Exploring the Self through Jungian Sandplay Therapy

Hugh is currently a Candidate in Training with the British & Irish Sandplay Society as a Jungian Sandplay Therapist.  As a UKCP Registered Clinical Psychotherapist and Fellow of the National Counselling Society, Hugh, has taken his training and development very seriously.  In recent years he has noticed the need for clients to explore the depths of their psyche.  Quick fixes aren't enough for a lot of people presenting for help and understanding.  People are looking at their symptoms and asking the question 'why do I have this......?' and are maybe going along for short term therapy in the hope that it will help and subsequently discovering that the symptoms return.

Throughout his training, Hugh, found an affinity with Carl Jung and his exploration of the psyche.  Jung's approach holds understanding and answers around how sometimes our symptoms are a result of our not expressing the true nature of who we are.  His positive approach to the realisation that sometimes we have symptoms because the Self, deep within us, wants to express more of it's potential, to manifest itself in our world, thus allowing us to become more whole in the world.

Yes, of course, our experiences are there and seek our attention to be resolved, yet if we look at our story through the frame of what is blocking us from becoming more present to ourselves, our loved ones, our career and to the world, then we begin to see that working through these layers allows us to find a truth deep within.

Having a purpose within the context of Psychotherapy, helps us commit and engage to our growth and development.  The experience of our inner world also seeks a voice and a vehicle of expression.  In Jungian Sandplay Therapy we find this vehicle through the objects on the shelves and the sandtray itself.  The objects and the sand, help us put words and expression, symbolically, on senses and experiences beyond the realm of spoken language.  We find that issues that were haunting us or stuck, become resolved through the process.  Experiencces, that we could not fathom from childhood become resolved and the energy freed up to grow and develop our lives.


"The client is given the possibility by means of figures and by the arrangement of the sand within the area bounded by the sandtray to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three dimensional form and in a pictorial world that is comparable to the dream experienced”

Dora Kalff 1986

What is Jungian Sandplay?

Jungian Sandplay or 'Sandplay' first emerged as a therapeutic method in the 1950s. Having studied the 'World Technique' as developed by the English psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld, Dora Kalff a Jungian Analyst, saw its potential for further application though the lense of Jungian psychology. Supported and encouraged by Carl Jung, she spent a number of years developing this method and called it 'Sandplay'. In 1962 Kalff, fluent in a number of languages, began to train therapists, starting with Jungian Analysts in America and later travelling to a number of other countries. Among the tenets of Sandplay, she viewed that the sandtray, the objects and the therapeutic holding provide a ‘free and protected space' within which deep layers of self-healing can take place. Both Kalff and Jung believed that an image could offer greater therapeutic engagement and insight than words alone. Jungian Sandplay is a therapeutic method that offers clients a way to connect with deeper levels of their experience, developmental need and the healthy integration of the fracturing impact of trauma. Through this method new areas of awareness can be brought into consciousness, stimulated by the broader sensory experience of working with sand and objects, and their symbolic resonance. Like dreams, which through their scenes and story can give us insight into unconscious possibility, Sandplay scenes similarly include forms, figures and actions that can be symbolically explored. In conclusion Sonu Shamdasani editor of Jung's Red Book writes as follows:

"....historical reflection suggests the spirit of Jung's practice of the image, his engagement with his own figures, is indeed more alive in Sandplay than in other Jungian conclaves." Shamdasani, S, (2015). "Jung's Practice of the Image". Journal of Sandplay Therapy, 24, 1.


The Sandplay Process

Jungian Sandplay therapy may be offered in conjunction with talk based therapy. It can be uniquely helpful when words fail to get to the heart of the true experience a client may be wrestling with, or  when something intuitive arises that may require tactile exploration or symbolic / non-verbal expression. By using miniature figurines and sand to create pictures in a small sandtray and inviting symbolic possibility, unconscious contents can become visible and the innate healing capacity of the psyche is activated. Sandplay is primarily a non-directive, creative form of therapy using the imagination. Jung (1963) referred to the importance, from a therapeutic point of view, of finding the image that lies behind the emotion. A series of sandplay images portrayed in the sandtray creates an ongoing dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the client's psyche, which activates a healing process and the further development of one’s individual sense of self.

Jungian Sandplay is often sought by people who wish to discover more about their own sense of self, identity and, purpose. It is available to anyone who would like to explore their inner world more creatively and to those who find talk-based therapy inadequate in meeting their particular needs. It may be of particular interest to people who experience a level of disillusionment or loss of connection with the world around them. Because it offers access to deeper, collective layers of human experience and meaning, such as myth, fairy tale and spirituality, Jungian Sandplay can provide effective therapeutic support in working with the more difficult human feelings such as hopelessness, despair and futility and also where individuals may fear feeling uncontained or overwhelmed.Jung’s insistence on an innate sense of wholeness within the human psyche provides an important antidote and sense of hope to those who feel fragmented or vulnerable. The amazing capacity of Sandplay to provide an inner and outer space and a symbolic language for healing and wholeness has often been witnessed and wondered at, by those therapists who are privileged to use this methodology.

(British & Irish Society of Sandplay Therapists.)


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