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  • Writer's pictureJulie Galloway, LPC-RPT

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo...Sandtray is for You- The Magical World of Sandtray Therapy

There is something about Disney's Cinderella that has captured hearts since 1950. The story is one that shares a tale of a girl with a gentle and forgiving heart that overcomes adversity of a difficult family with the help of a magical fairy godmother. The story is a dreamy tale of timeless lessons in bravery, resilience and kindness.

When I think of Sandtray Therapy, I think its magical and dreamy, too! And maybe...just maybe I see myself as a Fairy Godmother, with the spirit of optimism and hope, sprinkled with a bit of wisdom to gently guide you through the magical world of Sandtray.

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo...6 Magical Connections from Cinderella to Sandtray to YOU

  1. Show kindness to yourself and others

  2. Don't let setbacks stop you

  3. Transformations can come from something simple

  4. Dreaming is allowed..always

  5. Be brave and believe

  6. When the shoe fits

It's true...Sandtray Therapy is an approach that fosters lessons from Cinderella because it helps my clients learn self-reflection skills, provides resilience training, and give opportunities to practice bravery and self compassion.

Sandtray Therapy is appropriate for children, tweens, teens and adults. It's effective in individual, family and couples therapy, too.

I believe in the magic of Sandtray Therapy. It's not something all therapists know or feel comfortable using. Those who know will most likely say its magical. I use Sandtray Therapy in my practice because I am aware of its ability to heal and it's power to invite growth and learning. I know it works because I have seen clarity through connections too many times to count. I've also witnessed tears of relief and smiling faces during the processing phase of the session. And almost every one of my clients say "I didn't expect to say so much."

1. Kindness

Sandtray is a hands on approach that is full sensory experience. The experience allows you to shut off your thinking brain and just create. Our conscious and unconscious mind are often at war, Sandtray Therapy integrates the two with a mission to resolve and find solutions (on their own) which empowers clients.

The feel of sand brings our nervous system to a relaxed state. The use of miniatures takes us back to a pre-verbal stage in life when our only true form of communication was using toys and play. During Sandtray Therapy, we are using our right brain (images, creativity, playfulness) which researchers have identified as the area of the brain most likely available for healing to occur.

2. Don't let setbacks stop you

Through Sandtray Therapy we are using stories to share our struggle, providing the psychological distance needed to safely see our problems. For teens, using sandtray allows the opportunity to verbalize feelings freely and safely. For couples and families, the sandtray provides the opportunity to use the miniatures as their voice. It's connecting in a space that is safe and protected with no judgment to create a concrete manifestation of the struggle. Plus, research indicates that Sandtray Therapy reduces symptoms that are associated with mental health issues and increases resilience.

3. Transformations from something simple

Cinderella said it best "If there is any chance to set things right, I simply got to try."

This approach to therapy uses simple materials to provide the means to create amazing stories to share. My Sandtray is on wheels and is filled with fine granular sand. The miniatures I use in sessions are stored in a large cabinet arranged in themes and categories. Miniatures range from trees, fences, bridges, furniture, superheroes, animals, objects and symbols. My collection of miniatures is ever growing as I find new and old pieces that might bring more magic and meaning. (I have yet to meet a play therapist that feels like they have enough stuff).

4. Dreaming out loud

My clients are given a prompt or a directive that is associated with a therapeutic goal for the session. This prompt can be specific or broad and often I give a choice of prompts to empower my clients to choose the direction of the experience. Example prompt might be "Create a tray that represents your perfect world."

I invite my clients to choose miniatures needed to create their scene or story. Clients will place the miniatures in the sandtray with purpose while I observe the choices and arrangement of the miniatures. The experience is usually without interruptions therefore, allowing clients to engage in the activity without hesitation or need of assistance. There is no right or wrong because its their dream, their own unique story to share.

5. Be Brave and Believe

After the tray is completed, discussions range from the arrangement to symbolic and metaphoric meanings of the miniatures used to create the scene. We then navigate around the tray looking for connections and resolve. During the discussions, I witness more engagement in a wondering or what if approach for problem solving. I highly encourage my clients to name their tray as a way to summarize the experience.

Reflections on the tray, can be used in additional sessions as a reference to or a build upon. Often the meaningful miniatures are used from tray to tray to connect the lessons or growth learned through therapy.

When the shoe fits

Finding the magic is in the process that Sandtray Therapy creates...a magical place where explorations and struggles are not dependent on mere words but on images that tell stories for others to understand. The journey is unique, just like each sandtray created. The power lies in the unveiling of the client's own work and the unfolding that gives way to understanding.

Maybe the Fairy Godmother's role is as simple as holding on to hope until the story gets its own way...for the happily ever after.

For more information or to book a sandtray session call Galloway Counseling Services at 337-258-5199 or visit us at

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