Thursday, January 15, 2015

[Guest Post] The Big WHY Behind the Power of Sandtray Therapy


So you’ve heard about sandtray therapy but aren’t sure if it REALLY works. I mean, it’s just playing in the sand right? Also, it’s not REALLY therapy- you don’t even know what’s going on during the session? And isn’t it just for kids?

I know, I’ve heard all of those (and even said them myself at one point). 

Rest easy though. I’m here to tell you WHY all of these beliefs are just a big ol’ pile of crap.

Know why? Because SCIENCE.

Science helps us understand ourselves and our brains better. I always like it when science helps explain something we already knew to be true. 

Like sandtray therapy. For years, we knew it worked but were not REALLY sure why it did. Kind of like gravity. Or weather systems. Or [insert natural phenomenon here]. 

We now can peek inside the brain with fMRI’s and understand how our brain processes information.  Information is processed first with pictures and THEN words and linguistics are attached to it. This makes sense if you think about it- we can process images WAY before we can words developmentally. 

I bet if you think about, this still happens. Ever seen a picture that affected you a certain way in your body and mind but struggled to put it into words?

That’s because information is processed first with pictures and images in the right part of our brain and this information may never get moved to the left part of the brain (where words happen).  The right side of the brain is where all of our early trauma lies as well as our feelings and emotions. 

Seems like the right side of the brain is where the big meat of the therapy stuff lies doesn’t it?

But yet, think about how we normally work in session. We talk left brain to left brain.  We try to get at those inner feelings and trauma that are hampering our client’s growth only through words. More often than not, we feel like we just can’t get what is really going on with just words and feel that there’s more we just can’t access.

It’s not you, it’s not your fault. You are just trying to get at information that isn’t stored with words. It’s like trying to dig a hole with half of a shovel. You may make progress and get there but it’s going to be tough going. 

I’m here to give you the entire shovel. Sandtray therapy is your shovel. It will make your life easier and it will allow you feel more confident in your ability to dig in and get at all of that feeling stuff buried in the right brain.

With sandtray therapy, you can access all of that therapy meat in the right part of the brain and heal it with using images AND words.  When we work in the sandtray, we are using both sides of our brain.  When we get both sides of the brain to come online together, the more our client’s brain integrates. More integration means faster, more powerful progress.

This integration is why adults working in the sandtray get better so much faster and get at insights they normally wouldn’t be able to access during just talk therapy.  It’s because the images in the sandtray naturally tap into the feelings part of the brain, allowing to go straight to the source, right brain to right brain. 

Healing happens right brain to right brain.

Kids naturally use their right hemisphere more during play so you may not get the stark difference you see with adults in the sandtray.  Sandtray therapy goes in the backdoor in the brain to get it ALL to come online so we as therapists can help heal ALL of the wounds, even the deep ones that are too scary to put into words.

Now, you can see that sandtray therapy isn’t just playing in the sand, for adults, or some kind of hocus-pocus.

It’s science. Sandtray therapy is a brain-informed method that works where our client’s hurt lies - in the right brain. 

To learn more about what sandtray therapy is and is not click here for a FREE webinar. It will answer all of those nagging questions, if you’re still not convinced. If you are, then you still need to watch it, it will only reinforce the truth of sandtray therapy’s awesomeness.

Comment below with any questions or observations you have about sandtray therapy. 

How have you experienced progress in therapy through experiential methods, such as sandtray?


Amy Flaherty, LPE-I, RPT has been working with in the outpatient setting for over 10 years and has been in private practice since 2007.  Since learning about sandtray therapy, it has become her passion.  She now has a training institute, Southern Sandtray Institute, where she trains other therapists in this powerful method.  To find out more about the program and if sandtray therapy is right for you click HERE to grab your free webinar about the 5 most common sandtray therapy myths.