Sand Tray Therapy

People often come to therapy because aspects of their life are feeling out of balance or disconnected. They feel stuck and struggle to see beyond their current circumstances.

Sand Tray generates imagery, metaphor and greater understanding of the interconnections between different facets of experience. This brings greater understanding, and a vantage point for seeing the bigger picture of life to what else is possible. Simply put, to get unstuck and restore connection and balance: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

What is Sand Tray Therapy?

In Sand Tray Therapy, clients construct a ”world” with their hands, within a tray of neutral or coloured sand, using miniature figures, natural elements and art materials. This world is a microcosm of their inner world. They get to see the relationships between people and things, and move them around. This created world acts as a tangible reflection of their own life, giving them an opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and to connect to their inner beings as they are witnessed and supported by an experienced therapist.

Often, people are able to manifest in Sand Tray things they would otherwise not be able to vocalize or address in traditional therapy. Sand Tray is particularly useful for accessing and working through traumatic memories, even preverbal or unspoken ones, in a way that feels contained and supported.

As a Sand Tray therapist, Bonney does not interpret or analyze people’s worlds. She sits with clients and asks questions to take them deeper into their experience, like you might ask an artist about their painting. It is a powerful and potentially healing process.

Who is Sand Tray Therapy for?

People come to Sand Tray Therapy in different ways.

One-off Sand Tray sessions
Clients who are seeing Bonney for talk therapy may choose to do a one-off Sand Tray session, to go deeper into a particular area, often an area where they are stuck. For example, women struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety who discover, as the depression lifts, that they are still having trouble getting beyond their traumatic experiences around pregnancy and giving birth. Sand Tray helps them to tell their story visually and see it from multiple perspectives, which can help translate their experience into words, to process and find meaning.

Sand Tray only therapy
Other clients come solely for Sand Tray work, either once in awhile or for a few back to back sessions to work on a particular issue. The beauty of Sand Tray is that each session is contained. Bonney takes pictures of their trays at different stages of building, and encourages them to go home and write or draw or dream about the experience.

Sand Tray Therapy for Couples / Families
Building a Sand Tray together can be a powerful medium for couples or families wanting to bridge their worlds or shift them apart in a respectful way. It can be equally powerful to witness the world of a child or partner. It can be incredible to see the wisdom and clarity of a child’s inner world, way beyond their vocabulary to express.

Sand Tray Therapy for work-related issues
Sand Tray is a wonderful therapy for clients who are feeling burnt out in their work, and/or want to vision changes in their work life, particularly in conjunction with other approaches such as career counselling, talk therapy and self-care and healing modalities to strengthen the nervous system and relax the musculature. In her practice, Bonney integrates Sand Tray with Mindfulness, Narrative Therapy and Somatic Experiencing Therapy. Everything in our lives takes space, and sometimes work takes more space than it should. Playing in the sand is relaxing and evocative of the broader natural world of childhood and beach holidays. It can be quite illuminating to see where the work sphere sits within the context of the other realms of life. Surveying the visual scene they have created, clients are often surprised at just how much time and energy their work is taking, and infiltrating into other aspects of life. A few things often start to happen at this point. The world builder may start to shift objects around a bit, removing some, creating boundaries or space around others. More breathing room is created in their world, more balance.

Sand Tray in clinical supervision and other clinicians
Bonney uses Sand Tray in clinical supervision and with counselling colleagues and other clinicians or artists who may be feeling stuck in their work with clients or who want to deepen their intuitive processes using sand tray with other therapists. It is a lovely way to “talk” about their work without having to share confidential details. Themes emerge. Shifts happen.

Sand Tray Therapy for conferences and retreats
The Sand Tray medium is well suited for intra-disciplinary case conferences and clinical supervision. Rather than presenting a client case, a clinician can illustrate the client’s world by building it, populating it with the people and issues in their lives, and moving things around. It is a moving, three-dimensional story board, much richer than pen and ink. Similarly, Sand Tray lends itself to group visioning work in an organization. It can be used as a drawing board for more global ideas and concepts.

Bonney has facilitated staff retreats where each person adds their pieces to a shared tray, which provides the opportunity to look at how teams work together and what kind of spaces are needed individually and collectively to function.

Let’s make something beautiful together.

Get in touch

Bonney Elliott
Psychotherapy & Clinical Consulting
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

109 Fourth Ave.
Ottawa, ON K1S 2L3

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