that it removes the focus from one member – usually a child – being the problem. Sandplay for families and groups An advantage of working from the systemic approach. the client may trust more after some time of getting to know the counsellor and the environment and after a brief rationale for sandplay is given. the counsellor and the counselling environment.

The counsellor attempting family work is advised to spend a significant amount of time exploring their own family of origin issues. time be taken to do this. For this two trays are placed side by side and two people work in their own space. growing or changing. if there is a need for time out or problem-solving during the sandplay. It is usual for this rule to be discussed before commencing. or two siblings – to work together after they have participated in at least one solo session. A vital ‘rule’ or intervention by the counsellor will be the invitation for participants to express how they feel about what is happening in the sand. their own rules. In this case their difficulties would provide an opportunity for reflection and communication.opens broader communication within the family. It is essential to have commonly agreed upon boundaries and rules. the counsellor could set the rules. It is best if the counsellor has worked on a one-to-one basis with at least some of the individuals before progressing to group work. This needs to be brought out and discussed. It is ideal to have several sandtrays available. but with awareness of what the other is doing. If they are new to sandplay. The counsellor will need to be vigilant that the group sandplay does not become an opportunity for further dominance by any individual in the group. This will support the energy needed to follow the action in the tray and deal with any members who may be overwhelmed with feelings or reactions to others in the group. If all have experienced sandplay previously then direct them to decide on. Sometimes this can be achieved with a dividing line down the middle of one tray. 52 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Clients need to agree that the action of the session takes place inside the sandtray and. Parallel sandplay can also be used. Sometimes the participants will change their minds and decide not to have rules. The group sandplay can bring to the fore the resistance of one family member to healing. There is a need for awareness of any habits of expressing hostile reactions within the group. just in case the family finds that they cannot work together in one tray. and make a contract to agree to. The rules usually used in group or family sandplay should cover: • how the sandtray is divided spatially • who can move whose symbols • whether permission is needed to change the landscape • whether turns need to be taken. There has to be a good level of commitment from each member in the group to attend the session and abide with the agreed rules. Family members do become actively engaged in the group healing process. Usually we would invite a family – which is commonly a child client and one or both parents. Lack of shared communication can be a major cause of acting out behaviour in the children.

the images created in the sandtray act as a psychological and emotional guideline about the nature of the individuals in the relationship and the relationship itself. Each talks about their own creation. in the presence of the counsellor. This enables the counsellor to be sure that there is no activated hostility that could be acted out through the sandplay. and take time to view the scene created by the other. The symbols actively reveal aspects and subtleties of themselves which may not have become evident through any other means. Sandplay with couples Work with couples proceeds with many of the guidelines suggested for work with families. direction and aims in the partnership. After exploration individually a couple may feel comfortable enough to work together in the sandtray. independent of outcomes for the relationship. choose or suggest symbols for each other or change the arrangement made by the other. the counsellor can extend the dialogue and explore how each felt as they listened. that then enhances clarity. Partners do not displace the other’s symbols. the partner listening without comment. causing emotional wounding. Chapter 3 Sandplay and symbol work methods 53 . or creating the sandplay. They can explore their contribution to the relationship and their personal focus.• • • • Family sandplay should not be attempted if: the level of trust within the group is very low interpersonal conflict has reached the point of physical expression abuse or aggression has been the primary tool for dealing with problems the counsellor suspects there may be an agenda in some members that is not supportive to the family well-being. In the ERC framework there is a focus on self-exploration that can lead to clearer interpersonal communication. The counsellor is not there to give advice or referee. Then the couple may be invited to come together. Some time is spent by each of the pair choosing. The counsellor might invite them to express how they felt about: • the process of their own sandplay • listening to the other • the other’s perspective • things they might see differently • what they see in a similar way. honesty and compassion in interpersonal discovery. Then once both parties have shared their experience. Usually a couple work independently for their first sandplay or symbol work session. The focus is on intrapersonal discovery and clearing. creating and arranging the symbols. It is important to work in a field of mutual respect. One of the benefits of couple work in sandplay or with symbol work is that rational thinking is suspended long enough for each person to explore their inner self to some degree. For the facilitator.

Thinking is not awareness. to have undergone relevant training in the frameworks. although the principles of emotional release which underpin it remain constant. to know that I am sensing or feeling or thinking. Over the years we have developed and created an extensive and highly effective range of symbol work exercises and ways to explore the sand world. they want to explore every possibility. 1970 ymbols create an easy doorway through which both counsellor and client can travel together. Working with the broader cartography of the human psyche that underpins the emotional release perspective allows a person to shift ground from doing. Working with symbols appears quite simple: accumulate a variety of symbols. usually only one exercise would be offered during a single session. however. fill it with sand. say from 6–10 years old. from exploring tentatively through to working at depth with unconscious material. build a sandtray. Every therapist must ultimately find the way of working which. supporting and acknowledging in an empathic way. Simkin. sensing is not awareness. However. These exercises vary in degree of difficulty and outcome. In this chapter we have included a small number of exercises to illustrate the possibilities for including symbol work within each stage of the counselling process. or more. exploring the individual’s psyche at depth is not a field in which inexperienced or untrained players flourish. in their heart. perspectives and methodology of the way in which sandplay and symbol work is utilised by an emotional release counsellor. to attend. allowing. Although we present one or two exercises in each category. helping and managing. feels right for them. S 54 . The process is a dynamic one. Individual Gestalt Therapy. have plenty of art paper and crayons available.Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises Awareness is the capacity to focus. to being present. I need awareness to be in touch. include the element of play and then follow the client’s logic. Although. J. feeling is not awareness. it is quite common for young clients. guiding. S. Learning about the power and depth of symbols and sandplay can continue for a lifetime. a dozen sessions. in a strategic way. To employ these exercises we believe it is essential. They can be utilised in every stage of the counselling journey whether that lasts for one session. Once they have established trust. to do more than one exercise.

developing trust. The basic steps of a counselling session There are six basic steps we recognise in planning an ERC session and the sandplay symbols can be useful in each step: 1 ‘Breaking the ice’. attempt a brief role-play. The use of their concrete form and flexibility as a base for projection of the inner world can help counteract confusion and reticence. 3 Think about the following questions and then select one or two symbols for each: • What activities would you like to do rather than come to counselling? • Do you have any negative feelings about coming to counselling? Symbol work exercises Chapter 4 55 . self-discovery 3 Emotional release processing 4 Integration – discussion. hope. 1 ‘Breaking the ice’.Often a simple introductory exercise followed by some discussion will be immediately followed by something a little more challenging. inner strength Symbols can be very helpful in the early stages of counselling sessions. memories. inner strength 2 Self-exploration. They can support the client to find language for feelings. events and conflicts. Following are some useful examples of ways in which each step of a typical counselling session could be extended with the use of symbols. 2 Tune into yourself. or feel most attracted to. They support clients with limited verbal skills. 2 What are some reasons for your choices? 3 If the client seems ready. Focus on any positive messages that the symbols present during the role-play (see page 116). Symbol work exercise How do you feel about counselling? Suitable for children 9 years through to adults 1 Prepare a large circle on a page in your drawing book (or in the sandtray). 4 Follow the role-play with some discussion about any symbols the client does not like and would not choose. hope. writing 5 Support for creativity and positive use of energy 6 At home after the session – homework or home play. relax and take a few deep breaths. drawing. Introduction exercise Starting discussion with a new client Suitable for children 10 years through to adults 1 Select three symbols from the sandplay collection that you like most. developing trust.

Arrange the symbols in the circle drawn on a page in your drawing book. 56 Sandplay and Symbol Work . 3 Focus on the feeling of the sand on your hands. tensions. 3 Focus your awareness on your head. Introduction exercise Free exploration of the sand Suitable for all clients 1 Sit comfortably at the sandtray. The client may also bring forward any questions about the processes being used. Draw the symbols on a page in your drawing book. 2 Sit or lie down in a relaxed way and tune into your body. The following exercises are designed to activate the client’s interest in self-discovery and support the shift from apprehension to interest. the client begins to feel that the counsellor is with them ‘on the same team’. 2 Explore and shape the sand with your eyes closed. legs. 5 Select a symbol that in some way matches how each of the four areas of the body feels. deal with one question and symbol at a time. 6 Arrange the symbols in the body outline in the sandtray.4 6 7 8 9 • What are the hopeful. fears. 4 Become aware of any physical sensations. Write down any messages from the symbol and any insights or summary statement. 2 Self-exploration. chest. positive feelings you have about coming to this session? For children 9 to 15 years. 7 Ask the client to discuss: • the choice and location of the symbols • the feelings of each symbol • possible reasons for the feelings or sensations in each part of their body • anything else in their body for which they could select a symbol. Encourage conversation about hopes. self-discovery Symbol work has a supportive role in establishing a positive attitude in the client towards counselling. emotions or excitement that may be held in these parts of the body. Offer the possibility to role-play the symbol for the third question (see Gestalt role-play exercise. needs and negative self-talk they have noticed. belly. page 116). and attitudes about the need for counselling. What memories do they trigger? Symbol work exercise What is inside me? Suitable for children 8 years through to adults 1 Draw a large body outline in the sandtray. Create a dialogue between the symbols (see page 84). 4 Observe the shapes made. rather than in opposition in some way. if time permits. Once an interest in self-discovery is awakened.

The exercises given here are merely a sample of what is available to use in this stage.8 Ask the client: • what each symbol would say if it could speak • what each symbol would say to the other symbols • what the symbols might want to say to them • if there is anywhere in the body outline that the symbols would like to move to. in turn. relax and take a few breaths. 9 After a brief relaxation. through drawings. Some of the basic strategies that help clients deal with the expression of feelings are: • externalising the person or situation they are reacting to. 1995). emotions or excitement. healthy progression of the emotional maturing process. 3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book or in the sandtray. creates more emotional space inside for growth and for a steady. Symbol work and movement exercise Exploring my feelings Suitable for children 7–14 years 1 Stand in front of the symbol shelves and. It allows and supports the direct expression of emotions held by the body which. 3 Emotional release processing Emotional release process work is the province of counsellors who have completed training in this approach. appropriate symbols. with your eyes closed. open your eyes and select symbols that go with: • caution ‘You’ve got to be very very careful in life’ • play ‘I just want to have fun!’ • fear ‘There are so many scary things in the world’ • courage ‘I’m not afraid of anything’. or an empty chair • visualising the person or situation that they have strong feelings about as smaller than themselves • selecting one or more symbols that convey characteristics of the person or situation they are reacting to and addressing their release work towards the symbols • visualising themselves as being larger than the person or situation that they have strong feelings about • identifying with one or more symbols from the sandplay collection that portray power and strength as they begin their release work. Guidelines on emotional release work and preparation for it can be found in Chapters 3 and 5 in Emotional Release for Children (Pearson and Nolan. 2 After a moment of tuning in to self. discuss any strategies the client could use to deal with the tensions. Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 57 .

It uses both symbols and writing as ways of externalising so that progress is made tangible and visual. where would you be? Find questions to support self-discovery and emotional release in the client. 6 End with an invitation to the client to draw how they feel. or a mountain range. Symbols can be used to represent quickly a visual overview of issues that have been dealt with and feelings that are currently present in the client. 2 Collect a symbol for each of these categories: • something loving • something needing love • something angry • something that ought to be angry • something sad • something that ought to be sad • something wise • something needing wisdom. Integration involves both an active element using movement or dance or a quiet focus using drawing or writing tools. role-play or dance. Symbol work exercise Beginning to talk about my feelings Suitable for children from 7 years through to adults 1 Divide the sand in the sandtray in two halves. or find a fence on the shelves. 4 Integration – discussion. 58 Sandplay and Symbol Work . 4 Ask the client the following questions: • What do you think the symbols are thinking or wanting to say to each other? • How do you think they came to feel this way? Can you imagine a bit of their story? • Are there any symbols here that are like your life right now? • If you were in the sandtray. 3 Arrange the symbols opposite each other on each side of the dividing line. although the images created with the symbols and sand stay with a client long after the session has formally ended. drawing. 5 Give permission for the client to change the arrangement of the symbols at any time. End with the courage symbol. writing Integration takes place within the counselling setting. 5 Give the client time to rest or draw and discuss how they feel after the movement work. asking them to pretend that they are the symbols for a short time. Create a dividing line by making a long ditch. The following exercise would be used after a series of ERC sessions.Ask the following questions: • How do the symbols relate to each other? • Which ones stand out for you? 4 Direct the client in movement work.

(This may take some time. helps you do what you want to do? • What.Symbol work exercise to support decision-making What should I do now? This exercise helps clients to achieve clarity about decisions. Ask some supportive questions. or who. jewels. or in a circle drawn on a page in your drawing book. 3 Discuss the symbols in each half. Some parents – and partners Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 59 . for example: • How is this figure like you? • How long have you wanted to do this activity? • How do you feel when you think about this activity? • Have you ever actually done this activity? • Is there anyone who helps you? • I wonder if there is anything inside you that stops you doing it? 4 Ask the client to suggest: • new approaches to expressing their creativity • strategies for dealing with what stops them • reminders about finding help or support for this activity. or who. spiders. Suitable for children 10 years through to adults 1 Divide a sandtray in half (or more). in any way you feel the symbols relate to each other. such as: • Which symbols seem to stand out to you as being most important now? • Which symbols do you feel good about? • Do any of the symbols worry you? • Which half of the sandtray seems most exciting? 4 A written summary about each half could be helpful. 6 At home after the session Parents may sometimes not understand what happens when their child chooses alien figures. 5 Support for creativity and positive use of energy Symbol work exercise What would I like to do? Suitable for children 9 years through to adults 1 Select symbols in these four categories: • You in your life now • What creative activity you would most like to do • What. dinosaurs. choices and new directions that may arise after counselling work. 2 Gather symbols for one option and arrange them in half the sandtray and then gather symbols for the second option and do the same on the other half.) 3 Invite the client to discuss how they have arranged the symbols. Offer simple questions to encourage the self-discovery. stops you doing what you want to do? 2 Arrange the symbols in the sandtray.

It could involve a simple journal exercise. Partners can work together with their own sandtrays. young clients can be invited to select symbols from home and bring them to be used in the next session. for example a sandpit. model-building. 2 Arrange the symbols on a large sheet of paper in some way that represents how you perceive the connections. Parents of child clients are encouraged to provide plenty of expressive play activities at home that use toys and symbols. Pearson. Relationships Working with couples using sandplay and symbols can be very rewarding for both the counsellor and clients (see page 53). a communication activity. They can also be invited to find an object to keep at home to remind them of symbols that were empowering in their work in the counselling session. 3 Invite the client to discuss what they have chosen. a drawing about strong feelings or a physical exercise.too – may hasten to interpret the picture of the sandplay or the drawing as negative towards them or the current home situation. 1998). or in separate sessions. 4 If appropriate. Homework – or homeplay – is geared to the context of support the client has available. Note: It might be helpful for the client to write a summary of their insights. If home is a supportive environment. Some parents report that their child is very capable of creating lots of wild and wonderful stories from their imagination. to remind them of the work they have done in the session and to remind them of positive qualities that have been discovered. Relationships symbol work exercise Beginning to talk about my relationship Suitable for adults 1 Select several symbols from the shelves that correspond to these areas: • your hopes for the relationship • what it is you most love in the other person • what you find difficult in the other person or in the relating • your feeling about the other’s expectations • any fears you have about the relationship. Symbol work exercise Relationships review Suitable for adults 60 Sandplay and Symbol Work . suggest some family communication games (see Chapter 10 in Emotional Healing and Self-esteem. In consultation with parents. suggest a role-play of the significant symbols. the child might ask parents to buy a similar figurine or poster that reminds them of a significant symbol. Lego. Occasionally. long bath times with plenty of toys.

or energy. Families and school Family counselling requires particular skills (see pages 51–53). Many interactions happen. or facing away? 4 With your crayons. 6 Discuss any insights or reasons you suspect may be behind this choice of symbols. and learn about others.’ Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 61 .1 Stand and stretch your body. resolution and integration of difficult events. The school setting is a place where a group of people come together for a large part of their day but who may. lines or words as background. (See Gestalt role-play exercise. colours. communicate and reveal. Symbol work family exercise Family portraits Suitable for children 10 years through to adults Future When a baby Present When a small child 1 Ask the client to set out the sandtray like this. The symbols and sandtray offer a valuable media for group members to express. to denote the relationship. add any shapes. shake it a bit to wake it up. 3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book. marking dividing lines in the sand: 2 Stand at the side of the sandtray. 7 Invite the client to role-play the first symbol – the one for their best qualities. Record the message from the role-play. page 116). between these elements. or capturing the energy of them. in some instances. maybe drawing the symbols onto the page. some pleasant. Exercises that give the client an opportunity to express and sort through their feelings offer the possibility of positive action. 2 Select three symbols from the sandplay shelves – one for each of these categories: • the best quality you have to offer in relationships • what you find most difficult in relationships • the feeling of significant relationships during your childhood. 3 Select sandplay objects to make four pictures about each period of your life – beginning with ‘When a baby. some unpleasant and some stressful – for both young people and adults. have little reason to want to spend time with each other. 5 In your journal: • find a word or phrase that sums up each symbol • write any insights you gain from the arrangement • record any personal meanings of the symbols. 8 Suggest to the client that they complete the drawing in their drawing book. Think about the way you arrange them: • Are they close or distant? • Which ones are facing each other. take a few deep breaths.

13 Support integration of the session through: • discussion of any changes the child would like • drawing the symbols onto the page – or if drawing skills prohibit this. Ask the child to consider how close the symbol/person feels to them and then ask them to arrange the symbol in a way to represent that. Place the symbols on the floor – or table – beside the paper with the circle. and talk about these. 11 Invite the child to guess what each symbol might be thinking or wanting to say to the others. then instruct the child to place the symbol in the family circle. This circle represents your family and can be labelled ‘My Family’. 10 Once each symbol has been placed in the circle. 8 Ask questions about each of the other symbols and their relationship to each other and to the child. 2 Place a dot at the centre. At the end of the game I will try to guess who they are. 12 Ask the child to review the final arrangement and discuss what they learn from it. Ask the client to confirm or correct your choice. guess the identity. The aim is to extend the discussion. Then choose a symbol for yourself. 4 Choose a symbol for each member of your family. 62 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Ask them to consider which way the symbol should be facing. 2 Place a dot in the middle of the circle. or after. 5 Ask the client to note any similarities and differences between the pictures. 9 Finish asking the questions about each symbol. Symbol work family exercise The people in my family (Contributed by Kathy Halvorson) Suitable for children 7–14 years 1 Draw a large circle on a page in your drawing book. 6 Place the symbol for yourself on the dot in the centre. 5 Say: Don’t tell me who is who. Symbol work school exercise Me and my class Suitable for 7 to 17 years for individual or group work (with older children) 1 Draw a large square on a page in your drawing book. 7 Say: Now I am going to ask you questions about each of the other symbols. inviting the child to share more about their family relationships and their feelings. We are going to play a guessing game. without disclosing who the symbols represent. 3 Discuss the meaning of ‘family’. Name it ‘Me’.4 Encourage the client to talk about each picture – either while it is being created. making a circle for each symbol and writing the names of the people they represent in it. that it could mean extended family and include pets. I am going to try to guess which family member is represented by each symbol. Call it ‘My Classroom/My School’.

or turned away from you • if they are inside or outside the circle. Suitable for children 7–14 years and adults from 20 years onwards (adolescents are too self-conscious) 1 Select three symbols: • one that seems stuck or imprisoned • one that is breaking free or escaping • one that is flowing. • How does it feel to be this symbol? • What qualities does it have? • Is there anything it would like to say to anyone on the page. or to you or to your parents? 13 Integrate through: • drawing the figures onto the page. Don’t think too much about it. 9 Arrange the other symbols in or around the square. and the symbols you chose for them • anyone who is not on your page • how you would really like it to be. 12 Now become the figure called ‘Me’. Let it choose you. and who dislikes who • each person. 10 As you arrange the symbols think about: • how close or distant from you each one will be • whether or not they connect with each other • if they are facing you. Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 63 . 11 Talk about: • how you arranged the figures • who likes who. Take a slow full breath and breathe it out slowly. See them clearly. 5 Open your mind to this picture: ‘Your friends at school and people you don’t really like at your school’. 6 Find a figure from the sandplay collection to represent you. 8 Place the figure that represents you on the dot at the centre of the square. Emotional and physical release Movement and symbol work exercise Breaking free with dance In this exercise symbols are used as a stimulus to movement and dance as a way of supporting physical and energetic release of frustrations. writing a brief description of them or taking a Polaroid photo • writing a few lines in your journal about the most important things you felt or learned from this exercise. relaxed and playful.3 Close your eyes. 4 Feel yourself coming home inside your body. 7 Choose a symbol for each person you thought about at your school – as you pictured them in your mind. Pretend you are it.

2 3 4 5 Arrange them in a circle on a sheet of paper or in the sandtray. make more of the feeling show. Make a picture of how they go together. 11 See what your arms could do to look a bit like the symbol. Think about this for a moment. 14 Dance for about two minutes. • Would you put them close together? Far apart? • Are they facing each other? Facing away? • Would you like to put any of them outside the circle? 5 Let yourself remember any times when you have felt like these symbols. or move like the feeling the symbol shows you. I’m going to ask you to pretend that you are that symbol for a few minutes. (Play music. happy and powerful are needed to complete the exercise. Role-play and dance as each symbol.) 15 Look again at the arrangement of the symbols on your page. 9 Get ready to role-play this symbol. A selection of music for movement work to go with the energies of angry. 2 Visualise or remember these moods and energies: • angry • sad • happy • powerful. What is happening in your back? In your legs? On your face? 12 Exaggerate this stance. 8 Breathe in all its qualities. with a dark crayon. 3 Take a symbol for each mood or energy. Do you want to change them around? Do they seem different now? Which one would be closer to the front? Which one might you want to move to the back? 16 Continue this dance process for all four symbols. Think about how they relate to each other. Suitable for children 10 years through to adults 1 Draw a large circle or oval shape on a page in your drawing book. sad. (All at once or one at a time. give your body a stretch. 7 Looking at your arrangement of the symbols. How do they relate to each other? Invite the client to talk about how these relate to their life’s journey. You can make sounds or say words. Dance and role-play release exercise using sandplay symbols Understanding my moods This exercise aims to allow emotional release and to encourage children to talk about their feelings and triggers for feelings in their lives. concentrate on the symbol for ‘angry’. 13 When the music comes on let yourself move like the symbol. 10 Take a stance with your body that goes with the feeling.) 4 Arrange the symbols in the circle on your book. 6 Stand up now and take some big breaths. 64 Sandplay and Symbol Work . to dance and act out its feelings.

Keep taking deep breaths as you work with the questions. 3 Discuss how you feel as you look at the symbols. Emotional release process work Reactions with family of origin. • in your current close or intimate relationships. 4 Sit and look at the symbols and: • tune in to your body and deepen your inner contact • take some deep energising breaths. see if you can speak a response directly to the symbols – as if those people were here now. • Is there anything you want – or wanted in the past – from them? Could you tell them now? • Was there an essential truth about yourself that you couldn’t tell them? Were there any qualities. or you had to hide? Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 65 . in their groupings. or write a few words to describe each one. your growth. What have you learned about yourself from this dance work? Is there a statement you could make about your discovery. • Tell them about how you see them dealing with their reactions. skills or talents that were ignored. • Were there any times when you couldn’t speak to these people.17 After the fourth symbol has been danced look again at the picture the symbols make together. or which add meaning. two or more symbols for people or situations you react to (or reacted to in the past): • in your family when you were a child • at work – boss. 20 Discuss the drawing and the words. 19 Draw the symbols in your drawing book now. Add colours or lines that might help express your feelings and connections. etc. or is expected now? Tell them. You can say who the symbols represent or keep this information to yourself. It may surprise you what needs to come out. colleagues. when you couldn’t tell them your real feelings? Could you tell them these feelings now? Was there any anger or grief you had to contain? • Is there anything unsaid? Are there any missed moments of relating? Could you talk about these now? • Were there any expectations of you? What did you feel was expected of you. workplace and personal life Suitable for adults (can be easily adapted for use with adolescents) Stage one: Preparation and reviewing reactions 1 Select one. 2 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book. your inner journey? 18 Write this onto the page (or tell me). Allow yourself to express anything. Stage two: Confronting reactions and emotional release 5 Using the following guiding questions as a starting point.

Watch what comes into your mind as you review your feelings during the last few weeks. 1 Label the four quadrants of the chart. On the out breath see if you can let your body sink deeper into the carpet or cushions where you are relaxing. your inner life? • How have your feelings made themselves known? • Who have you had strong feelings towards? • Can you identify the dominant feeling of the last few weeks? 4 When you are ready. 3 Relax by lying down or reclining on cushions. Let your body lie down and rest. 8 Discuss your insights and any new directions or strategies that might be relevant. Really ‘let go’. 5 Relax your body again and take a few deep breaths. Inner world review exercise with symbols The different parts of me Suitable for children 14 years through to adults You will need the worksheet ‘The different parts of me’ (see Appendix I.• Focus on yourself now. You may like to draw a mandala of how you feel now. enlarged to A3 size. select two or three symbols that remind you of your feelings and arrange them in the first quadrant. shade or illustrate each of the sections in a way which goes with or represents the mood or feelings of that particular aspect of your life. Take several deep. 7 Relax. allow deeper physical and psychological surrender. 7 When you are ready. • What has been your image of yourself over the last few weeks? • Have you felt good about yourself at any point during this time? • What are the main criticisms you’ve had of yourself? • How do you think others see you? • What is your main self-image? 6 When you are ready. select two or three symbols that go with the images of yourself over the last few weeks and arrange them in the second quadrant. 2 Use crayons to colour in. Take some time to be very gentle with yourself. for this exercise. 66 Sandplay and Symbol Work . breathe deeply. Watch what comes into your mind when you think about your relationships over the last few weeks. page 115). How could you support a feeling of strength? Is there any way you need to claim back your strength now? Is there any way your body needs to move to help you do that? Stage three: Integration 6 Feel the point where you are finished with these issues for the time being. or add to the drawing you made with the symbols. take some time to write about your feelings and insights in your journal. writing outside the oval: • my feelings • my self-image • my relationships • my hopes and dreams. • What do you remember about your feelings. slow breaths. perhaps drawing some of the symbols onto the page.

Arrange these symbols in the fourth quadrant. • Let’s talk about practical strategies for beginning any changes that you want. can help clients recognise and feel their own value. or even that there was an external source! Visualisations and Gestalt role-play exercises. Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 67 . Around the outside of that section write the key words and phrases that go with the meaning of the symbols for you. They also develop personal imagery and new language for understanding and remembering of self-worth. Self-esteem The ERC approach to self-esteem work is to release what has been covering self-worth in the psyche. Much lack of self-worth is connected with an overload of held-in emotions. Allow words and phrases to come to you now. • Talk about the meanings of the symbols and the words that go with each part of you. then to draw out and recognise the sense of value with self-discovery. select two or three more symbols that remind you of your relationships and arrange them in the third quadrant. along with sandplay and symbol work. even for abuse. breathe a few deep breaths and let go even more on the out breath. A step in reclaiming self-worth is for the client to discover the source of any negative or limited beliefs and poor self-images. look at the symbols you have placed in that section. Starting with the first quadrant. Have you been in touch with any hopes and dreams for your life over the last few weeks? • What are they? • Do they feel possible? Difficult? Impossible? Near or far? • Do you feel you are moving closer or further away from your hopes and dreams? • Has there been time in your life to reflect and dream and plan and hope? When you are ready. Relax again.8 9 10 11 12 13 • Who are the people you have related to? • How have you felt about your connection with others? • What have been the high points? • What have been the difficulties? • How has it been with your main or most important relationship? When you are ready. Lack of self-worth also comes from self-blame for negative circumstances. select two or three more symbols that remind you of your hopes and dreams and your feelings about them. Assess and discuss any areas that the client may need to work on further. turn the page around and repeat the writing process for each of the remaining three quadrants on the chart. When you have written about that part of you. It is ideal to avoid creating any dependence on external valuing for self-worth (although unconditional regard and a sense of safety from the counsellor are vital elements in successful therapy).

6 Make up a story about these figures going on an adventure together: • Tell it as you make it up. • You can move the figures around as the story goes along. ‘Show me how that moves’. 4 Discuss when these qualities would be most useful. 8 At the end of the story. 3 Follow this activity with the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) to support the client to identify similar positive qualities they have. 2 Say what you like about the symbol.Symbol work exercise The most beautiful symbol on the shelf Suitable for children 9 years through to adults 1 Select the most beautiful symbol from the sandplay shelves. 3 Pause while the client plays in the sand or draws. for example ‘What happens next?’. 4 Choose three symbols from the shelves: • one for you in your life now • the one that is the most scary or ugly • the one that is the most beautiful. 5 Return to the sandtray (or drawing book) and arrange the figures on the landscape. close their eyes and relax. use a large drawing book and crayons. 7 Ask the client to answer these questions as the story goes along (or at the end): • How do the figures feel about each other? • How do they travel together? Happily? Angrily? In harmony? • What are the qualities and feelings of each figure? • What is the purpose of their adventure? To discover something? Overcome an obstacle? Solve a problem? • How would you like the adventure to end? Throughout the story support the actions to be played out and allow any moods or feelings to be expressed. then discuss the scene. Also make up questions that encourage the story to progress. Exercise using sandplay symbols Storytelling through sandplay Suitable for children 9 years through to adults If no sandtray is available. 2 Let your imagination picture a landscape of a far-off mysterious place. • You can get more figures from the shelves if you wish. 1 Ask the client to sit beside the sandtray (or drawing book). support the client to explore possible links between the story and their life. Some possible questions include: • Have you ever felt like any of these figures? • Has this ever happened to you? • Is there anyone in your life like this? 68 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Is it on land? In outer space? Underwater? Are there hills? Valleys? Rivers? An ocean? Make (or draw) this landscape in your sandtray (or drawing book) now. ‘How did they feel about that?’.

2 Visualise your life. things that have happened. using line. 4 Ask the client the following questions: • Does the journey change its form? • Does the journey change direction? • Does the landscape or vegetation change as you go along? Express this in the tray now. 6 Take some time to review the journey. Think about your future. Sandplay exercise My life’s journey Suitable for children 14 years through to adults 1 Spend time playing in the sand with your eyes closed and taking some deep breaths – playing. shapes and shading. events. images. Could you make a picture or map of your life? 3 Go to the sandplay shelves and find one or two symbols to represent the starting point of your journey and place them in the sand. What comes to your mind? Select two or three symbols for the future and arrange them in the picture of your journey. You can either do this in silence or discuss what you are doing. 3 Arrange the symbols on a page in your drawing book. take three or four deep breaths and connect to yourself again. people you have known and different activities you have done. allow the client to role-play each figure. places you have lived or visited. 2 Select one or two symbols that go with each aspect.• Would you like this to happen to you? 9 If time and attention span permit. Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 69 . See the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) and add these two questions: • What is it you want to say to the other figures in the story? • What do you want from the other figures? Tell them now. Discuss any insights. Add words that describe the connections. 4 Draw lines of connection. smoothing. colours. shaping etc. 5 Close your eyes. 10 Draw the landscape and symbols in your drawing book and write down any important insights. Spiritual direction and personal review Symbol work exercise for spiritual direction Exploring my connection to the sacred Suitable for adults 18 years onwards 1 Reflect on three aspects of your inner life: • your connection with the sacred in nature • memories. feelings of the sacred in other people around you in your life • your connection with the sacred deep within yourself. 5 Draw or write the names of the symbols.

squares and triangles.6 Give the picture a title. right elbow etc. Try making all those shapes. Imagine sailing on the ocean … boat is rocking gently … excited about discovering this treasure … suddenly the waves get bigger … clouds become dark … rain starts to pour … The wind howls … the boat is being tossed from side to side … thunder … lightning. elbow. 4 Use the Gestalt role-play exercise (see page 116) to explore personal meanings of the treasure. drawing and symbol stories Suitable for children 7 years through to adults First stage: Movement 1 Stand up. 1 We are going to take a special journey – crossing over water to a deserted island. 2 Invite the client to make a large boat with cushions. 9 You could either quietly reflect on this writing or dance out some of the feelings about it. take a few deep breaths and relax on the out breath. but something in you wants to keep on going … suddenly the rain stops. Write about it in your journal and draw the treasure. 3 Imagine which colour goes with the left elbow. 5 Make contact with the paper.) Second stage: Drawing Have a large sheet of butcher’s paper and thick jumbo crayons. One special treasure is waiting for you. 2 Imagine you had a paintbrush attached to each wrist. 70 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Sandplay and visualisation exercise Inner treasure Suitable for children 8–12 years onwards For this exercise you will need to have an assortment of beautiful items (for example crystals and jewels) buried in the sandtray. 10 Invite the client to share the summary statement. one special treasure is waiting to be discovered by you. Start making movements in the air as if you were painting circles. 7 You may wish to discuss the following questions in your journal: • How did the exercise make you feel? • What would you most like to remember? 8 Create a summary statement about your connection to the sacred. Close your eyes. (Pause between suggesting each body part. On that island. Self-discovery exercise Movement. 3 You see the sand dunes (sandtray) where the treasure is buried. Find your treasure now. 5 What is one special quality you have? This special quality or treasure is always in you. You want to go back home. Clouds drift away … sun comes out and starts to dry you … water becomes still and the boat drifts ashore on the island. 4 Choose a crayon you like the look of then take it in your hand. big toe and ankle.

6 Close your eyes and imagine that your hand is free. Arrange them on or around the drawing. rushing. repeating the free drawing. or do they make up a story together? • What would each symbol like to say? • If you were in this story somewhere. moving freely – bending. Third stage: Self-discovery and symbol work 10 Look at what you have created. or areas you would like to shade in. 8 Keep drawing until you feel like the energy in your arm has completed its creation. alive. • Is there a story that goes with these symbols? You could tell it now. Chapter 4 Symbol work exercises 71 . where would you be? • Is there anything in your life like this? 12 Integrate through discussing: • how it felt doing the movement work • how it felt doing the drawing • what each colour feels like • memories that go with the pathways • the symbols chosen and their stories. 14 Help the client plan any strategies for new directions or activities that have emerged out of the discussion. 13 Write down any important insights. See if the symbols would like to select you. 9 Looking at the ‘pathways’ that have been created. • Does each one have its own story. twisting. energised – perhaps like a sports car on an open stretch of beach or an eagle soaring. The client chooses a second and then a third colour. 7 You are aware inside your hand. Start letting it roam. see if there are any other lines or images you wish to draw onto the paper now. • Are there any pictures that you have created without realising it? • Does it mean anything to you? • How does it make you feel when you examine the drawing? 11 Select some symbols from the sandplay shelves that seem to belong in your drawing. zooming – so that it is drawing freely on the paper.

Warm-up Stretch. artwork and drawing. then select three or more exercises to precede sandplay or symbol work. both to enhance energy activation and symbolic expression and to facilitate resolution and integration. It is important that you acknowledge and accept any resistance or embarrassment and invite the client to talk about this the first time they do these exercises. where trust and involvement have been developed. Clients should not do any exercises or assume postures that are painful. take full breaths. The primary aim of these exercises is to tap into body energy that has been diverted or is stuck. Expressive methods are ideal with voluntary clients. your unfinished business. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. 1997 I n the ERC approach to emotional healing and personal development expressive therapies are offered to clients to support the release of unfinished business. Bioenergetics When using bioenergetics for emotional release. Basic bioenergetic exercises Suitable for children 9 years through to adults Begin with a warm-up. Make some loud sounds such as sighing. Accessing that energy and restoring its flow is the goal. 72 . Inviting the body to express the feelings and integrating this with the mind leads to resolution and long-term emotional healing.Chapter 5 Expressive support processes It is impossible to live life at the highest level unless you get rid of your negativity. The Wheel of Life. or require endurance. Physical and emotional release also clears the way for creative problem-solving and a reduction in emotional reactivity in relationships. and shake your body. and briefly outlines exploration with other media. Bantam. Practise the exercises and model them enthusiastically. groaning. energy release games. This chapter outlines some ways of using bioenergetics. There is quite a range of expressive processes used as an adjunct to sandplay and symbol work. the client should not focus on a particular individual or situation. growling.

suck in a deep breath. bend the knees. Do not let the head fall back. 5 Face the wall. Then relax for a moment and repeat three times. hands. then release and open face. Breathe deeply. arms. 2 Open eyes wide. The walk Walk in a large circle around the room. shoulders. Repeat this several times. then release and go floppy. Hold this for a minute. How does it feel inside now? Bioenergetic exercise Brief head-to-toe sequence This exercise aims to give permission. and rest hands lightly on the lower back.) Alternate saying to each other ‘Yes!’ then ‘No!’ Chapter 5 Expressive support processes 73 . open eyes. Exaggerate this movement for a while then move into walking with strength. Direct the awareness within. 4 Stretch arms and hands wide open and back taking in big breaths: • hold tense for a moment • release and exhale with a groan. hold for a moment. Freeing the face 1 Close eyes tightly. Gradually engage your ankles. make large circular movements with the eyeballs. How strong is the wall? Press with flat palms against a strong wall. start stamping and growling. Add the words ‘I won’t!’ 6 Have a tug-of-war with a folded towel with the counsellor. Alternate legs. 2 Alternate imitations of crying then laughing. tighten fists.Bound and free Standing. Keep the breathing full and free. allowing your hips to be free. (The rule is that you must not let go. shaking any tightness out of the limbs and making sounds. Gently lean back until your eyes are facing towards the ceiling. Then release all at once and run on the spot. 3 Make horrible exaggerated faces. rehearse making sounds and movements and free up armouring in order to feel more easily. then the whole body. Kicking Kick a cushion around the room finding some power sounds that go with the kicks. Repeat. then shaking the whole body. cross arms and legs and hold everything tight. While leaving the head still. legs. lower back. The arch Place feet about 30 cm apart. Suitable for children 7 years through to adults 1 Warm up by running on the spot. Stillness Lie on the carpeted floor for a few minutes keeping as still as possible.

Rhythmic music accompanying bioenergetic exercises can support clients to relax ego control and move more fully. You have been fighting a terrible bushfire and there are just a few flames left here and there. The fuse has been lit. Activating what 74 Sandplay and Symbol Work . set up ready for the midnight display on New Year’s Eve. celebrations and healing ceremonies. then come back to the warm rock. 5 Let everyone hear the power sounds you make as you do this. This was used as an accompaniment to their sacred rituals. sang and fashioned instruments to make rhythmic sounds. Stomp the flames out slowly at first. Discuss your responses to the exercises. What would your daydreams be about? Be still and quiet now for a moment. You can smash several bricks with one blow of your bare hand. to activate the imagination and to enhance self-awareness through activating energy.7 Jump around the room – like a kangaroo. Use both hands. Music to support bioenergetic exercises and movement work Music has been part of the human psyche for thousands of years. Here you go: 1. stamped. 8 Lie or sit down. Suitable for children 7–12 years (can be adapted for adolescents and adults) General warm-up 1 Walk briskly. • Can you feel your heart beating? • Is your energy dancing inside even though you are now still? Bioenergetic exercise Imagination helps me move This exercise aims to use up potentially disruptive energy. 3! 8 You are now a lizard lying on a warm rock on a sunny day. Whole body games 7 You are a firecracker. thick boots. Sometimes you slide gently. You like to have daydreams. Face 2 Imagine the worst foods ever. Ancient tribespeople clapped. Arms 3 You are the world champion karate expert. 9 Draw your favourite part of the games. your shapes and your sounds. 4 Demonstrate your skills now. Music helps us let go. silently into the cool water. 2. Imagine the scene around you. then very quickly. In a moment you will explode and show your colours. Legs 6 You are wearing strong. You have to eat them all! How would you look? What sounds would you make? Shout out the names of the worst foods. You are lying beside a lake. drummed. and this relaxation supports the unfolding of our inner process. Show this on your face. swinging the arms and taking deep breaths rhythmically while you walk.

Illuminations Bushland Dreaming. Trance. and then spending time finding and listening to music that you like and that you think will appeal to clients. When selecting music to support counselling sessions there are three main categories to consider: • rhythmic music to support active bioenergetics and movement work • music for strong movement. These are most often used with children in an informal way towards the end of a session. Mariner Energy release games As well as bioenergetic exercises and games there are a number of ways to support clients to complete or integrate their counselling experience using some energy release activities. release and celebration • music for stillness. 3 Stand and. Serenity. Ritual. Chapter 5 Expressive support processes 75 . All One Tribe Strong movement and celebration Sirocco Mike Batt Trevor Jones Port of Call. Luna. take a posture that in some way corresponds to the most energetic symbol. Initiation. Active bioenergetics and movement Vangelis Anaugama Gabrielle Roth Scott Fitzgerald Themes. Wetland Suite Caravans (soundtrack) The Last of the Mohicans (soundtrack) Stillness. The music also helps access the bodily/kinesthetic intelligence. Energy release game Role-play of energetic symbols Suitable for children 8 years through to adults 1 Select two or three symbols from the symbol shelves that look the most energetic. while looking at the symbols. relaxation and letting go. relaxation. Waves Thunderdrums. letting go and background to sandplay Ennio Morricone Terry Oldfield Tony O’Connor City of Joy (soundtrack) Cascade. 2 Place these on the floor. The third category also includes non-intrusive music that can be used in the background during sandplays. 1492 (soundtrack) Exotic Dance Bones. One of the best ways to discover and learn how to select and blend music and exercises successfully is by experiencing the exercises yourself. on your drawing pad or in an empty sandtray. Totem.Howard Gardner (1983) calls the musical/rhythmical intelligence aids learning and provides a doorway into knowing ourselves in a different way. Antarctica. Breath of Time.

7 Complete with a drawing of the energy expressed. Energy release game Tunnelling Suitable for children 6–12 years 1 Build a large pile of cushions. 76 Sandplay and Symbol Work . 1 Imagine symbols that go with the music. 3 Using movement and dance. pages 107–11). 2 Imagine how these symbols would move. 1 Run around the room or building several times. rhythmic. They can be very helpful in releasing conscious or unconscious frustrations and pent-up energy. 6 Role-play the other symbols. 2 Flop down on large cushions and rest. expressive music (see page 75). 5 After the movement or dance. The following games are very popular with younger children and are similar to birthing games (see Emotional First-aid for Children. It can be helpful to alternate tracks. 5 Have a brief rest and talk about how it felt to do the role-play. Energy release game Dance and movement Suitable for children 8 years through to adults Begin with some strong. 3 Invite the child to repeat the movements over and over. but without any specific imagery. This helps them to release and aids the flow of any excess energy or excitement that may have surfaced during the session. using about thirty seconds to one minute of music. draw how you feel and briefly describe your experience in words.4 Exaggerate the stance. 3 Tune in to yourself and then talk about how you feel inside. Energy release game Running around the building Suitable for children 7–10 years Sometimes it is appropriate for energetic young clients to be invited to run around the building or room. feel what muscles are involved and activate these even more. Note: sound can be added if it is indicated or appropriate. following a fast track with a slow track and an energetic track with a soulful track. 4 Explore what type of energy the symbol might have. 2 Dig under the cushions and squeeze through to the other side. 4 End with a rest and discussion of their enjoyment of the game. explore what it would be like to be the symbols.

Body outline drawings may be used by younger clients to express what they become aware of in their body. The client’s perception is the significant factor. drawing a record of a sandplay or symbol work exercise. Mandalas and Chapter 5 Expressive support processes 77 . Questions commonly arise about the meanings of colours children select. lines and images from within. Process drawings may involve pictures which represent feeling memories of critical times expressed in colours and lines. On a large sheet of paper the expression of moods. Process drawings are not necessarily kept after the process as they are no longer important – they have served the purpose of aiding release. These use the circle as a frame rather than the traditional rectangle or square. However. These are kept for later review. moods or reactions. ERC practitioners have found that in children’s colour symbology there appears to be no consistent use of specific colours for specific feelings or meanings. colour. These help to direct attention internally and make connections between sensation. These then serve as a basis for reflection. They give time for the unconscious to complete its expression via colours. as part of integration of the learning. energies and attitudes through line.Drawing after sandplay and symbol work There are two main types of drawings that are used with the ERC approach to sandplay and symbol work. feelings. Sometimes black is connected with a depressed feeling and sometimes it is used as a sign of strength. usually after the sandplay or counselling exercise. It is a step in release work. Completion drawings Completion drawings are prepared towards the end of a session. It is essential to employ the self-discovery questioning method if it seems that there is significance in the colours. Completion drawings may also involve recording. It might involve finding colours. and drawing within it can have a centring effect on the client. Mandalas are also used as completion drawings. a combination of black and red often appears when anger is being expressed or is coming to the surface. or drawing a significant or special symbol discovered in the session. A circle suggests a centre. shapes and images – used abstractly or in representational style – can form a good background for creating a symbol work picture. feelings and energy. Clients can learn to appreciate the skill of using process drawings and may enjoy using them as a self-help ‘homework’ strategy. lines and shapes to express the feelings. These are: • process drawings • completion drawings. self-disclosure and discussion. Process drawings A process drawing is used as an incidental support to a process.

Any client drawings must be free from interpretation by the counsellor. In all drawings we allow the client to place their interpretation or meaning onto the colours and shapes. The act of drawing and sharing is usually successful in bringing closure.circular shapes can appear spontaneously in completion drawings and they invite a quiet focus that supports integration of inner exploration. The client can: • draw something representing an important symbol. Using drawing and artwork after a sandplay or symbol work session can be part of extension. amplification. as well as scissors. glue and a large sheet of paper). some are free-flowing and appear at random. around the symbol or move towards the symbol • draw lines which radiate towards or link to other symbols to depict the energy or communication between the symbols (blank space can also be used to represent no link or no communication between symbols) • draw symbols according to their significance or the size of the impact or energy engendered by looking at them • create a map of symbols according to their spatial arrangement • draw a face with an expression that looks like the feeling of the symbol (particularly useful for young children) • draw how they feel after the sandplay session – a free drawing. Some are geometric and ordered. Children tend to create pictorial mandalas while adults are usually more comfortable with abstract expressions. for example a picture of a pyramid • draw a circle or draw around the base of the symbol and put a title or word representing the symbol inside the circle or outline. colours. Just as the meanings of symbols always remain the province of the client. Other media There are two main categories of supportive media clients can use that add variety and choice: • shapeable media which engages a kinesthetic quality through its use • add-on media which is an extension of sandplay and can be used to make symbols that are needed but not on the shelves. shapes and images that go with the energy or qualities which radiate from the symbol. for example the words ‘mean witch’ or ‘brave lion’ • draw lines. Some contain specific images. Usually the client simply shares the drawing with the counsellor before moving onto the next step in the process. or for whom drawing activates feelings of poor self-esteem (have magazines available to cut from. mandala or image from nature • try collage. 78 Sandplay and Symbol Work . others are fully abstract. particularly clients who feel unsure about their drawing skills. integration and recording. so too do the meanings in their drawings.

Art materials Have an array of crayons and papers available. have magazines available so that they can search for images and cut them out. Oil-based crayons can also be used. Chapter 5 Expressive support processes 79 . oceans. in that it can be remoulded many times. The client’s choice of colour will often be relevant to their issues or mood. a waterfall or a river. Blue satin becomes a lake. They can be cut out and placed in the sandtray. Being able to take home the clay creation can be an important element for some clients. Pastels are best as they can be used in a more subtle way and colours can be merged. plasticine Clay or plasticine can be used as a tool by adults and children to create an object which expresses their feelings. Initials or descriptive words can symbolise a person within a sandplay without divulging their identity when a client prefers to be specific rather than symbolic. Fabrics are useful for counsellors who travel about and cannot carry a heavy sandtray.Clay. play dough. Coloured paper. as well as pencils and water colour pencils. Gold fabric can form rays of the sun. and forgiving. ribbons. It is recommended that a variety of plain colours (rather than patterns) and textures is made available. Clients’ drawings can be used for creating symbols not available on the shelf. moulded dramatically or into subtle abstract shapes. Collages can be also used in place of completion drawings for clients who may feel the pressure of performance and would rather not attempt their own drawing. Alphabet letters These can be purchased in toy shops and are very useful for creating words in the sand or making summary statements. Pipe cleaners Clients can create their own symbol/figurines. treated with force or tenderly. Pipe cleaner figures can be made to assume postures that reflect moods and feelings. These can either be added to the sandtray or glued onto background paper. The kinesthetic involvement activates another way of learning and expressing what may be too complex for rational thought. in that some skill may be required to achieve a recognisable outcome. The process of shaping and forming the clay allows some physical expression and release. They are easily shaped and extended. The clay is both challenging. and deserts. foil and coloured tissues are all useful for supporting creative expression. Collage For clients who do not feel happy drawing. Clay can be pounded into shape. Thin strips of fabric can be used in the sandtray to great effect too. Fabrics These can be used as backgrounds for symbol work. Fabrics can be used to create rivers.

recognising that apparent problems. The important task for counselling will be to create an emotionally safe space and relationship that allows the client to deal with their inner world. Agitated doubt may be fuelled by performance anxiety.Chapter 6 Professional orientation I must warn those of you who are therapists that the use of the sandbox is an expensive disease to catch. difficult behaviours and non-communicative attitudes are all symptoms of some emotional healing trying to happen. attitudes and moods of the client are formed by their unconscious allows ERC practitioners to relax from trying to manage behaviour or providing ready-made strategies. Sigo. When past F 80 . Through this behaviour symptoms can fall away or adapt. Harold Stone. Once you start building sandboxes. ostensibly for your patients to have at their disposal. We generally recognise two types of doubt: • agitated doubt. it is the way we are with clients. from the Prologue to Sandplay by Dora Kalff. 1980 acilitating sandplay and symbol work requires a positive attitude to the unconscious. This in turn may be connected to childhood scripts. in line with inner growth. As well as training with the techniques and practice of facilitation skills. our emotional state and our ability to be empathically present that ultimately help them feel safe enough to contact their feelings and work through tender issues. reactions to issues. This positive attitude to the inner world includes an understanding of the healing mechanisms of the psyche and a willingness to allow the natural movement towards healing and selfactualisation to proceed in its own way. experienced or recently graduated. feel doubt about what they should do or not do with clients at times. It is built around offering a choice of modalities and support through self-discovery questions to encourage the client’s reflection and expression. which has a somewhat debilitating influence • calm or creative doubt. The knowledge that the external behaviours. The ERC style of facilitation may require at times very little verbal direction. All facilitators. making shelves and particularly once you start buying figures you’re hopelessly ensnared in the joys of the playful child (and I hope not compulsive child for your sake) who wants more and more toys. Our training courses aim to develop comfort with what we call creative doubt. which relates to our next immediate action but is based on trust in the process. Not knowing exactly what to do could bring up feelings similar to those we experienced as a child.

by the client’s body posture. that is. confident. offering empathic involvement that helps the client to feel less isolated • a quiet. even if occasionally some issues remain partly unexplored or unresolved. voice or facial expression and the placement or choice of symbols – and an ability to use these as guides for self-discovery questions and enhancing the client’s self-awareness • an ability to gently mirror back feelings identified by the client • an ability to gently encourage the client to stay with their feelings without pushing or coaching them • an ability and readiness to support the release of strong feelings that may be activated during the process • a sense of play and a readiness to suspend ordinary logic and goalorientation and enter the client’s world if invited • a familiarity with the steps for integration for counselling sessions • the skill to bring closure firmly and gently. then creative doubt is the way to enhance intuitive facilitating. the art of being in an alert state of not knowing what to do next but allowing time and space for more material to emerge • openness to encourage the client’s self-discovery with the skill to draw it out through suitable questions • ability to refrain from personal interpretation of the sandplay and/or symbols • sensitivity to clues offered by the client – for example. patient and accepting of the client • a readiness to recognise.material is activated in us it tends to blur our vision and dampen creative problem-solving. If intuition is a coming together of our training knowledge. Some of the requirements for a proficient facilitator are: • personal experience and competence with sandplay and symbol work methods • skill in a client-centred approach. Calm doubt is a state that we can enjoy and use to activate our intuition. accept and find support to deal with their own issues that arise in working with clients • a sense of comfort with the concept of ‘creative doubt’. Creative doubt can emerge as we have more personal experiences of our inner healer at work – as we learn to trust the process and drop our ego’s need to be in control. our feeling for what might be helpful and our body-sense or energy-sense of what would be appropriate. relaxed manner which supports clients in relaxing – this relaxation can enhance self-awareness and emotional healing • the ability to be a loving presence. which implies trust in the client’s inner healing mechanisms and their own readiness to determine issues and timing for emotional healing • attentiveness and a sense of presence. Chapter 6 Professional orientation 81 .

• Do not share your interpretations of what is happening with the client while they are involved with their inner process. This is your discovery time’ – can ease any projection or feeling that the counsellor has set expectations. A client who carries an imprint of not being good enough or clever enough or simply being ‘a failure’ may interpret changes of modality as proof of their imprint: ‘I’m not doing it the way you wanted me to. Many clients need freedom from authority. feeling blocked and then needing to explore an energy or an issue or to do deep release work is a normal part of the process.’ ‘I’m not doing it the way I’m supposed to. Struggling with the rational level can prevent you from following the process and from trusting the in-built guidance of the client. Sensitive observation coupled with self-discovery questions allow the emergence of material from within the client which otherwise may require a more complex level of intellectual understanding. Arriving at a particular step in the process.Basic rules and advice for facilitators • Do not inflict your interpretations on others! • Resist any tendency to touch the client’s symbols or invade their work space. The power of the symbols and sandtray to help clients remove their masks and expose more vulnerable sides means that interpretation or advice which defines the client or their experience can cut across the path of the exercise. literacy and articulation skills. Responding with statements like: ‘I’m here to help you do whatever your inner self needs to do. freedom from having ‘to get it right’. • Use your ideas and interpretations to form questions that encourage and allow the client to make their own discoveries.’ This is most obvious if their inner process differs from the overview given. Clients can sometimes feel that they have failed to complete the task – this is most obvious in group work when the rest of the group progress through further steps. It is not essential for the facilitator to understand everything that is happening or to make the links between the symbolic level and the everyday for the client. If you tell a client what something means: – you could be quite wrong – you rob them of self-discovery – you could create an attitude of dependence in them – the client could feel judged or overwhelmed. • Practise letting go of the need to understand everything that is happening for the ‘client’ at a cognitive level. • Emphasise the idea that the exercises are for self-discovery. It is vital to uncover and talk about any sense the client may have of expectation from the counsellor. 82 Sandplay and Symbol Work .

as professionals. Remember that working towards an openness in yourself. all alone in the corner. and stay focused on the client’s creation until the picture is complete. To allow self-discovery the questions could be restated as: – Tell me about that witch. • It can be tempting to try to rescue clients. or want to be actively involved in solving the client’s ‘problem’. explain meanings. recognise this and consider the possibility that you may be holding in a similar feeling. So. or guarantee completion. does not include making any suggestions to the client about what feelings or motives may be inside them. Chapter 6 Professional orientation 83 . • If the client is expressing emotions that bring up discomfort or fear in you. which one would be most like you? Guidelines for facilitators • Refer to the Record Form for Sandplay Sessions – Appendix III. Through this you will further your own selfdiscovery and clarity.• Most authors of sandplay texts reiterate the power of non-verbal feedback – for both client and facilitator. • Symbol work. these are directive leading questions: – Is that wicked witch like your mother? – Is that lonely elephant very sad? – Is that yucky spider making the poor little rabbit frightened? – This puppy over here. it will be valuable to bring this to supervision for further exploration and release. are responsible. page 117. Facilitation requires that you stay alert so that you do not offer leading questions or make suppositions that incline a client towards an answer they think you want to hear. to take on a sense that we. Do you know anyone like that? – Can you tell me anything more about this elephant? How does it feel? – How do you feel about the spider? How would the other figures in the tray feel about the spider? – What do you think that puppy is thinking about? If you were one of these figures. Note any times that you feel this. Seek supervision after the session to work on the discomfort and fear. • Temporarily suspend all that you think you know about the client. while directed. Consider how you can support a client to stay with a question in a positive way that leads to further exploration. is essential for intuitive support work. must feel just like you. Joel Ryce-Menuhin (1992) believes that the act of silently looking and then intently sharing the client’s creation has the power to bring great clarity for facilitators and client. For example. • If you feel inadequate or unsure – and most facilitators feel unsure often – examine whether that unsure voice inside in any way resembles your childhood scripts and negative attitudes about self-worth. learn to be comfortable with silence. finding the state of ‘creative doubt’. If you recognise an old self-derogatory reaction.

• Be open to recognising the symbolic level but do not interpret. • Notice when and how the story is finished. Insights. • Invite the client to tell the story. • Observe verbal and non-verbal behaviours. if this is needed. These are some guidelines to focus the facilitator’s observations: • As all symbols used represent forces within the client. • Be aware of spatial arrangements of symbols. allow any changes or developments in the story. the symbols. collective meanings might be – what the client says about the items. what we call our ‘detective mind’ is often at work. 84 Sandplay and Symbol Work . In observing it is best to play lightly with possible interpretations in your mind. Never tell the client what it is all about – even if it seems very clear to you. You can learn much about the client’s inner world by watching the sand picture emerge. realisations and connections are of no lasting use unless they come from within the client. • Watch the choice of objects and the way they are chosen: – Is there any charge (strong attraction or repulsion)? – Do they think about the choice or grab it immediately? • Be aware of the development of the story. possibly including themselves. the tray(s). mostly silently. Learning to observe The facilitator avoids giving their interpretations to the client or telling them what they think the symbol arrangement may mean – even if the client asks. • Bring a presence and a focus that will support the client to tell the story of the sandplay and perhaps act out parts of it. and use that process to come up with useful questions that will support the client to increase their awareness of their own process. • Be aware of how the client uses the room. for example: – the client begins to speak to each object in the sandplay – especially if they are animate objects (animals. • Have adequate knowledge of emotional release and transpersonal dimensions of the psyche so that clients can be supported by some cognitive frameworks around their experience. • Notice any apparent inconsistencies and jot down questions for later. see what qualities of the item chosen relate to the client. • Invite dialogue with the symbols. However.• Be with the client – physically and mentally. people) – the client becomes each object and answers back as the object – the client creates a dialogue between the objects and develops a story line. • Consider the meanings of the symbols: – what they symbolise to you – what they might mean to the client – what their traditional.

energy or mood changes as the story unfolds and feelings begin to emerge. • Watch the way the client moves. to avoid projecting their own story onto the client’s work. placement and structure. the force with which the items are placed in the sand (gently? brutally?) Is the energy aggressive? lethargic? flowing? hesitant? Are you being checked for approval? • Watch facial expressions. • Listen for changes in the voice energy. separation • recognition of treasure • self-worth • death. disintegration • loneliness. death of the old way • order and well-being • masculinity/femininity • power. conflict. or move around? • Sense the client’s energy. fear of death. body posture. Preparing the counselling room The environment of the counselling room is very important in allowing trust and freedom of expression. • While watching. in the emotions conveyed or held back in the voice. some external order is ideal. • Taking apart the client’s sandtray and symbol work exercise is invaluable in that it presents a further chance to carefully observe choice. Some typical themes to watch for are: • nourishment • relationship • family struggles • personal chaos. facilitators should keep track of their own personal reactions and assumptions. • Themes can emerge that give clear directions for future work and reveal special needs. This would include arrangement of Chapter 6 Professional orientation 85 . Use this step to learn more about the client and the messages from their unconscious. Since many clients are dealing with emotional chaos. especially the bodily force while they are choosing the symbols.• Observe the placement of the objects: – which are in the middle? – which are at the edges? – which dominate? – which are separated? – which are buried? – which are in water? – which are on the hills? – which are under attack? • Does the client work from one side of the tray.

although it is important to check with the client whether they are comfortable with music. consider the following questions: – Has the action led to integration? – Is any more release needed? – Has the sandplay been complete in itself? – Does the sandplay require any extension or discussion? Resolution can take place at an unconscious level and nothing more may be required. Sometimes quiet background music will add to a sense of calmness. It can involve the mind in review of the session. A sense of calm in the counsellor and in the room is important. photographing. or a series of sessions. In sandplay and symbol work integration may comprise recording. perhaps with a candle. 86 Sandplay and Symbol Work . It does not take much effort to convey the message that the counselling room is a caring. Some ERC facilitators will spend time arranging a special place of beautiful things. The counselling room needs to be large enough for clients to move freely and enter role-play exercises enthusiastically. Integration Allowing time for integration is an important step. reflection and completion drawings. relaxing ‘new age’ music. for example: – qualities or traits of the objects or characters – groupings and arrangements of objects – relationships between the objects. Ideally. beautiful impressions can be very helpful. Adult clients can spend up to two hours with the three-stage process of creation. • Talk about what the client sees in the objects. Many young people do not respond well to quiet. safe and special place. exploration and experience of their sandplay or symbol work exercise. The integration step may involve rest. These are some ways to bring the session to an end and enhance closure within the client: • When the sandplay story or picture is and a general sense of tidiness. At the same time you do not want to create a static. role-play and preparing to leave the counselling room in a relaxed frame of mind. Integration time supports closure and resolution. discussing and thinking about the future in the light of insights from the sandplay. It is part of the facilitator’s role to support closure within a set time frame. all material and equipment should be ready and accessible prior to the client’s arrival. In the sensitive state that most clients enter a counselling room. Children will usually complete their sandplay and symbol work exercise well within the sixty-minute time frame. drawing. and make meaning out of the personal process. perfect setting that would disincline the client to feel totally free to express and create. This allows time for discussion.

• When it is time for the client to leave. but are told that that will be done after they leave. resonant with its meanings for the client. creative outlet. • To support resolution. go with them and encourage some expression. page 122). the sandplay is generally not dismantled in front of them. So the creation. However. • Gently probe a little deeper. invite the client to spend some time: – drawing – journalling – talking about and sharing the inner experience in detail – Gestalt role-playing. For example: – I wonder where he (symbol) came from? – I wonder if these symbols like each other? • Encourage expression of: – movement (‘Can you show me how that symbol moves?’) – sound (‘I wonder what sound it would make?’) – emotions. or actions of the main symbols. • Link body outline drawings and self-awareness work to the story. • Act out or dance the story. for example: Chapter 6 Professional orientation 87 . Linking activities for young clients • Children’s stories. tasks and games for young clients. Clients do not usually clear away their own sandplay. some clients may not wish to and this should be respected. Occasionally this farewelling of the symbols occurs as an important integration step. • Clients can read or tell their own stories. They are often pleased with their creation and we know that it can represent important aspects of the psyche. • If emotions have been triggered by the process. is left intact. • Relate the qualities of symbols to the client’s own body: – Where would this black horse live inside you? – Can you feel the horse’s energy anywhere inside? • Recommend certain constructive actions. the linking activities can be offered immediately after a sandplay or at another counselling session. such as activities that can provide an expressive. created during the sandplay. to others and show drawings. to ‘hear’ inner messages from the symbols – resting. Some of these may be considered if conflicts persist. clients who have revealed their life story or a troubling family issue may feel more complete if they personally return the figurines to the shelves. fairy tales or myths to explore similar themes (see Tears into Diamonds program. • There are a number of linking activities that can support integration. to feel and explore the new state after the session. Depending on the client’s attention span and interest.• Ask the client to tell the story. However.

We recommend and use the rectangular tray. Some may want to keep the story and illustrate it later at home. Paint the bottom and sides of the tray blue to represent water or sky. Body focus exercises. although some sandplay therapists prefer a larger square tray. This shape is one that seems to reflect the inner tensions. • See also the suggestions in Chapter 5. or have them write it down. • Take Polaroid photos of the sandtray and give one to the client to keep. Equipment The tray Sandtrays are wooden and about 75 cm x 55 cm x 20 cm (outside measurements) in size. as it will swell if it gets wet. Evaluation. Exploration and active imagination using the Gestalt role-play questions. particularly comparing themes and recurring symbols. developments. Drawing. Counsellors can write down the children’s stories for them to keep.– Where inside you would this battle be? – Is there a treasure inside you? Where? • Deepening the feelings of worth with visualisations and role-playing as a hero from a known adventure. Do not use particle board. 88 Sandplay and Symbol Work . page 117) for yourself. invite adult clients to write down something to remind them of their session. • Keep reference file of photos and reports to compare past sandplays. They could be invited to: – note changes. Paint the inside with several coats of sealer to waterproof it. review and recording Following are some suggestions to support the counsellor’s recording and to prepare for client reviews: • If appropriate. Linking activities for adult clients • • • • Journal writing. • One way to review is to invite the client to look back over photographs and drawings from previous sandplays and make a comment on each. Marine ply or solid wood is best. Some sandplay therapists prefer to use slides so that at a review session they can be projected large to support the client’s review and analysis. • Complete details on the Record Form for Sandplay Sessions (Appendix III. Circular or square trays have a more equalising or centring tendency. recurring symbols or formations – consider what might be the next step – note their own inner and outer changes – link sandplay to life.

bought sand which had a small amount of concrete mix in it. orderly and in categories. Some counsellors may wish to have a small stool or step-ladder to ensure clients view the top shelves. reducing firm lumps to soft. shells etc. and once. The lids are useful in settings where there are pets who like to explore sand. It could be on legs and castors or light and mobile. The sand Consider your own preference: beach sand? washed river sand? Most people prefer fine white or ‘silver’ sand. The ideal size is one that enables the client to take in the whole tray without having to move the head or eyes. For younger clients counsellors may prefer shelves which are no higher than. Is it pleasant? Will it evoke good memories? The depth of the sand should be about 15 centimetres. Sand kept in covered plastic trays tends to sweat. brown. The height of the tray can be designed for sitting or standing – whichever you prefer. so that the tray fits into their field of vision. a loamy. Suggested categories are: • mystical • religious • the sea – fish. but have also experimented with black sand. The sand was slightly moist when emptied into the tray and so overnight it set quite firmly. The next morning a client went straight to the tray with the concrete mix and spent the next ninety minutes crumbling bits of sand through her fingers. windowsill height. This turned out to be an extremely meaningful and important way for her to express strong feelings about significant life circumstances! From time to time it is good to sieve the sand to remove dust and small particles that eventually accumulate. Smell it before using. Normal bookshelf height works well. earth-coloured sand. The symbols Keep symbols clean. flowing grains. Normally we use sand from landscape suppliers called ‘silver sand’.Plastic storage trays – with lids – available from the larger supermarket chains are quite a good substitute for the wooden boxes. say. so frequent airing and reasonably frequent changing of the sand – say every few months – is advisable. • mechanical things • buildings • precious stones • household Chapter 6 Professional orientation 89 . by mistake. In this last example. the sand was used in a workshop setting. or for counsellors who use sandplay and may travel from school to school or from one setting to another. The shelves Clients need to be able to see all the symbols.

for example dragons. Many clients try to create a lake or river by pouring more and more water into the tray. Some children do not like quiet ‘new age’ music. 90 Sandplay and Symbol Work . relaxing background music. barriers birds jewels containers flowers trees transport archetypal and mystical people. Sometimes silence is best. Both of these CDs can be left to play all the way through.• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • food rocks snakes horrible things animals – wild animals – domestic people – adults people – children. Bits and pieces A small brush is useful for dusting the sand from the figurines before returning them to the shelves. Symbols can be gathered from a variety of sources: flea markets. Jug and sprayer The jug and sprayer are for moistening the sand so that it will hold its shape. and of course it is absorbed by the sand. Some clients like to remove sand from their hands. Bowls A selection of small and larger plain white or clear bowls can be used to make a lake or pool. Never use music that is suggestive of a particular emotion. Some favourites are ‘Mariner’ by Tony O’Connor and ‘Cascade’ by Terry Oldfield. so a spare towel can be useful. thrift shops. fences. Quiet background music Sometimes it seems very appropriate to use soft. witches and crystal balls. creatures and objects. Many clients find the sprayer fun to use as well. school fetes. Starter kits can be ordered from the United States via the Internet (see page 124). specialty gift shops. garage sales. babies nature items fighting bridges.

without symbols. family. • The child is more likely to want to release emotional energy in the play. (The facilitator can mirror. we do recognise several broad categories that relate to a client’s age and development. • The child may want to play out a whole scenario from their life and to make it match the ideal they wish for. Following are some general characteristics of sandplay for different age groups.) 6–10 years of age • The child makes stories with the symbols. • The child may not easily make conscious connections between the inner and outer life. 3–5 years of age • • • • • • • Dialogue is not directed but corresponds to the action of the figures. There is mostly an internal reorganising without outer signs or discussion.) • The stories come from the unconscious and so deal with situations in symbolic form. • The child will drop a lot of sand outside the sandtray. • The child may take great care and spend a lot of time creating the picture. • Situations represented in the sandplay refer primarily to everyday current events. Chapter 6 Professional orientation 91 . for example roughly burying a symbol which represents an authority in their life. to get it exactly as they want it. (Be prepared to vacuum after the session. Sandplay with different age groups While we can never expect specific outcomes. such as school. • The child sometimes verbalises the story and invites the facilitator to respond. There may be very little dialogue between the counsellor and the child.Drawing books and crayons Have drawing books and crayons ready for recording and integration towards the end of the session. The child is often happy to play with sand alone. rather than agree or disagree. It is common for children to finish quickly and/or suddenly. although from about 11 years the scenes tend to be more static. 10–13 years of age All of the above points apply to children in this age group. They may be acted out dramatically like a film script. The child can seem absorbed totally in the action. There is often a lot of activity. pets.

integrity and purpose. • The sandplay can activate sadness. changes in career and relationship choices. • There is a sense of urgency to get over the issue and move on. and the client needs to proceed directly into some emotional release process work • the client has a history of psychological instability. that is the client’s ego-boundaries are absent (the distinctions between the inner world and the outer world are not clear) • the vast choice of objects and the sense of freedom seem too threatening. workplace conflict and family dynamics are explored through sandplay. power. a willingness to heal and a capacity for self-reflection. there are some situations in which sandplay and symbol work are not advised. • Adults may have forgotten or resist the value of play as expression. • The sandplay can activate long forgotten feelings of value. grief around past issues. They are not ready for the raw. • There could be themes of separation. relationship. Adults • The themes of life change. futurism. that is periods of hospitalisation for acute mental disorders • the client has an active addiction and has not yet sought appropriate support for that addiction • the client clearly exhibits an inability to differentiate between the symbolic world and reality. for example if: • the client show a strong resistance to sandplay • the level of the crisis requires immediate action and there may be some environmental demands on the client – sandplay and symbol work can be introduced later in the counselling relationship • the level of emotionally reactive energy is high. • There is some resistance to feeling. the child will make a neat. 92 Sandplay and Symbol Work . strong part of themselves to emerge. tidy. beautiful sandplay. preciousness.• Sometimes when emotions are raw and strong. Contraindications While most clients exhibit a wish to deal with their problems. as may be the case for some hyperactive clients – in this case limit the work to one or two symbols at first. • There could be an emphasis on the emerging interest in sexuality. • The child may volunteer the connection with their inner life at the end of the sandplay. From 14 years of age • The sandplay will often be much the same as any adult would make. transitions. changes in sense of purpose and direction. • Longed-for spiritual connections may be represented.

• animals. and play with channelling the water. both young and old. work with whatever you find. cloudy. windy etc. Walking on the beach looking for objects can be a focused time when discussion of important issues emerges naturally. coral. The beach Beaches contain all the essential ingredients of sandplay and symbol work: sand. self-descriptions and artwork: • weather: hot/cold. as well as in the destruction. deserts. then settle in one place for focused play. the freedom and the interactions involved in the sand creation. Create a boundary for the sandplay by inscribing a rectangle or circle in the sand. However. birds. Outdoor work and group work at the beach. bones and debris. due to trauma or neglect. symbols – nature provides these generously. their shapes and colours can evoke or activate imagination or imaginative play. Sandplay and nature If you watch children play on a sandy beach you can see the joy. driftwood. Many children exhibit an in-built ability to resolve and release issues through play. for example in active imagination. 1988). water. Images of nature Aspects of nature can be used in counselling work as a metaphor for symbolic expression. fish or insects • the plant kingdom: trees. grassy plains etc. This approach would be of benefit after they have had extensive time with other modalities (see De Domenico. we see many clients. castles and landscapes. shells. Collecting in itself can arouse a sense of wonder – something has been washed up from the depths! Some shells seem to contain mysteries. • landscapes: jungles. At the beach. The sandplay sessions can quickly help reactivate these abilities. grasses. The walking movement can support the inner movement of the psyche. in a way that supports expressive play and provides a client with opportunities to communicate outside the formal setting. using objects from nature.Some developmentally disabled clients will not respond well to sandplay. stones. grasses etc. seem to have lost this ability to use play therapeutically. Symbol work can be conducted informally. in the counselling room who. can be beneficial towards the end of a client’s process. or by shaping edges to the work space in the sand. particularly on the beach. the relaxation. preferably an isolated or deserted beach. tropical islands. leaves. Some driftwood transforms itself into mythical creatures as you look. and protecting against the waves. Collecting shells and driftwood can be a fun. all-consuming activity for some. flowers. Clients make sand formations. seaweed. Chapter 6 Professional orientation 93 . creating dams and rivers. stormy. sunny. Take a walk to collect objects such as sticks.

Following are two exercises using symbols that we have found very supportive in our supervision with colleagues. if you wish. In ERC supervision is defined as both discussion of client work and personal development. Using symbols in professional supervision Rather than simply talking about strategies with clients and our problems and responses to clients. 3 Arrange all the symbols in and around the oval in a way that they relate to each other. 94 Sandplay and Symbol Work . park or bushland you can: • collect flowers. blades of grass. consider: • which ones are close together • whether any are facing towards each other or facing away • whether any are dominating • whether you notice any repeating patterns. acknowledging success 1 Draw a large oval on a large sheet of paper or in the sandtray. 4 As you arrange them. Symbol work exercise for supervision Unearthing problems. Talk about your arrangement as you do it.In the garden. and creative new ways forward emerge with ease. 2 Reflect and then select symbols that represent: • the positive qualities you have that enable you to support clients • the blocking or the cause of the blocking (if it is known) of the free expression of any of these qualities • the areas of your work – or any particular clients – that make you feel anxious. • prescribe a work space with twigs or lines in the earth • arrange what has been collected as you would in a sandplay or symbol work session – the unconscious is always at work eager for a chance to express. So often we find that when we deal with an issue internally. the client no longer represents a difficulty. pebbles etc. This oval represents you. fallen twigs. 5 Where are there challenges that need further investigation? 6 Are there any positive elements which could be celebrated? 7 Use the symbol picture to draw out further discussion and delineate areas where guidance and possibly further exploration is needed. symbols can be used to allow our own deeper wisdom to emerge. or about which you need to learn more • recent times in your work that were most satisfying.

Symbol work exercise for supervision
Understanding difficult clients
1 Divide the sandtray in half. One half is designated ‘me’, the other ‘the difficult client’. 2 Select symbols that represent: • the client’s most difficult characteristics • your own difficult characteristics • the changes you would like to make in the client • the changes you have wanted to make in yourself • the main similarities between you both. 3 Select the symbol with the most energetic charge from each half of the sandtray, then discuss it. 4 Role-play using the symbols (see page 116). 5 Formulate and/or write a summary statement giving some of the reasons for the supervisee’s reactions. Note: New strategies can be formulated when any emotional reaction to the client has been dealt with.

Getting started with sandplay – a six-point plan
1 Experience lots of it yourself. Engage in as many sandplay and symbol work sessions as you can, with a qualified counsellor, for your own exploration and development. Even though we have emphasised that facilitators should be non-interventionist and non-intrusive, and trust the client’s innate healing mechanism, this does not mean that sandplay and symbol work require very little apart from enthusiasm and a basic understanding. 2 Undertake a training course with acknowledged professional trainers. This will deepen your understanding of the mechanisms of the process, the world of symbols, the process of transformation and the phenomenon of healing. 3 Read relevant respected texts (see page 120). Although sandplay is not something you can learn from books, discussion or lectures, reading about the discoveries and experiences of others can amplify and shed light on your own experience. 4 Begin your own figurine collection. Raid family toy boxes, spread the news through your extended family, scour discount shops, charity shops and Sunday markets. 5 Buy or build a sturdy sandtray. Find some washed river sand, usually available from landscape suppliers and some hardware stores. 6 Secure access to qualified supervision. Ongoing supervision with an experienced sandplay and symbol work therapist is essential. Some issues within you may only emerge after you have the experience of
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supporting others in your own work space. It is a normal response to have reactions about giving to others and to have aspects of your story activated by the stories of clients. These experiences simply need to be worked on regularly within individual or group supervision.

Advice for parents of child clients
Parents who are willing to make the effort to gain counselling support through sandplay and symbol work frequently ask if there is more they could do at home to support their child. Most parents who bring their children for counselling are already feeling stressed by some interpersonal or behavioural problems in the household. In offering advice it is essential not to add to the load of stress. Many parents carry – recognised or not – some guilt about their parenting skills. We try to give positive actions rather than suggesting that any areas may not be adequately attended to. There are ten suggestions that we offer parents.


Validate children’s feelings

The first and most important gem of advice – that often seems revolutionary – is to validate children’s feelings. This is not to be confused with allowing the child’s feelings to dominate family decisions or for them to be dumped on family members. It is simply letting the child know that you are really hearing both what they are saying and what they are feeling, even if they may not be fully aware that they have activated feelings. Many of us have been brought up in an atmosphere where feelings had to be denied, or where they were belittled or modified, or where the response to feeling was to create some distraction. The idea here is simply to acknowledge what the child is feeling, without any immediate effort to do anything about the feeling. Often feelings will release or complete themselves if given acknowledgement.

• • • • • • Regularly ask about their feelings. Listen to their feelings. Acknowledge when their feelings are showing. Accept their feelings. Don’t make them hide their feelings. Don’t try to change their feelings.


Respect the impact of childhood scripts

Childhood scripts are a collection of unmet needs, incomplete feelings and disappointments from the past, as well as learned behaviour patterns. The past is often activated by a trigger. The child experiences present feelings and past reactions at the same time. A ten-year-old may have a hurt 96
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three-year-old inside – just as a forty-year-old may have an emotionally wounded six-year-old calling for attention inside. This concept helps us understand ‘over the top’ reactions in children. The present reactions also activate the past reactions – which have been stored up inside. So know that your child may be hurting when behaviour is very reactive.

• Like us, children too can have a wounded, needy part. Observe what triggers this part. • Reactions are to do with the present and the past. Explore ways to help children feel and release the hurts of now and then.


Practise active listening

In conversation make an effort to really hear what children are saying about their feelings, rather than simply following the events of what they are saying. This is called active listening. Don’t immediately try to fix up the problem or distract them from any difficult feelings. Acknowledge the feelings you hear. This helps the child become more aware and communicate more accurately. It means that you are: • really hearing and acknowledging them • allowing their feelings • valuing them and their feelings. Their need for these three things is greater than their need to feel better immediately. Our children then learn by example to hear, allow and value themselves.

• • • • • Listen for the feelings in what children say. Try not to interrupt. Relax yourself as you listen. Remember as you listen how important your child is. Realise that ‘now’ is what is real to them.


Organise more expressive leisure activities

Children need more time to express and release the burdens of the day. In the normal development of a child there is a growing ability to cope with the stresses that come from the world around them by expressive play. Some children spend many hours in front of the television or computer. Apart from the quality of the shows that are presented, consider the act of watching itself: external stimulation comes to the child, so no release is possible. Expressive activities are ultimately more relaxing.

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7 Support emotional release When a child is greatly upset. Let them know what they can do. Dreams can be more vivid after sandplay work. For example. so that they can play. How many pages or pictures does this feeling want to draw?’ Provide large cushions for anger release. what is happening deep inside us. give them options for release. containers etc. 5 Encourage children to talk about dreams Listen to your children talk about their dreams. Dreams are a means for our unconscious to reveal. or hit the cushions or jump on the trampoline. or for too long without some exercise. Help children by encouraging them to record their dreams either through writing or drawing. colouring in. dolls. for example by drawing. cooking. playing music. Use lines and colours to show what it looks like. for example: • Are you deep inside or near the surface? • How big or small are you? • Do you have a colour? • Do you have a shape? • Did someone cause you to be there? • Is there anything more you would like to tell us? The child then does a drawing of how the pain or tension felt (see Emotional Release for Children. or go for a ride on your bike …’ Encourage this feeling to express until the release is complete. sticks. Suggest that they: ‘Draw this big feeling on the paper. build a sandpit and provide toys. provide drawing pads and crayons. Ask a few simple questions of the pain to help it resolve. and deal with. • Give children time to play or communicate before bed. ‘I know you feel like hitting your brother … but hit the cushion instead.Advice • Suggest that children do not watch TV straight after school. 6 Pay attention to and explore the meaning of aches and pains There is often emotional pain underneath physical tension or physical pain.’ If they seem disruptive or destructive. for example ‘You can draw all this feeling out. • Encourage children to take long baths with lots of toys. Encourage discussion and questions about their dreams without interpretation. listening to music. 98 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Encourage them to take deep breaths. to use in it. you can support them in focusing within. water etc. rocks. • Support children to play and express. pages 109–110). By placing your hand on the part of your child’s body that is tense or painful. room-rearranging. The breath will help them to connect to the underlying emotions.

to let go of what has been happening. along with supervised experience of the major symbol work exercises. understanding the equipment. understanding the role and methods of the counsellor and observing clients. there is nothing that can replace personal experience of the processes. • Storytelling with actions on the back. Learn how to feel positive about yourself so as to be a good model of self-esteem. 9 Enjoy massage games within the family Give foot. listening to case studies.8 Provide integration time or integration activities after upsets After an emotional upset allow some quiet time for children to be still with themselves. and to relax and sleep well. scalp or back massages to children. crayons available) • taking a long hot bath – with lots of toys • playing in a sandpit or digging in the dirt • private journal writing (more so for older children) • talking – be available in case they want to open up with you. you are more able to understand your child’s behaviour and support their positive emotional growth. Massage games • Shapes and letters on the child’s back. Advice • Get comfortable with your own feelings. 10 Address parents’ needs for their own personal development It is quite normal for parents to need to make use of some professional support to deal with the emotional stresses of parenting. They need time to integrate. face. A minimum of five free sandplays. • Light stroking. This is often better than telling stories and helps them feel loved and safe. Dealing with your own internal problems is also helpful to your children. This can be helped by: • drawing (have paper. shoulders and arms. but never insist that they discuss their feelings. • Get help to deal with any negative reactions to your children. After experiencing and understanding your own emotions more fully and possibly dealing with your own inner hurts. is essential for gaining Chapter 6 Professional orientation 99 . • Begin to heal your own hurtful childhood scripts. particularly at night before bed. Training As well as gaining a conceptual overview.

of the feeling that it is safe for our depths to emerge. This shift is based on personal trust in the in-built healing mechanisms of the psyche. could support a client to achieve some clarity or emotional benefit. The experience of a non-judgemental space. Traditional counselling training provides a counsellor with things to do. Being comfortable with silence – often essential for clients to integrate. and may deal primarily with the ego level of consciousness. and feeling the shift within the consciousness from needing to interact. We have found that it is the transformational effect of learning by doing our own sandplays and pursuing our own personal development that forms a solid background for the new sandplay skills. in the early stages of training in sandplay. It could be like expecting to be able to join the Olympic rowing team simply because you have read about rowing or watching others row. Ruth Ammann (1991) points out that the counsellor has a responsibility to undertake adequate training before taking a client into a process which may appear superficially simple. To competently offer self-discovery questions rather than direct the process or explain it to the client. it is possible that a caring counsellor. Personal experience with qualified facilitators supports the practice of being quiet. accepting and encouraging. Experiences of this mechanism at work inside the counsellor help the development of trust within the client. interpret and direct. In this approach the counsellor is not ‘doing something’ to the client. Without adequate preparation for supporting clients in this way it is easy to miss the chance sandplay offers for deep connection and integration within the client. is learned when the student explores sandplay and symbol work in the client role. to allowing. assimilate and reach new insights – and being in a watchful yet relaxed mood to allow time for the story or feelings to emerge. it is ideal that the counsellor or therapist is capable and confident in providing the free and protected space to support this. This way of being both with our own inner process and also with a client can only be gained through personal experience and practice over time. the counsellor needs to be able to ‘not do’. interrupt. things to say and different ways to intervene. since the early stages of sandplay can sometimes dredge up issues. However. Since sandplay and symbol work is effective on many levels. The depth of sandplay is not quickly and easily learned. the facilitator must know from personal experience that this is the most empowering approach. prepares us to work with others. feelings and energies from deeper in the psyche. Ryce-Menuhin (1992) claims that ‘the experience of the sandplay process on a personal basis under the guidance of a qualified sandplay therapist is fundamental and required of all persons wishing to train in this field’. 100 Sandplay and Symbol Work . Personal experience can prepare and hasten a paradigm shift in the trainee sandplay counsellor. but not having had the personal experience. For effective transformational and healing work.understanding and confidence with the inner workings of the process.

we know of the use of symbols in the teaching of creative writing. we are not aware of any longitudinal studies comparing gains made using CBT with gains made using sandplay or ERC. client-based approach. While there is research evidence that cognitive/behavioural therapy (CBT) leads to positive results. personal development programs and in individual counselling sessions. and the resolution of workplace conflict. some are being introduced informally in educational settings. Outside the formal counselling context. There are more applications for the use of the symbols than we’ve been able to discuss in this book. Part of the value of including the use of symbols in educational programs is that it facilitates a positive shift in attitude and a clarifying of cognition – 101 . Further research into the effectiveness of using sand and symbols as compared to other counselling models would be valuable. unresearched phenomenon which has little or no clinical basis. the development of literacy and verbal expression in schools. Quite rightly.Conclusion One of the aims of this book has been to counteract the impression that sandplay is an unscientific. there is today a requirement of solid research into the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. The extensive body of sandplay literature confirms our own clinical observations over the last fourteen years: that it has in most cases both short and long-term benefits in terms of positive behaviour changes and sustainable emotional well-being. Most of the research into sandplay has been qualitative and primarily supported by case studies. We hope this book will encourage therapists to explore further possibilities for symbol work exercises. Although there has been much research into sand and symbols. At the same time we’ve tried to share our enthusiasm for the non-interpretive. the way is still open for more discoveries about its application. Some are in development and still untested. essential for the successful use of sandplay. while never neglecting the power of Dora Kalff’s original undirected work in the ‘free and protected space’.

We can observe our own psyche and its process of growth. efficacy and outcomes of using sand and symbols in school settings. The International Society for Sandplay Therapy will publish a commemorative edition of the Journal of Sandplay Therapy. has over the last decade stepped out from the shadows. but lasting change and effective reconstituting of imprints in our psyche cannot be achieved from an ego level of awareness. We recommend you seek qualified support in using sandplay or any of the methods described in this book. We cannot overstate the need for a counsellor to undergo a large number of their own sandplay sessions. At the time of going to press. What may appear at first – to those not familiar with sandplay – to be a largely imagination/emotion-based approach frequently brings results aimed for by cognitive and behaviour management approaches.both important steps in the successful application of contemporary behaviour management approaches. The authors welcome any feedback in this area. Many adults attending our personal development workshops or participating in our Diploma course find that they gain a good deal of clarity around their own spiritual questions. and clarify their own path of development. It is good to know that Australia. community workers and decision makers finding their way to recognised sandplay training courses. Mark is researching the opinions of school counsellors and guidance officers in Australia who have trained in sandplay. No matter how skilful we are. We have seen that sandplay and symbol work aid metacognition – thinking about thinking – so that a client can think more clearly and make more rational choices. counselling and social work settings. with supervision. Sandplay does help people define their personal and collective spirituality. educators. It seems to be a feature of the sand and symbol work that spiritual needs. There has been a cultural shift over the years we have been using these methods which has legitimised the search for spiritual understanding outside organised religious settings. we cannot facilitate or act as our own therapist. It is now ten years since Dora Kalff’s death. We hope that this means a continuing increase in the numbers of therapists. Unfortunately. reviewing the development of sandplay around the world in the last ten years. in order to understand the power and logic of the techniques. counsellors. Sandplay and symbol work are swiftly growing in popularity in Australian educational. which was formerly considered by the international sandplay community to be ‘in the dark’. qualities and directions easily emerge. we hear of many counsellors who attend a one-day introductory workshop and believe that is all that is required to use these techniques. on the application. Helen Wilson Mark Pearson Turnaround Training Centre – Brisbane May 2000 102 Sandplay and Symbol Work . The authors do not regard either sandplay or symbol work as do-it-yourself tools for the healing journey.

his energy was urgent and yet he had a very clear ability to depict the inner forces. The relationship between William’s parents was extremely brittle. William then picked up the bomber and ‘flew’ it over the entire scene. He outlined the nature of the war that was raging – there were no good guys or bad guys. It clearly indicated the inner and outer battles in William’s life. Time was imperative and William kept saying that there was not much time before everything was going to be blown to pieces and everyone would die. and physically and verbally abusing his mother. diving and making bombing noises and repeating. William was asked which of the symbols he felt was most like him. The scene depicted a huge battle between two opposing forces with a great ocean between them. He had begun to damage household property during his angriest outbursts. 103 . ‘Quick.Sandplay stories William – aged 7 years William’s parents separated when he was quite young. just killing and fighting. The whole of his psychic ‘landscape’ was at war and if help didn’t come then total destruction would result. not achieving well at school. On his first visit William stated quite firmly that part of the problem was that he was a very creative person. He was restless. This sandplay was a typical reflection of the first stage of the sandplay process – the chaos stage. When he was referred for counselling he was angry. What were the two sides fighting for? He said that each one believed they should own all the land and wanted to drive the other side out. His father had remarried and William’s presence was not welcomed by his stepmother. everything is going to be blown apart’. After completion of the sandplay and the strategic placement throughout the room of troops and weapons. there’s only a few seconds left before the whole world gets blown up’. His first sandplay (shown in part in photo 1) encompassed two sandtrays and the entire therapy room. He chose a small aeroplane which he described as a ‘bomber’ which flew over the whole battle scene dropping bombs on everything. swooping. ‘Quick.

Perhaps this skeleton was a symbol of the death of the need to be like a He-Man to guard his inner treasure. William’s next sandplay reflected significant change. He hid the treasure in another part of the therapy room but this time. deadened depictions in earlier trays. William’s energies were beginning to focus and not take up so much of the emotional and psychological space in his life. he put a skeleton. There was a tiny bird’s nest carefully placed in a tree. William’s third sandplay brought with it a sense of growing order. Now the forces were battling over hidden treasure. Again the scene filled two sandtrays. insects. He had begun the search for the ‘jewels’ of his own psyche. After completing the sandtray and talking about it. He carefully removed each one of the grass seedlings and put them aside. but this time only part of the therapy room. Battling forces were still fighting over hidden treasure. At this stage his mother reported positive improvements in his reading ability at school. At the end of his sandplay William removed all the symbols and gently replanted each one of the grass seedlings. When the tray was wheeled out William was amazed at what had taken place. Elements of his emerging material which could not be acted out in the confines of the session room were acted out in our large bushland garden. William described the pine cones in the sandtrays as big buildings. William’s sixth sandplay (photo 6) showed a calmer. The next session involved a jungle scene in which the gorilla was very angry (photo 4). many ‘enemies’ were spotted 104 Sandplay and Symbol Work . instead of putting a He-Man action figure on guard.William’s second sandplay (photo 2) still reflects a scene of chaos and struggle. Instead of collecting dead grasses from the garden and bush. Again the scene created was a battlefield with opposing forces. William christened these nature walks his ‘walk on the wild side’. There was an eagle in the lower right-hand corner. seeds from the grasses he used in the sandtray had sprouted and small living grass stalks had emerged from the sand in the tray. a dinosaur. It also contained a leaf from a lily pad gathered during a nature walk we regularly took before commencing the sandplay. In the week since William’s last visit. The scene in the tray contained living representations of nature rather than the harsh. Each tray had a number of serpents either in the tray or on the edge of the tray. trees animals. The battle scene was then created and war raged. more reflective scene – a central lake. The scene (photo 5) was a nature scene. a dragonfly. William went to the place where he had hidden the treasure in the therapy room. Initially. William chose green leaves and branches of trees. The walks become symbolic of his journey. Outside the tray William described the floor as a dangerous ocean in which he placed a hippopotamus. a butterfly in the extreme top left-hand corner and a bird in a tree in the mid-left-hand side. His grass patch sandplay is photo 3. The gorilla was placed under a canopy of yellow flowers and there was a dinosaur in the left-hand tray also. a lobster and other dangerous sea creatures. The nest had tiny pearl eggs which William placed in there. He then carefully placed the treasure at regular intervals around the edge of the sandtray.

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4 .

Photo 5 Photo 6 Photo 7 Photo 8 .

Photo 9 Photo 10 Photo 11 Photo 12 .

Photo 13 Photo 14 Photo 15 Photo 16 .

Photo 17 Photo 18 Photo 19 Photo 20 .

Photo 21 Photo 22 Photo 23 Photo 24 .

Photo 25 Photo 26 Photo 27 Photo 28 .

Photo 29 Photo 30 Photo 31 Photo 32 .

In this session Cassie was unemotional. toads etc. At school each day she spent a lot of time crying without being able to verbalise her upsets. ‘danger’ lurked behind every clump of tall grass and in every tree. William is now much gentler on himself and no longer strives to portray a tough guy image. Each sandtray brought about an easing of the tension about how he experienced the world – a re-focusing of the lens through which he viewed life. but fear of what we might find – spiders. Finally.and killed. prior to putting any of the symbols in the tray Cassie marked out a cross in the centre of the sand. but when returning from access visits he can now verbalise his hurt and anger rather than internalising it and acting it out on his mother or school colleagues. There was a little girl. She told me that nothing could survive in there. On her second visit Cassie did a sandplay (photo 7) and built a scene of a frozen world. It seemed that life and the world was becoming far less dangerous and threatening to William. In the top righthand corner was a woman who had to travel across a bridge to reclaim the treasure but had first to get past a person holding a ‘Stop!’ sign. Their connection has become more open. Cassie’s picture carried the message that there were some frightening things that she didn’t want to face at this stage (the turtles in the ocean) and there was hope Sandplay stories 105 . There was danger in the ocean and Cassie said that she would not go near the ocean (the turtles were dangerous she said). Cassie – aged 6 years Cassie was just six years old and living with her maternal grandparents after being assessed as a child at great risk and removed from her mother. In this sand picture the central theme was a little girl who had ‘found a path home to mother’. a mother. His creativity is now finding new channels for expression – his ‘walks on the wild side’ continue but we now occasionally go armed with a camera instead of guns. There was a huge excitement about exploring the garden. during one of our regular walks – the one in which William collected the lily pad for his sandplay – he reported to his mother that we had been on a walk ‘and we didn’t need any guns’. In the sandtray William had been able to express the chaotic conflict inside of himself. Cassie’s next sandplay (photo 8) showed a very different world. This world was a land of ice and snow where everything entering it died ‘because it is so cold’. her father. work in remedial classes had reduced significantly and the hostility in his relationship towards his mother had eased. cold and seemed quite frozen in her relationship with the world. detached. more communicative and his behaviours less abusive towards her. with her grandparents and with the therapist. By the time William’s last sandtray was created his academic performance had improved dramatically. Significantly. Sadness and frustration at the changed relationship with his father remains unresolved at this stage. An interest in both nature and photography has replaced the fear of hidden dangers in nature and the need to constantly be on guard against ambush. some dolphins and fish.

. but friends came to wave goodbye and there were lots of flowers. His current placement was also at risk. But it was a happy funeral. she was able to share her fears of the dark and her finding a path back to her mother. In this sandplay. There was a tiny black cat in 106 Sandplay and Symbol Work . On arrival he was hostile and resistant to speaking or coming into the therapy room. He picked up five of the glass balls and a small handful of coloured glass ‘wishing stones’. Jason’s first sandplay (photo 11) involved the creation of a mountain with a king on the top. The funeral seemed to represent an end to tensions and fears in Cassie. At the end of the session Barry stood up to leave the therapy room. His mother was feeling very stressed with other younger children to care for and was still experiencing grief and shock from the separation and divorce. calmer state. Cassie’s third and final sandplay (photo 9) was. Barry had had a very close relationship with his father prior to the separation – they had worked on many projects together and had lots of times of rambling and camping together. Quite a few of his care placements had broken down because of his behaviour. everyone is fighting and being killed’. the final symbol to be placed was the circle of silver beads. Christmas was approaching and his perception was that he would not be permitted to rejoin his father and two siblings for Christmas unless his behaviour improved and unless he could prove he could be responsible. The final picture depicted a more centred. Barry – aged almost 10 years Barry came for just one sandplay session. His mother had committed suicide and his father had remarried within a short space of time after Jason’s mother’s death. Barry’s parents had separated a few weeks after the birth of his second sibling. His only comment was that ‘everyone is at war . a funeral. he placed each figure with care. Despite the chaotic scene which he created. Eventually he looked inside the door and saw a sandtray with a completed sandplay and asked if he could do ‘some of that stuff’. The king had lots of guards around the base of his mountain but these guards were fighting each other. His father had since remarried and had a child with his second wife.. Since the separation Barry had seen his father only occasionally. During the session Barry said very little. Jason – aged 11 years Jason lived in substitute care and was not thriving. He created the scene in photo 10. As well. Placement of the beads made a mandala-type picture which had a very calming effect on Cassie. she said. As he went to walk out he spied some colourful glass balls on the treasure shelf. He threw the balls and the wishing stones into the tray and said ‘There! Now I’m done’ and left the room. Two people had died and been buried. there was a treasure to be reclaimed. After completion of this sandplay Cassie began to talk more openly with her grandparents about some of the trauma she had experienced. The lighthouse in the top left-hand corner remained unexplored.

as cats do. After this sandplay Jason went for a swim and began to speak freely about difficulties he was having with his substitute care situation. Jason did not place all these in the tray. In addition. There were rocks in the sandplay which Jason described as ‘doorways to underground caves in the mountain’. James – aged 14 years James was struggling to embrace the internal shifts from childhood to adolescence. The radio was blown up – it didn’t really care.the top left-hand corner of the tray. happy homes. Jason then did a role-play exercise. The cat could see home from where it was in the minefield. The sand lizard knew that it would probably be blown up but felt helpless – it couldn’t stop it happening. depressed and unhappy. In this creation Jason took great care to make many holes in the foreground of the sand picture and then carefully chose the symbols from the shelf. becoming the King of the Mountain. He then chose a fabric sand-filled lizard because it reminded him of feeling very strong and good about himself. The cat made it through the minefield because it was able to walk very gently. but a land mine exploded right at the end and damaged its tail. Jason’s second sandtray (photo 12) was a minefield created during a session in which he seemed very flat. The ‘King’ furiously poured molten lava down on all the ‘morons’ and ‘idiots’ below. The purple doll was the first to ‘fly’ out of the minefield. Christmas was getting closer and the hope of spending Christmas with his family seemed a remote possibility now. The sand lizard made it through the minefield. This represented Jason’s real-life cat. Those that made it through the minefield went to grateful. The purple doll ‘wanted to die anyway because it was in such pain and wanted to go to heaven where it would be out of pain’. The radio didn’t care if it was going to be blown up because it had no feelings. God had seen the pain it was in and had decided that he (God) did not want this doll to die and performed a miracle so that it didn’t step on any mines. After the sandplay was completed Jason was asked what was in the underground caves and the answer was ‘treasure’. He felt discriminated against in the foster household but felt powerless to say anything or do anything. He also spoke freely and clearly about what he felt he needed in his relationship with foster parents. but wasn’t sure that it could make it home. a purple doll. the sand-filled lizard and a radio. The spider made it through the minefield because its legs were so thin that it was able to walk carefully. the cat. He chose three very angry symbols. These symbols were placed in the minefield. The spider was afraid that it wasn’t going to make it home because it had so many legs and therefore knew it could not avoid being blown to pieces. He chose one from each category – a spider. his parents had separated some three years before and the Sandplay stories 107 . The spider was happy then. He expressed a lot of love for his cat and talked about his joy in caring for it. He also chose a cat symbol because it was beautiful like his real-life cat. three very sad symbols and three symbols which he said went with the panicky feeling he gets inside.

His mother had moved to another city and contact with her. He said that the glass stones were not colourful enough and he wished there were brighter colours. Excalibur. finding his ‘new land’ without home and family the way it used to be. James left this sandplay session without comment. The sandtray contained many archetypal symbols. the eagle and serpent. Sandplay was offered but Veneta was initially reluctant to engage with the sand and symbols. In his first session James was reluctant to talk about his life or to express anything about what he wanted or how he really felt about the separation. although regular. to help integrate her experiences. was a land where animals had humans as pets. James identified the most important part of the sand picture as the ‘burial ground’ in the centre. His sandplays reflected elements of change. She had been assessed and was classified as at risk for potential suicide even though this was assessed as a low-level risk. There was ‘a land where pigs had parties’. in the many stories and poems she wrote during her time in therapy. Finally Veneta asked if she could do a sandplay (photo 15). he said. James seemed to be working through issues of establishing his identity. Three months after her seventh birthday Veneta’s father committed suicide. She felt that there were times at which she become physically. four Chinese wisdom figures and quartz crystals – all placed with care and precision. This. In his second sandplay (photo 14) the central burial ground appeared again but this time James used natural stones and a native mask. Veneta and her sister were moved interstate to live with relatives. was not frequent. There was a cheetah taking a human for a walk on a lead in the top right-hand portion of the tray. Her prognosis for the future did not look promising. death. This was an important step because she had identified a therapeutic technique that she 108 Sandplay and Symbol Work . the living arrangement broke down and Veneta was eventually hospitalised in a psychiatric unit for a brief time. At one point in her therapeutic work she used plastic letters to spell out a message in a sandtray.separation had come as a shock to James. The message was ‘spread your wings and fly’. emotionally and verbally paralysed. Veneta’s remaining family was a sibling just two years older than her as well as maternal and paternal grandparents. new life and a strong connection to an inner spiritual strength and sense of order. He had enjoyed a good relationship with both parents but when they separated he felt a responsibility to stay with his father because his father would otherwise be too lonely. Veneta – aged 15 years One week after Veneta’s fifth birthday her mother suicided. The families had become hostile to one another and there was a breakdown in the normal family caring arrangements. Instead she created ‘worlds’ and action. There she became depressed. the elephants were heading home and there was a God in his boat on a beautiful lake. Veneta’s experiences left her highly traumatised. He created the sandplay in silence and relayed the story afterwards (photo 13).

These represented alcohol and drinking alcohol. everybody’s fighting. On her next visit Veneta drew a happy face in the sand (photo 16). In the foreground she placed a golden sailing ship and on the top mast she placed a small human figure with a telescope. Veneta talked about this road. She explained the three symbols (photo 17) as the part that wants to control everything (man in black suit and bowler hat). things crash and ultimately she wants to drink and get drunk. The next step on the road showed a jungle. An angry ape could not fit in the jungle so had to be placed on its own in the top right-hand corner of the tray. The angels placed throughout the sandplay were the angels Veneta felt were watching over her as she went through life. On the left-hand side was herself as a child. At the time of this publication Veneta continues to work with the therapeutic process and her journey. Leaving the jungle. Veneta had asked for a screen which could not be seen through and so chose the piece of cardboard to state the fact that her mother would never see Veneta’s life. She chose three symbols but after choosing she said they could not go in the sandtray because ‘they just don’t belong in there with the happy face’. She is a strong. bright. then she feels angry. an alien stood by the side of the road. overcome and integrate trauma. She said this represented the people she was going to help when she grew up – people like herself who were hurt. The cross and child in the middle represented the death of her mother. who have to face. Behind the cardboard ‘screen’ symbols were placed for all the things about Veneta which her mother would now not be able to take part in – her first boyfriend. then she feels like an alien. The sad dog in the middle of the tray was ‘just a sad dog sitting by the side of the road’. The next sandplay (photo 19) showed a tree in the top left-hand corner representing a tree Veneta had planted to commemorate her mother’s birthday. Next there were crashed cars – one was overturned. The next session (photo 18) brought a sandplay which showed hope for the future for Veneta. The scene created showed a winding road with bridges. the part that wants to have fun and be silly (reclining elf) and the part that was hopeful (star – carefully placed by Veneta on elf’s shoulder). Veneta explained that this was herself sailing towards an unknown future but looking ahead to it. using sandplay and ERC. The next point of interest on the road was some small bottles and an upturned cup. On the right-hand side Veneta placed symbols of people with disabilities. Sandplay stories 109 . In the tray she created two scenes. The road began with mediaeval knights battling each other. her graduation from university and her wedding. In summary she said it was how she felt – it all starts with the fighting. like herself. energetic young woman whose wish is to help young people. This side of the tray she identified as her life as a child. The figures in the lower left-hand corner represented herself and her mother. Her mother was the pink fairy figure in the middle of the tray.wanted rather than going along with something offered to her.

The issues which brought him to sandplay and symbol work therapy were parental separation several years prior. The dietary changes made. Nathan spent a long time constructing the tray in such a way that the water would not leak out (using clear plastic film). even higher. Nathan worked well in the sand and created complex scenes of interaction. but then this authority figure would also be killed because. He presented as an emotionless. This time he began to create the chaos as before but then decided he needed a small lake which then became a bigger lake and then an ocean.Nathan – aged 11 years Two of Nathan’s sandplays carried themes of chaos and destruction (photos 20 and 21). The aliens too were screaming because they were scared of the humans. The water needed to be deep enough to cover most things or for the ships to ‘sail’. Everyone was killed off. verbal abuse of parents. Nathan’s parents also investigated the possibility of changing his diet. Towards the end of his therapy sessions. Immediately after telling the sandplay story he would enact sudden and absolute destruction of the whole scene. The aliens clung to each other but then the scene ended up in the usual chaos and everyone. they felt. He also then devoted his energy to construction rather than destruction. also contributed to the positive behaviour changes. He eventually moved to an empty sandtray and built a small bar of sand against one side. physical aggression with two younger siblings. including the aliens. constructing rafts out of twigs in an attempt to support the Chinese junk to sail on top of the water. Nathan’s last sandtray was very different (photo 23). He was more interested in order – but not perfection – rather than chaos and destruction. Nathan seemed to be ready for the contents of the unconscious to be seen – the dangerous and the pleasant aspects. In his next sandplay (photo 22) Nathan chose two alien figures as the central symbols. which resulted in a deepening fracture within the family unit. Among the symbols there was always an authority figure (identified by Nathan) who had ordered the killings and destruction for no apparent reason. There were people standing around ‘screaming’ because they were afraid of the aliens. everything was destroyed. He then proceeded to fill the sandtray with water and place oceanic animals. sailing ships and a scuba diver in the water. Family sandplay – two parents and a male aged 14 years This family group had asked for a sandplay session in an attempt to resolve regular breakdown in communication. He tested each piece to see if it would sink or swim. was killed. unwillingness to cooperate with parental requests and inappropriate responses in the school setting. disconnected young person. there was an unknown. according to Nathan. authority figure behind the ‘boss man’. Both parents and the ‘problem’ child had each done 110 Sandplay and Symbol Work .

a grandfather clock. Their son had left school because he felt very unhappy and after initial concern and resistance to their son’s plan. One family member chose not to attend the requested session but both parents and one child participated. a resting Buddha with a golden necklace and a key. Belinda – aged 45 years Belinda chose to do a non-directed sandplay which she later described as addressing the story of her current life. Her sandplay (photo 25) Sandplay stories 111 . animals and people. This parent explained that ‘getting away’ from the boxed-in feeling of the sandtray was important and that it felt impossible to stay inside the sandtray. chose as his main figures Buddha. Feedback from the family some months after this session gave a picture of greatly improved relationships. Both parents have since decided to take significant steps to engage in their own personal development journey. The young person. The key became a significant symbol in the recounting of the sandplay story and was identified by the boy as being a special. The child seemed at great peace and very calm after the sandplay. her concerns and her achievements. soldiers. These were positioned at the edge of a valley out of which the sand ledge rose. he secured work which has been satisfying and interesting for him. However. The golden sailing ship was just waiting to take Buddha or Jesus on a voyage if they wanted to go. In this scene Buddha and Jesus have conversations with each other under a tree. a golden sailing ship with a butterfly atop the mast.sandplay before in individual sessions. Her choice of symbols included flowers. The other parent created a sand ledge in the corner of their ‘space’ in the tray and chose symbols for each of the other family members. trees. Jesus Christ. fierce animals and spiritual/religious symbols. the parents finally agreed. ledge mother valley father child symbols on edge of tray and outside tray One parent had had a very vivid dream the evening before coming to the sandplay and chose to place symbols from the dream in the space. useful key. whose behaviour and attitudes was deemed to be a significant cause of dysfunction within the family unit. No instructions were given by the therapist about what they were to create in their part of the tray. The symbols chosen by this parent to represent herself were then positioned outside the tray. They chose to use one sandtray (photo 24) and each person in the group agreed on how they wished to divide the tray and then delineated their portion (see diagram below).

As a result. represented by a totem pole. a jaguar. He said this related to an urgent need in his life to ‘create some space’ (photo 27). violence and abandonment. For this client her early life had been one of threat and violence. with another therapist. Drew explained that these symbols were not chosen to reflect an outer event. On the right-hand side are symbols for the potential for the relationship – home and marriage. The client explained her sandtray picture in the following words: At the same time the internal world is connected by bridges to the external world which contains lots of nasty. which he said represented the demands and projects he felt were currently pressuring him. protected by a moat.shows a central internal world. pushing the sand back to the sides. along with symbols for the times when things were difficult between them. Buddha and a candle. Mick – aged 47 years Mick was attending a personal development workshop. Her resilience had been renewed and she said that she had just needed to find a path into her Self and the time to get in touch with what was inside her. When he moved to the symbol shelves he began to laugh and immediately gathered several tigers and lions. The first step was working with the sand. creating as much space as possible. Then three mounds were created in the centre of the tray. At the same time Drew’s partner had prepared a sandplay separately. a mountain range roughly across the middle of the tray (photo 26). threatening animals and people. The clarification of their own experience and then sharing helped them re-establish their mutual desire to have an open. Overseeing both the internal and external world is another spiritual overlay. honest relationship with emphasis on individual growth within the strength of their commitment to their relationship. as well as beauty through nature. These were quickly 112 Sandplay and Symbol Work . The client reported a lessening of her anxiety. representing his relationships with his partner and his two children. a strong inner world had been created to cope with family situations. a leopard and a snarling crocodile. He was familiar with sandplay and comfortable working in a group with peer support and supervision from the authors. The partners were able to share this sandplay in the therapy session and to draw on the sense of common goals. He entered the process enthusiastically. Relationships Drew – aged 45 years The sandplay shows a barrier. but to represent commitment to a true and honest relationship. This source of inner strength is ongoing and integral to her sense of self now. Next he formed hills around the edge of the sandtray. On the left-hand side are symbols for his experience of his partner at the start of their relationship. animals and people. which she also shared with her partner.

He felt that a return to his spiritual practice was essential. feelings and sense of control when either the warrior or the puppy faced life.arranged on the hills and were linked with work pressures. Figures were selected to represent the positive relationships and feelings he had towards his children and partner. Next two figures were selected that reflected two aspects of himself: a calm warrior and a frightened puppy. However. working with the sand it became very clear for her that the creation of the sand became the symbol for exploration. The client chose to set out symbols for four aspects of her ‘working’ life to explore imprints which held her back from seeking the working conditions which would be nourishing and life-giving for her career. Sand only Sandra – aged 32 years These are two consecutive sandplays in which the client was initially invited to work with the sand and then choose symbols. She felt a close link between the emptiness of the first sand formation and the fullness of the second. He explored the different attitudes. It was the dancing Shiva from the Indian tradition. The client chose to work on an artpad with Sandplay stories 113 . and that a sense of ‘being distant from himself’ aggravated the issues he was working with. The last step was the selection of a spiritual symbol that already had some significance for him. Photo 28 shows a ‘hole in her heart’ and photo 29 shows a nurturing. This was placed on the edge of the tray (not shown in photo) to overlook the scene. Symbol work exercise Rachael – aged 28 years This symbol work exercise was focused on the life experience gained through relationships (photo 31). Symbol work exercise Pam – aged 45 years This symbol work exercise (photo 30) focused on links between the client’s proposed career moves and roles played within the family setting as a child. the pressures of his current university studies and the demands of his creative projects. full womb. He explained that for him this represented the dynamic energy he felt when he was centred and life was in a positive flow. Some grief was expressed that he did not have enough time to deepen these connections. career choices in early adulthood and the task of parenting. At the end of the session he reported feeling very positive and hopeful. Nothing needed to be added from the sandplay symbol collection. On each occasion the symbol was within the client already.

inner strength and power. Pocahontas – centred. Baby – all that is sweet and pure – fresh and new. to grow and to share. and make the rules and play your own game. agility. not knowing which colour is mine – this represents my family. Her explanations of the symbols she chose are: Black figure in pensive posture – I’m sitting in a really awful place wanting so desperately to disappear. to be. Symbol work exercise with drawing Sheena – aged 43 years This striking design emerged from a period of reflection in a personal development workshop. a pool of cleansing. Seeking this out. A busy yet full picture of me and how I relate. to dance. Yet the need to be seen as sweet and good compels me. honesty. You don’t know the rules unless you search for them. The despair drips into my envisaged pool of enlightenment and splashes onto togetherness. true. From this place – a new place – I could possibly find my colour and shape and live. Blue pyramid – this represents a place of enlightenment. to move. Crystal wizard – shining inner wisdom. slithering around life. hope. wisdom. so much passion for knowing and wanting to teach. There’s a feeling of despair. observing all. This is a jagged intermixing space. This is my desire. where chains of experiences that can set up scripts for our life were being discussed. She wrote: The game of life. Witch – seeking destruction. slithers and hisses. wanting power. Find your own light and beauty. Two figures sitting together – twoness. The inward direction of the drawing represented the impact on her sense of self of these experiences. so much to understand and get right. It’s all connected – little freedom from the other. Sheena called her creation (photo 32) ‘The Game of Life’. joining with another – it could be so blissful. and they are hiding in a web of hurt and pain. It all strives – searches – and expands. This never lasts long. Shakti – a desire to show my face of creativity in wholeness and purity. The muck goes through this and onto my face of creativity. wanting to scream. The muck touches most things. The symbols represented significant events and people who she felt had influenced her life. exploring elements of her relationship. Wizard with book – so much knowledge. I need to be liked. light. seeing all. clarity. to sing. All this attempts to float. Out of the muck comes a strong desire to learn. Snake – angry snake.symbols. White horse – strength. wanting to control. Sparkly elephant – so many colours and all so close – looks good but it’s not very comfortable. though. my ideal. It’s all connected. feeling all life but never in it. Internally projected is only ugliness. 114 Sandplay and Symbol Work . togetherness. This leaves a confusion and yukkiness. A need to show others that I understand. passion for life and the energy to seek it.

Appendix I Self-discovery worksheet: The different parts of me 115 .

2 The client imagines self as the symbol then answers these questions. Ask the questions slowly. Invite them to draw the symbol and add some words about its meaning for them. What are you made of or what is inside you? • What are your main qualities and feelings? • Tell me about your age. beginning with ‘I am’: • What are you? • What do you look like? • Feel inside. 3 4 5 6 7 116 . Take some full breaths and feel how it is to be this symbol. and then respond. change your posture if it helps. role-playing a few of the significant symbols used in a sandplay. or anything you would like to say to him/her? Any advice perhaps? After a pause say: Now slowly come back to being yourself. Encourage the client to write down the message at the end. You are going to pretend you are this symbol. We find our personal meanings and allow further exploration with active imagination through role-playing the symbol. Now let yourself totally become the symbol. Are you old or young? • Do you have a particular sound or movement? (If they do. Feel your body changing. ask them to demonstrate it) • Do you have a special purpose? What are you for? • Is there anything you want now (or in the future)? • Do you have a message for … (person’s name). and then gently open your eyes. 1 Relax now. The counsellor directs the client through the exercise. close your eyes to help you imagine you are this symbol. giving the client time to feel the answer. If you are comfortable to do it. Did you hear that message? How does that feel? After some discussion say: Now write down the message.Appendix II Gestalt role-play exercise Understanding and integrating symbols This role-play exercise helps us gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the sandplay figurines we have chosen. Invite them to share how they feel after the exercise and to share any specific insights about how it relates to their life.

: • Observations during sandplay: expressions – facial.Appendix III Record form for sandplay sessions Date: Name: • Session initiated by: • Presenting problem: • Pre-assessment: Client’s reported issues/concerns: Facilitator: Client’s age: No. emotional: 117 . posture. attitude etc. of previous sessions: Body reading: Emotional state: • Opening directions to client: • Choice of symbols: • Observations while choosing symbols: body energy. posture.

• Significant spatial relationships in sandtray: • Main themes noted: • Client’s insights or comments during sandplay: • Facilitator’s insights and observations: • Integration processes used: • Client’s comments after sandplay: • Facilitator’s evaluation of client: Body posture/energy: Emotional state: Clarity around issues or problems: • Follow-up recommendations/strategies discussed/homework: • Facilitator’s self-evaluation: 118 Sandplay and Symbol Work .

Stewart. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. M. H.. (1994) ‘Sandplay as an elementary school strategy’. & Lowen. L. pp. Kalff. Boston: Sigo Press. (1994) ‘An abused child’s use of sandplay in the healing process’. pp. (1977) The Way to Vibrant Health – A Manual of Bioenergetic Exercises. London: Mandarin. De Domenico. P. T. 193–209. 300–306. J. — (1999) Sandplay Therapy with Children and Families. Ammann. Grof. Oakland: Vision Quest Into Reality. 28. London: McKeith. Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co. (1971) Dibs: In Search of Self. A. H. K. Lowen. 30–41. 302–307. C. G. Vol. Harper. pp. V.. Vol. S. Spare. Grubbs. (1999) Play in Childhood. 13–16. pp. New York: Routledge. New York: Harper & Row. Child Abuse and Neglect. Vol. 197–209. K. K. B. The Arts in Psychotherapy. A. 24 (4). K. J. L. Bradway. New York: State University of New York. Personality Development in Play Therapy. Gardner. Cooperative Learning. S. & McCoard. 22 (2). 28. Northvale: Jason Aronson Inc. pp. pp. (1996) ‘Clues about motivation and creativity’. Axline. Vol. Signell. G. Middlesex: Penguin. Vol. (1991) Healing and Transformation in Sandplay – Creative Processes Become Visible. L. (1980) Sandplay: A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche. C. Baloche. 15. (1991) ‘Children’s play: The differential effects of intrafamilial physical and sexual abuse’. 119 . (1993) ‘Jungian play therapy in elementary schools’. Carey. Bradway. (1987) ‘Sandplay’. Lowenfeld. Vol. R. L. (1988) Sand Tray World Play: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Sand Tray in Therapeutic Transformational Settings. & Thompson. M. 17. & Berry. D. (1990) ‘Sandplay therapy with a troubled child’. & Brown. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling.. G. J.. (2000) The Future of Psychology. 16 (3). M. (1990) Sandplay Studies: Origins. Theory and Practice. Carmichael. Boston: Sigo Press. (1997) Sandplay: Silent Workshop of the Psyche. D. Clinical Social Work Journal. Allan.References Allan. pp. Stewart. Vol. (1983) Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. K. 89–97.

H. This author presents a how-to-do-it guide for therapists and people interested in using sandplay. Melbourne: ACER Press. H. M. (1998) Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and its implications for the counselling of children. (1981) ‘Sandplay imagery: An aid to teaching reading’. Child Abuse and Neglect. (1991) Emotional First-aid for Children – Emotional Release Exercises and Inner-life Skills. R. pp. (1980) The Atman Project – A Transpersonal View of Human Development. North Blackburn: Collins Dove. 21 (3). 120 Sandplay and Symbol Work . K. C. Taos: Trance-Sand-Dance Press. Pearson. P. H.Miller. (1983) Freedom to Learn for the 80s. P. B. Present and Future. Merrill. Vol. L. (1999) Time travellers. (1992) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Teakle. (1992) Jungian Sandplay: The Wonderful Therapy. M. Pearson. & Nolan. 229–238. R. Covers the background development of sandplay. H. Vol. London: Routledge. Wilber. Zinni. O’Brien. 657–668. Doctoral dissertation. Melbourne: ACER Press. Annotated bibliography Books on sandplay Amatruda. Visualisation and Meditation for Children and Adolescents. 21 (7). Unpublished Masters project. J. pp. Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co. (1998) Emotional Healing and Self-esteem – Inner-life Skills of Relaxation. & Helm-Simpson. (1997) Sandplay: Silent Workshop of the Psyche. (1990) ‘Tears into diamonds: Transformation of child psychic trauma through sandplay and storytelling’. F. V. water. London: Routledge. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. (1992) My Daddy Died – Supporting Young Children in Grief. Ryce-Menuhin. & James. (1997) Sandplay – The Sacred Healing: A Guide to Symbolic Process. 247–257. Boston: Sigo Press. R. Mitchell. M. K. Noyes. J. Also presents a model of the process of sandplay as represented by the medicine wheel. Bradway. Vol. E. Presents a therapeutic model based on progression through the four elemental planes: air. how it is used and the elements which support its efficiency. Highland: The Gestalt Journal. & Boe. Vol. 231–237. The authors also relate types of trauma to the chakra system. (1997) ‘Differential aspects of sandplay with 10. & McCoard. (1987) ‘Sandplay: A therapeutic medium with children’. Weinrib. Several case studies also presented which give clear insight into the outcomes available from this methodology. Springwood: Butterfly Books. Tereba. Perls. Brisbane: QUT. (1994) Sandplay – Past. pp. 17. Rogers. P. C. Ammann.and 11-year-old children’. fire. (1991) Healing and Transformation in Sandplay – Creative Processes Become Visible. Preparing the Future. 17 (2). K. & Friedman. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House. New York: Routledge. Columbus: Charles E. Brisbane: QUT. The Arts in Psychotherapy. L. R. R. (1983) Images of the Self – The Sandplay Therapy Process. Vinturella. pp. Academic Therapy. earth. This book covers the very practical aspects of facilitating sandplay as well as providing case histories. R. S. –– (1995) Emotional Release for Children – Repairing the Past.

London: Routledge. Carey. This boy had a history of speech and language disorders and suffered from depression. K. Summary background of sandplay. The first sandplay book. S. the author writes about the non-verbal phenomenon of healing through sandplay. (1983) Images of the Self – The Sandplay Therapy Process. A very practical guide for any professional planning to use sandplay. common stages of sandplay. C. & Friedman. men and groups. R. E. Spare. J. first published in German in 1966. (1994) Sandplay – Past. (1990) ‘Sandplay therapy with a troubled child’. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 24 (4). After treatment. — (1991) ‘Family sandplay therapy’. 30–41.. case report with an aggressive second-grade boy. T. Nine case studies with long-term clients. H. Present and Future. Ryce-Menuhin. A detailed case example of a nine-year-old boy from a class for children with neurological disorders. K. pp. he was less depressed and some physical symptoms disappeared. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. Detailed history of the development of sandplay. Sandplay in a school setting. & Berry. supported with a detailed case presentation. K. L.. (1987) ‘Sandplay’. The Arts in Psychotherapy. Vol. Very extensive bibliography. and one case working with an adult. J. pp. References 121 . 300–306. London: Coventure. London: Routledge. Vol. & Brown. current research. 18. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. & Thompson. Theory and Practice. (1990) Sandplay Studies: Origins. A fascinating. Vol. D. 231–239. J. his teachers reported he had more concentration. Mitchell. 197–209. P. M. H. Boston: Sigo Press. future uses of sandplay. Various authors report on the use of sandplay with children. (1980) Sandplay: A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche. L. Northvale: Jason Aronson Inc. Boston: Sigo Press. C.. (1993) ‘Jungian play therapy in elementary schools’. and then in English in 1971. Carey. Dundas. Recommended articles on sandplay Allan. A presentation of eight case studies using sandplay with children. Carey discusses individual sandplay therapy and the use of sandplay therapy with families – family system approach and child-centred approach. Allan. pp. L. J.Bradway. by the originator of the process. (1999) Sandplay Therapy with Children and Families. Weinrib. must-read book for professionals interested in sandplay. From his extensive experience as a therapist using Jungian sandplay. He presents four detailed case studies. 17. (1989) Symbols Come Alive in the Sand. Boston: Sigo Press. 28. Vol. Includes an annotated bibliography.. E. There is an interesting diagrammatic depiction of transferences within therapy. L. illustrating successful therapy. (1992) Jungian Sandplay: The Wonderful Therapy. Signell. Explores a wide range of applications of sandplay. Kalff. Stewart. R. A detailed overview of the Jungian theoretical frameworks. Stewart. G. pp. This book provides a rich and valuable insight into the therapeutic process of sandplay.

One case report of sandplay with an eight-year-old male. with some other attendant modalities. Clinical Social Work Journal. 1 (1). 122 Sandplay and Symbol Work . 229–238. 17. Child Abuse and Neglect. A practical application of Gestalt principles in counselling with children. (1971) Dibs: In Search of Self. 15. 247–257. pp. Noyes. Jackson. Some interesting comments on parents’ need to work on their ‘inner child’. pp. D. Explains the simple use of sandplay in a remedial reading classroom and the significant academic gains made by her students due to the support of sandplay. S. Oaklander. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. (1998) Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and its implications for the counselling of children. Vol. R. pp. Vol. 231–237. 1 (1). Extensive and inspiring case study of play therapy. 657–668. (1991) ‘Children’s play: The differential effects of intrafamilial physical and sexual abuse’. International Society for Sandplay Therapy. A Gestalt Therapy Approach to Children and Adolescents. (1990) ‘Tears into Diamonds: Transformation of child psychic trauma through sandplay and storytelling’. Overview of the sandplay process. Personality Development in Play Therapy. (1998) ‘The sandplay collection’. Hegeman.This article contains a brief account of family therapy and lists some advantages of using sandplay with a family in therapy. New York: The Centre for Gestalt Development. including the use of sand and symbols. (1987) ‘Sandplay: A therapeutic medium with children’. Child Abuse and Neglect. 21 (7). K. V. (1994) ‘An abused child’s use of sandplay in the healing process’. Doctoral dissertation. Friedman. Middlesex: Penguin. 193–209. The first Australian research that provides statistics for the effectiveness of sandplay as a counselling tool in an educational setting. R. 28. V. Vol. (1991) ‘Before reaching for the symbols dictionary’. pp. There are two case reports. Zinni. Plenty of ‘how to’ information on games and exercises. 17 (2). relating its use for counsellors of different therapeutic orientations. R. Journal of Sandplay Therapy. with a young boy diagnosed as autistic. Harper. (1981) ‘Sandplay imagery: An aid to teaching reading’. pp. J. J. Journal of Sandplay Therapy. M. Elementary School Guidance and Counselling. Miller. (1997) ‘Differential aspects of sandplay with 10. Vol. & Mitchell. Academic Therapy.and 11-year-old children’. Vol. V. pp. The stories to be read to the children were selected by cross-matching with the children’s sandtray pictures. R. B. Vol. 89–97. Vol. G. Supportive books – counselling with children Axline. Details positive benefits from using sandplay. especially the emergence of a playful quality in the family. (1991) ‘Dora Maria Kalff: Connections between life and work’. O’Brien. Grubbs. pp. Carmichael. (1988) Windows to Our Children. The Arts in Psychotherapy. O’Brien explores the application of multiple intelligences to counselling and finds sandplay. & James. 55–58. Brisbane: QUT. P. A. 21 (3). H. M. Vol. The use of sandplay and storytelling in a hospital setting with children who have been severely traumatised. (1994) ‘Sandplay as an elementary school strategy’. to be the most effective. 302–307. & Boe. Vol. C. pp. G. Vinturella. L. 22 (2).

Preparing the Future. Middlesex: Penguin Books. Middlesex: Arkana. M. & Nolan. Relevant background books on personal development Grof. Pearson. (1976) Bioenergetics: The Revolutionary Therapy That Uses the Language of the Body to Heal the Problems of the Mind. Highland: The Gestalt Journal. References 123 . Jung. (1977) The Way to Vibrant Health – A Manual of Bioenergetic Exercises. Introduces practical steps for using sandplay. (1997) The Healing Journey – A Workbook for Self-discovery. S. L. Visualisation and Meditation for Children and Adolescents. (1998) Emotional Healing and Self-esteem – Inner-life Skills of Relaxation. S. Includes birthing games. P. F. A. Sequel to Emotional First-aid for Children. Springwood: Butterfly Books. Perls.Pearson. M. (1988) The Adventure of Self Discovery – Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration. as well as support for exploring spiritual growth. Pearson. Lowen. C. Focuses on the integrative and personal development methods that form a large and important part of ERC. Provides more psychodynamic exercises and clarifies the framework for applying ERC methods. (ed. — (1993) The Holotropic Mind – The Three Levels of Human Consciousness and How They Shape Our Lives. Melbourne: Lothian. Draws from several spiritual and counselling traditions. — (1995) Emotional Release for Children – Repairing the Past. massage games and emotional release process work. M. The first book by Pearson and Nolan on the ERC approach. Detailed introduction to meditation methods. A. Outlines an integrated experiential approach to working with children and adolescents. & Lowen. Includes exercises and games to help young people heal emotionally. Lowen.) (1964) Man and His Symbols. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. G. Melbourne: ACER Press. Melbourne: ACER Press. New York: Harper & Row. New York: State University of New York Press. (1992) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. (1991) Emotional First-aid for Children – Emotional Release Exercises and Inner-life Skills.

com International sandplay contacts International Society for Sandplay Therapy www. training courses or individual sessions in Sandplay information from the Lowenfeld approach. symbol work and ERC Contacts for information on workshops. Lists information about the Society.aunz. bibliography.sandplay. Transpersonal Sandplay Therapy Center – USA This is the original society founded by Dora Kalff.Workshops and training in sandplay. member contacts. Contacts for purchase of sandtrays and symbols (from America). journal articles. etc.sandplay. Brisbane Phone/fax: (07) 3425 2507 Mobile phone: 0419 492 713 email: turnarnd@dnet. subscriptions to The Journal of Sandplay Therapy. symbol work or emotional release counselling around Australia: Mark Pearson and Helen Wilson Turnaround Counselling Training Centre. 124 Sandplay and Symbol Work . information on sandplay.

tightness in the chest that holds in grief. in order to learn more about the contents of the unconscious. deeper than the personal individual. a fantasy. while the content always comes from the individual’s life experience of a particular archetype. psychological scripts that gather together in the psyche to form a basic pattern of reaction. The actions and the causes often do not seem to be linked. Armouring is often only felt during still and quiet times. active listening Listening without interruption. or conscious of people and events outside themselves. a level where there can be connection between the psyches of a group. predisposition towards ways of experiencing. archetypes Innate basic patterns in the psyche. nation or all people. body. awareness A focused way of being when the person is consciously knowing what is happening in their mind. clear When the psyche or body is relieved of a disturbance that has been long held. Such a state enables us to become calm and more attentive. or may suggest areas of research for a client to discover other meanings. directed. Can be on several levels: scattered. where there are no emotional reactions or unconscious motives. consciousness The sum of awareness from the mind. without interpreting. attention A quality of focusing. body and feelings. complex Ideas. Clients can draw their own outlines or use photocopied body shapes. feelings. acting out Glossary 125 . expanded or divided. body energy Energy or aliveness sensed as flowing through the body. to view the world and respond from a more self-aware state. active imagination Intentionally giving the imagination time and encouragement to continue or complete a story.Glossary Disruptive. destructive or socially isolating behaviour that is caused by reactive feelings. amplification Offering ideas that may extend the meaning of a symbol. contrasexual Relating to the opposite sex. centred A state of focused attention on the sensations and feelings in the body. body outline drawing A body-shaped drawing used to map feelings and sensations inside the body. or free. bioenergetics Physical exercises devised by Dr Alexander Lowen and Dr John Pierrakos that awaken and help the flow of emotions and energy within the body. there is a state of clear or free-flowing energy. An archetype gives form. collective unconscious A level in the unconscious proposed by Jung. associations. being aware of the feelings expressed under the words that are spoken. armouring Chronic contraction of muscles that is a defence against emotions moving. For example. a dream. expressing and being felt. memories.

chemical and energetic patterns held in the body from past negative emotional experiences. expressing. with its own logic around timing and order of issues to be dealt with. negative selfbeliefs and reactions to past hurts. An approach to psychological development pioneered by Dr Frederick Perls during the 1970s and 1980s. In this state there can be connection to the Self. hurts and disappointments. positive state of not knowing exactly what to do in the facilitation role. A way of summarising the impact of emotional neglect. dreams. The ego is the centre of gravity for our usual sense of identity. both pain carried from the past and new hurts in the present. Releasing neurological. the authentic self. Learning by doing and experiencing an activity. This decreases negative self-images and beliefs. Rejecting feedback on our state.) A psychic form or picture consisting of both personal and transpersonal elements. chemical or behavioural ways of avoiding emotional pain. in a safe. waiting for intuition to show some creative direction. The process of loosening muscular tightness that may have been held for a long time. Sometimes used in this text as a shorthand way of designating the use of the Gestalt role-play approach to reclaiming projections from symbols. respiratory. It also contains our defences. (See page 116. The skills for contacting. A part of the personality which organises and directs our activity. 126 Sandplay and Symbol Work . supported environment. image. muscular. unaffected by education or conditioning. fears. images and people. Bioenergetic exercises are the main de-armouring activities. An innate wisdom that moves us towards emotional healing. Fantasy is one way the unconscious expresses. A term to summarise our combined experience of thoughts. Imagined form. trauma. A state of regaining a strong. not wanting to experience emotions and maintaining muscular tension in order to avoid feelings. sensations.creative doubt de-armouring defences defended ego emotional healing emotional pain emotional release empowerment essence experiential fantasy Gestalt image individuation inner healer inner life inner life skills A calm. images. picture or story. healing and describing our inner life. (See armouring) Intended or automatic neurological. hopes. feelings and body states. Allowing pent-up feelings to express through the body without restriction. The central core of our self. positive sense of self and an attitude that we can achieve our goals. A developmental process of self-realisation whereby the individual consciousness becomes freer from inner scripts and a more essential state is achieved.

built out of criticism and non-acceptance that has taught us that we are not capable. personal development The ongoing effort of self-understanding and adjusting our outer life to be in harmony with our inner life. negative self-image A picture of ourselves that is believed to be true. inner self The often-hidden self connected to our inner life. and which is expressed in a circle. opening. kinesthetic Knowing through body awareness and movement. It becomes part of our inner story. role-play Actively pretend to be something or someone in order to understand projections and reclaim projected qualities. absorb. project/projection To ascribe to another a feeling that originates within ourselves. integration The act of taking time to understand. outer life The events around us in which we participate – as opposed to the feelings. creative or good enough. to open A state of physiological and psychological expansion accompanied by an attitude of willingness to perceive something new. The part that is presented to the world – sometimes like a mask. intelligent. but which is not conscious. creativity and understanding. psyche The mind. that becomes a regular metaphor for something in our inner world. metaphor Something known and of our making. thoughts and energies inside us. both conscious and unconscious. safe. body sensations and spiritual potential. and its interaction with feelings. mandala A completion drawing which may follow a sandplay session or an emotional release experience or a time of contacting the inner world. relativised ego Ego consciousness that is connected to the Self or transpersonal level of consciousness. record or recover from new experiences. as opposed to the persona or personality presented to the world. It usually covers the essence. or of our choosing. personality A learned part of us. often not used in everyday life due to overlaying self-doubts. processing A structured. personal mythology The use of a symbol that we repeatedly use. private. mirror Reflect back to a client feelings that we sense or see in them. and feels supported and directed by this higher state. motivation. inner resources Glossary 127 . review. personal unconscious The part of our unconcious that contains biographical details and our individual experiences. that we put to stand for something else. resistance Consciously or unconsciously not wanting to feel something within or open to something or someone. supported counselling activity that allows an internal encounter with incomplete emotions from the present and past so that they can release. to help us understand something unknown. issue The main problem or conflict that may need to be addressed in counselling.Reserves of psychological strength.

sometimes referred to as our higher self. The right to our own experience and interpretation of our spiritual nature. causing a reaction. The best possible expression for something as yet unknown. the totality of what we can become through personal development. Increased contact with our spiritual nature that allows outer life to be directed by a higher part of the psyche. A positive inner change whereby negativity and confusion move into positivity and clarity.Self self-esteem shadow spiritual autonomy spiritual growth surrender symbol systemic approach temenos transformation transpersonal trigger unconscious visualisation wholeness Jung’s term for the archytype of our spiritual core. pointing the way to resolution. Larger than. and restricted energy becomes free-flowing and creative. An approach to counselling that makes an effort to improve relationships within a system – family. peer group. A safe and protected space. work group. A sense of connection and bringing together of all parts of the psyche. both negative and positive. the individual ego consciousness. Feeling positive and confident about ourselves and our value. Jung’s term for the part of our unconscious where unwelcome experiences or qualities are stored. Represents attributes. memories and impulses that is not directly available to the conscious mind. or beyond. accompanied by a high degree of self-acceptance. Something that activates our underlying scripts or issues. Using mental images to create pictures or stories that support states of relaxation and self-discovery. A state of deep psychological and physiological relaxation – an openness to a range of outcomes. 128 Sandplay and Symbol Work . which are not yet conscious and have usually been denied expression. (b) To be in a state of extreme unawareness. connected with spiritual experience. A symbol acts as a healing agent or bridge between seemingly irreconcilable opposites. (a) The unconscious: a storehouse of feelings.

Index of exercises
Bioenergetics exercises: Basic bioenergetic exercise 72 Brief head-to-toe sequence 73 Imagination helps me move 74 Energy release games: Dance and movement 76 Role-play of energetic symbols 75 Running around the building 76 Tunnelling 76 Introduction exercise: Free exploration of the sand 56 Gestalt role-play exercise: Understanding and integrating symbols 116 Symbol work – the basic steps of a counselling session: Beginning to talk about my feelings 58 Exploring my feelings 57 How do you feel about counselling? 55 Starting discussion with a new client 55 What is inside me? 56 What should I do now? 59 What would I like to do? 59 Symbol work – emotional and physical release: Breaking free with dance 63 The different parts of me 66 Reactions with family of origin, workplace and personal life 65 Understanding my moods 64 Symbol work – families and school: Family portraits 61 Me and my class 62 The people in my family 62 Symbol work – relationships: Beginning to talk about my relationship 60 Relationships review 60 Symbol work – self-esteem: Exploring my connection to the sacred 69 Inner treasure 70 The most beautiful symbol on the shelf 68 Movement, drawing and symbol stories 70 My life’s journey 69 Storytelling through sandplay 68 Symbol work – using symbols in professional supervision: Understanding difficult clients 95 Unearthing problems, acknowledging success 94

Index of exercises


General index
academic progress 17, 20 acting out 4, 12, 30, 51 active listening 97 aggression 27, 32 aggressive behaviour 16, 22 Allan 15, 32 alphabet letters 79 Ammann 24, 100 amplification 36 analysis 47 anger 98 anima 33, 35 animus 33, 35 archetype 25 art materials 79 assessment 46 Axline 32, 33, 37 Baloche 19 Berry 15, 32 bioenergetics 72–4 bodily/kinesthetic intelligence 18, 75 body outline 56, 77, 87 Boe 21 Bradway 6, 24 breathing 12 breathwork 11 Brown 17 Carey 11, 16 Carmichael 17 centring 30, 35 childhood scripts 14, 96 circles 32 clay 79 closure 81, 86 collage 79 collective unconscious 26, 43 cognition 101 cognitive behavioural therapy 101 completion 34 counselling steps 55 counselling room 85 creative doubt 80, 81, 83 creativity 30, 59, 103, 105 dance 63, 64 defence mechanisms 5, 14, 19, 27 directed method 50 drawing 43, 77 dreams 2, 98 ego 25, 26, 29, 33, 40 emotional release 63, 98 emotional release counselling 2 principles of 10–12 emotions 10 layers of 11, 15 energy release 75–6 equipment 88 evaluation 88 expressive activities 97 extroverted clients 16 fabrics 79 family communication exercises 10 focussed method 50 freedom 27 Friedman 10 Gardiner 15, 18, 75 Gestalt psychology 9 Gestalt role-play 50, 116 grieving 23 Grof 39, 45 Grubbs 22 Harper 22 homework 60 hurt inner child 14 imagination 46 inner healer 4, 6, 8, 13, 17, 39, 45, 100 inner life skills 10 inner world 66 Institute of Child Psychology 8 integration 47, 51, 58, 77, 86, 99 International Journal of Sandplay Therapy 15, 102, 124 International Society for Sandplay Therapy 15, 102, 124 interpersonal intelligence 19 interpretation 12, 28, 33, 43, 82 intrapersonal intelligence 19 introverted clients 16 inward arc 39


Sandplay and Symbol Work

James 16 Janov 40 journal writing 87, 99 Jung, Carl 9 Jung, Emma 9 Jung Institute 9 Jungian psychology 24 Kalff 2, 9, 24, 25, 27, 29, 101 leading questions 83 Leboyer 40 linking activities 87 literacy 20 Living Water Centre 9 logical/mathematical intelligence 19 Lowenfeld 8, 46 mandalas 30, 77 massage 99 McCoard 6, 24 metacognition 6, 102 metaphor 93, Miller 21 mirroring 37, 81 Mitchell 10 Mount Zion Psychiatric Centre 27 movement 57, 70, 87 multiple intelligence 15, 18 muscular tension 13 music 74–5, 90 musical/rhythmical intelligence 18, 75 myths 43, 87 negative feelings 13 Nolan 10 Noyes 20 O’Brien 15, 18 opening instructions 47, 49 paradigm shift 24, 100 parallel sandplay 52 parents 96 and personal development 99 Pearson 10, 123 perinatal domain 40 Perls 32, 50 personal mythology 30, 41, 44 physical release 63 play 5, 7, 9, 28, 31, 42, 46

play therapy 37 positive qualities 13 problem solving 19 processing 10, 57, 77 puberty 25 rapport 34 reactions 14 reading 20 regression 32 rejection 14 relationships 60 remedial reading 20 repression 14 research 15, 101 resolution 87 review 88 ritual 32, 34 Rogers 37 rules 52, 82 Ryce-Menuhin 43, 83, 100 safety 26 sand 42, 48, 56, 89 sandplay and community health 23 and contraindications 92 and different age groups 91–2 and families 51–3 and nature 93 and relationships 112 and storytelling 21 and the beach 93 and traumatised children 21 in classrooms 15 in hospital 21 recording of 117–18 stages 33, 34, 36, 51 themes 85 with couples 53 with families 110–11 with groups 51–3 with males 7 sandplay record form 117–18 sandtray 28, 88 Self 2, 25, 26, 27, 31, 34 self-awareness 10 self-disclosure 17 self-discovery 8, 13, 56 self-discovery questions 16, 19, 82 self-esteem 6, 17, 30, 67
General index


102 spiritual identity 38 spiritual impulses 26 supervision 83. 44 shelves 89 Signell 7 silence 19. 124 transformation 6. 51. 46. 22. 101 Teakle 23 Tears Into Diamonds program 21 television 97–8 temenos 39 Tereba 17 Time Travellers program 17 training 33. 95. 3. 100 speech disorder 16 spiritual direction 69. 83. 80. 35 Wells 8 Wilber 39 Wilson 132 World Technique 8. 29. 26. 49. 94–5 symbols 1. 22. 99–100.sexual abuse 22 shadow 5. 55 unconditional acceptance 28 validation of feelings 96 Vaney 20 Verney 40 Vinturella 16 visualisation 88 voice energy 85 Weinrib 24. 31. 42 transpersonal psychology 9. 26. 46 Zen Buddhism 9 Zinni 22 132 Sandplay and Symbol Work . 32. 89 symbol work about families 61 and creative writing 101 and dance 63 and emotional release 63 and relationships 61 and schools 61 and self-discovery 70 and spiritual direction 69 and storytelling 68 and supervision 94–5 and workplace conflict 65. 38–40 Transpersonal Sandplay Therapy Centre 124 trauma 14 trust 12. 25. 28. 33. 29.

. Sandplay & Symbol Work guides therapists. counsellors and psychologists in this breakthrough technique. children. Mark is the author of Emotional Release for Children (ACER Press. 1995). Therapists Mark Pearson and Helen Wilson present step-bystep exercises for practitioners to assist clients’ symbol work. it is a powerful form of self-expression and an important step towards personal healing.S andplay and symbol work are therapeutic tools for self-discovery and emotional healing. including full-colour photos of sandplay sessions. By arranging small objects in a sandtray. adolescents and adults can unlock the subconscious and reveal unspoken dilemmas. psychologists and psychotherapists in the use of sandplay therapy and symbol work of over 25 years. Sandplay & Symbol Work is an invaluable guide for counsellors wishing to explore this innovative technique and support others effectively in exploring their inner world. and their links to Jungian psychology. About the Authors: Mark Pearson and Helen Wilson have a combined experience of training counsellors. Also presented are: • the history of sandplay and symbol work techniques. Emotional Healing & Self-esteem (ACER Press. and • research literature on a variety of sandplay applications. For many people. 1998) and several books outlining emotional release counselling with adults. • methods to adapt the techniques to clients of all age groups and different settings. • case histories from the authors’ own field work.