If you are interested in sandplay therapy training, you have probably looked at a number of different courses and seen sandplay described as Jungian in most places and integrative in a few. What’s the difference?
Sandplay sprang up organically when therapists working in London in the early twentieth century began to notice their young clients putting ornaments and toys into the sandboxes they had in their rooms. Old-fashioned sandboxes – the kind that have spades and water in them – that we remember fondly from nursery school. The children in counselling were beginning to use the sand, box and figures as a way of telling their stories.
Jungian sandplay was developed by Dora Kalff (based on Margaret Lowenfeld’s World Technique) as a way of using sand to access what her teacher Carl Jung called the ‘Collective Unconscious’ i.e. a DNA bank of stories, myths, feelings and experiences that we all have (that people have always had) by nature of being human. The belief in Jungian sandplay is that the act of play in front of a kind witness in the form of a therapist is in itself the healing act. The symbols (you will also hear them called figurines or miniatures), the sand trays, the sand and the counsellor will amplify the play and activate the soul’s natural desire to heal. So, Jungian sandplay takes place in a quiet space.
And in integrative sandplay, that’s also the major part of our therapy. We honour the process, witness and allow the client (child or adult) to choose their own pace and style of play. But we can – when appropriate – bring in other skills too.
Melanie Klein – a contemporary of Lowenfeld and Kalff – was also interested in play therapy, though sandplay was not something that either she or subsequent psychodynamic therapists went on to develop. It seems to me that for a long time, sandplay wasn’t seen as proper therapy and was put aside (at least in the UK) for far too long. And that’s why most sandplay therapists have a Jungian sandplay therapy training : it was followers of Jung that made the most of the synergy between creativity, the kind witness and the Collective Unconscious.
But if you watch sandplay clients at work, they often get symbols or figures to ‘talk’ to each other in the way that their mother or father spoke to them. They also use symbols as different ‘parts’ of themselves, for example an angry part might talk as a dinosaur to a fairy, which could be the part that wanted everything to be ok. I began to wonder if therapists could encourage these inter-symbolic dialogues with gentle questioning and engagement. This has obvious resonances with the way that relational therapists work, and with the work that trauma counsellors do around identifying and integrating ‘parts’.
For me, the strength of working in an integrative way is that it allows me, when appropriate, to engage with the client using the transference and countertransference in the room, whilst remaining led by and attuned to my client. I believe there is a lot to be gained by at least understanding and possibly incorporating techniques from different schools of thought – the immediacy and presence of Gestalt, for example, is a revelation seen in sandplay.
That’s why we integrate teaching from a wide range of psychotherapeutic and spiritual traditions. Sandplay training needs to teach skills for all kinds of therapeutic environments. But, as the therapeutic repertoire grows more complex, especially the trauma world, remember that the creativity and natural integration of our little sandboxes have so much to contribute.
You can find details of our Introduction to Sandplay, Certificate in Integrative Sandplay and Diploma in Integrative Sandplay training courses at www.jillcartertraining.co.uk. The next introduction is in February 2019 in Ealing. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.