Sand Therapy Integrated with Play Therapy: Theory and Application

Program Goals:

This course will explore the assessment and therapeutic potential of sand therapy integrated with play therapy, reviewing the theoretical models of Lowenfeld and Kalff.  Information will be provided on necessary equipment for conducting sand therapy in the context of a play therapy practice, and primary emphasis will be placed on experiential opportunities “reading sandtrays,” as well as the therapy posture of the play therapist and a range of possible ways to process trays. Incorporating sand with play therapy will be highlighted, specifically how thematic material gleened fro the sandtray can be processed using directive and nondirective play therapy techniques.  Specifically, the program goals are to:

  • Provide opportunities for experiential learning
  • Review the theoretical models for sand therapy
  • Help participants understand the potential for symbolic communication in sand therapy as well as other play therapy techniques
  • Provide guidelines for observing and documenting sandtrays and defining the thematic material shown in the sand
  • Discuss how symbol language is incorporated and promotes therapy goals using sand and play therapy
  • Discuss overall play therapy and sand therapy techniques and their compatibility theory
  • Discuss the integration of sand therapy with other play therapy techniques
  • Provide information on the selection and placement of miniatures; height and dimensions of sandtrays; and other basic information including categories of miniatures, recording sand tray information, and developing questions and observations for identifying or promoting treatment goals


The specific objectives of this course are for participants to gain and demonstrate the following content areas:

  1. Define sand therapy and sand play
  2. List two ways to incorporate sand therapy into a general play therapy practice
  3. List two compatibilities between sand therapy theory and play therapy theory
  4. Name two sand therapy theories and specify whether they are directive and nondirective
  5. Name two play therapy theories and define whether they are directive and nondirective
  6. List three ways you can transfer the thematic material in the sand tray to other play therapy activities
  7. Name three variables to reading sand trays
  8. Discuss two gender specific differences in sand trays and how those will influence choice of play therapy techniques

Program Schedule:

The daily schedule will consist of experiential work, group processing, and didactic presentations.  Participants are welcome to: 1) bring case presentations and/or slides with specific consultation questions; 2) present a portion of a videotaped session with a client specifying the question of concern; or 3) raise general questions about the practice of sand therapy.

Day One:  Experiential

  • Introductions and needs assessment: “Your wish list”
  • Experiential work: Individual and group sand worlds

Day Two and Three:  The Basics, Processing, and Research

  • Basic Principles of Sand Therapy: Setting the context (props and miniatures) and making choices about how to incorporate sand into a play therapy practice
  • Defining how play and sand therapy practices are compatible and how they can utilize directive and nondirective approaches;
  • The process of “reading” sandtrays and sand therapy process, identifying thematic material, and addressing themes through general play therapy
  • Individual and stylistic differences and symbol communication in children utilizing sand and play therapies
  • Looking for energy spots, signs of resiliency, signs of conflict expressed in the sand box and identifying consistency with general play therapy themes
  • Documenting sandtrays through photo, written descriptions, orsketches
  • Developing therapeutic dialogues consistent with play therapy approaches on the directive/nondirective continuum: Engaging left-brain activity and body movement
  • Using sand therapy material to construct and promote play therapy goals and to inform the use of collateral activities
  • Learning to respond to symbolic communication in play and sand therapies in open-ended ways
  • Countertransferential material and self-care for play therapists utilizing symbol work: client versus therapist attribution of meaning
  • Resources for play therapy, sand therapy, and symbols
  • This course is designed to facilitate group discussion and processing by having a limited size (Maximum 25 participants). There will be ample opportunities to discuss specific needs and concerns.
  • The schedule may be altered slightly if needed. However, written or lecture information will be presented in all content areas.  Each participant will receive a power point presentation, and other resource information.
  • Starbright Training Institute for Child and Family Play Therapy
  • Is an approved provider for the Association for Play Therapy. This course provides 18 continuing education hours and the STI provider number with APT is # 96-029.  STI maintains responsibility for the program.This intensive training is conducted in affiliation with Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, LLC.