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Sandplay and Symbol Work

Emotional Healing and Personal Development with Children, Adolescents and Adults

Sandplay and Symbol Work
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Around the walls of the sandplay room are shelves filled with small figurines: little people, animals, fish, birds, trees, buildings, military equipment, miniature household items, model cars, trucks, buses, flowers, jewels, skeletons, funny things, frightening things, endearing things, religious things, primitive dolls and much, much more. In the middle of this treasure trove of figurines – silently waiting to become symbols for our inner world – is a sandtray, similar to the ones we may have used in kindergarten. The sand calls out to be touched, moved, shaped. We may begin our session by arranging the sand – heaping it into hills and valleys, rivers or coastlines. We play and add figurines, gradually seeing them as representing our feelings, thoughts, attitudes, longings and unconscious drives. We may begin to understand ourselves more clearly, or we may simply begin to feel better. We share what we wish with the sandplay facilitator, and grow within the warmth of their acceptance. The figurines on the shelves can represent parts of ourselves; they become significant symbols for us as our inner meanings are projected onto them. As we look at the shelves we may feel that some of the symbols reach out. We might feel greatly repulsed or attracted – that’s usually a clue that a symbol is important. The repulsion or attraction can be an expression of the unconscious. Sometimes we will choose symbols to represent themes about which we are already conscious. At other times we simply allow the symbol to call us. We take the figurines that we like, and start to arrange them in the sand. We probably do not realise it at first, but the symbols stand out for us because something inside us resonates, recognises itself in them. When the sandplay figurines become symbols they begin to express the language of our unconscious. Connection to what is unconscious in us supports emotional healing and personal development. Sandplay is a hands-on, expressive counselling and psychotherapy modality that has been in use for well over fifty years. It has been used with children, adolescents and adults in schools, hospitals, welfare agencies and private counselling practices. It forms a bridge between verbal therapy and the expressive therapies, combining elements of both. Sandplay allows the deeper aspects of the psyche to be worked with naturally and in safety, and is highly effective in reducing the emotional causes of difficult behaviours. It can be used both for diagnosis and as a treatment, and to support the use of a variety of Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) modalities.
Australian Council for Educational Research; January 2001
149 pages; ISBN 9780864313409
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