Sandplay therapy is an efficient modality that provides:
• Direct access to the personal inner world of impulse and feeling. It provides access to the creative play world of childhood as well as a reasonably safe entry into the deeper archetypal realm, since it concretizes and delimits the archetypal language of images. It also acts as a mediator or bridge to the outer world.
• An instrument for the recovery of the specifically feminine dimension of the psyche.
• A means of repairing damage to the mother image that would otherwise impair fulfillment of the potential of the whole personality. It does this by reconstituting the mother child unity, which promotes the constellation of the Self, which is foundational to the development of a healthy ego.
• Activation of a natural, self-healing capacity of the psyche.
• A means of reaching and experiencing the transpersonal realm of the psyche. This regulates the ego and results in a more naturally balanced relationship between the ego and the Self.
• An opportunity for patients to communicate and express themselves through sand pictures.
• A re-channeling and/or transformation of blocked energy.
• A means of self-discovery and awakening of creative capacities with minimal influence by the therapist.
• An opportunity for creative non-rational experience as a counterweight to collective overemphasis on the ego-oriented intellect.
Sandplay therapy accelerates the individuation process since it appears to bypass, at least to some extent, resolution of complexes, integration of the shadow, and the differentiation of the negative and positive aspects of the animus/anima. It seems to move in a more direct line toward the constellation of the Self and the renewal of the ego.
Sandplay therapy is essentially an unconscious, or at some stages, a semi-conscious process. It has an almost magical attraction for children and a powerful efficacy. In childhood, the ego is naturally still largely contained in the unconscious out of which it slowly evolves. In children, the preponderance of the unconscious and the slow emergence of the ego is a normal, natural, autonomous development. Healing and the constellation and positive activation of the Self appears to provide a sound basis for the eventual natural emergence of a healthy ego and mature consciousness.
In a relatively short time, sandplay therapy enables some adults to go on with life with a new sense of inner support and trust in their own potentials. In these circumstances, it would be well to remember the necessity of finding a creative outlet for the energy released in the sandplay process. Otherwise, it may be dissipated in meaningless activity. It may be appropriated by an unresolved complex or by the ego, which then becomes unrealistically inflated.
I have noticed a phenomenon in my practice that seems to support the idea of sandplay as a healing modality. I have found that some adult patients who engage in sandplay successfully tend to lose intensity of interest in making sand pictures soon after a constellation of the Self and the emergence of a more stable ego. Except for moments of great emotional intensity or periods of transition, when they turn back to the sand trays, they become much more interested in analyzing their dreams, expanding and strengthening ego-consciousness and cognitive understanding, and in making concrete choices and decisions in their everyday lives. At this time, the process moves progressively towards concrete reality and everyday life, as the patient strives to integrate his or her therapeutic experience into life. It is as though the wounded child within has been healed and the patient now wishes to take up adult life in a more conscious way. It appears that the individuation process begins via sandplay on the non-verbal, matriarchal level and that it subsequently continues in a more cerebral and sensate way.
Sandplay heals wounds that have blocked normal development. It enables the constellation and positive activation of the Self. It enables the emergence of a stable ego, capable of relating equally to the outer, material and inner, spiritual worlds, to life in the here and now, and to the transpersonal dimension.It is a prime facilitator of the individuation process.
Adapted from: Estelle L Weinrib, The Sandplay Therapy Process, Images of the Self, Temenos Press, 2004, 103-106.