Sand therapy, a Jungian sandbox, playing with sand, kinesthetic sand, sand painting are just a few of the uses of sand for “working” with children who are heard now and are so easily confused by parents. Despite the use of the same material, they differ significantly in their goals and results.
If playing with sand or drawing on sand can be attributed more likely to developmental activities, then sand therapy is always a deep psychological work. And psychotherapy begins where a psychological problem arises.
If the family cannot cope with the difficulties of the child on its own and the efforts of the parents are ineffective, this may be an indication for accessing a child psychotherapist.
At the beginning of the last century, psychoanalysts encountered difficulties in working with children who could not express their concern or describe the problem in words. It’s common for a small child to express himself through the game, because playing is the most natural activity for him.
By writing plots and performing various actions with game figures, the kid can express his experiences: anxiety, anger, fears. A psychologist, watching the child’s play, notes the peculiarities of the child’s behavior, his needs, reactions, attitude to various subjects.
The history of the development of the sand therapy method originates from the work of the English psychologist Margaret Lowenfeld, the founder of the London Institute of Child Psychology: it was she who decided to put the game figures in the sand. Children, with whom Margaret worked, lined up on the sand plot pictures and called it “My World”.
Thus, the name of the new technique “Technique of the World”, the progenitor of sand therapy, appeared.
In the late 50s of the 20th century, a Swiss Jungian analyst, child psychotherapist Dora Calf, a student of Carl Gustav Jung, combined the “Technique of the World” method with a Jungian analytic trend, devising proper sand therapy. She found that the pictures created with the help of sand and small figures reflect the thoughts and inner experiences of the child.
Here is what Dora wrote in her book Sandplay: “The unconscious problem is played out in a sandbox like a drama, the conflict is transferred from the inner world to the outer world and is made visible.”
In order for the child to be able to effectively express his emotional state, to “transfer” him from the inside to the outside, we need certain images and symbols. The plots, built by the kid in the sandbox, are just them.
Playing with the sand, the child gains experience – albeit symbolic – in resolving a variety of difficult situations. After some time, he will be ready to apply it in everyday life.
Sometimes a child is too “overflowed” with his experiences or, on the contrary, so devastated that it interferes with his development. Expressing himself on an unconsciously-symbolic level through playing in the sandbox, the kid frees up his inner space for himself, comes into contact with what it is difficult to find words and becomes “healthier” psychologically. Parental divorce, neurosis, fear, psychosomatic diseases – such non-child problems sometimes await the child, depriving him of feelings of security and traumatizing the psyche.
In a little world, bounded by the walls of a sand tray, manipulating figures, building and destroying, as if recreating experiences in a three-dimensional game space, he controls the situation, loses conflicts, without fear expresses his anger and sometimes does what he wouldn’t dare in everyday life .
But not only negative experiences are transferred to the “sand world”! In the same way, positive feelings and emotions can be given, the expression of which is difficult for some reason in the family (for example, tenderness or affection).
What is the uniqueness of sand for children’s self-expression? After all, a child with the same success can draw their experiences or sculpt them out of clay!
The fact is that sand is an amazing natural material in its properties. It is pleasant to the touch, loose and soft, the sand changes color depending on whether it is wet or dry.
Sand gives inexhaustible opportunities for creativity: it can be given various forms, moistened with water or poured. In addition, it is familiar and understandable to children, because their first “big” walks begin with the sandbox. Finally, sand does not require special skills, unlike drawing, modeling and other types of creativity.
Therefore, the method of sand therapy is quite universal. Even if a child has developmental disorders (including intellectual ones), he speaks little or badly, any creative self-expression causes him anxiety and fear of failure, playing with sand becomes an accessible and simple way of psychological help.
Jung argued that such actions release blocked energy and “activate the possibilities of self-healing inherent in the human psyche.”
In the office of the psychoanalyst quartz sand is mainly used: it is uniform, very beautiful, soft and tender to the touch. The sand is placed in two special trays – sandboxes – of standard size. The bottom and sides of the sandboxes are always painted blue, which imitates water and sky.
By the way, real water can be used in the work: with its help, sand is given various forms. In addition to trays of sand, a specialist always has a large collection of figures: people and animals, household items, vehicles, mythological characters and fabulous creatures.
Toys should be different in material, texture, color!
And in such a special atmosphere, the psychotherapist invites the child to try to build his own world, to act as the creator and director of his own reality. It is believed that the game with sand cannot be interpreted out loud, and the psychoanalyst in the process of work rather plays the role of an attentive viewer.
He leads a protocol in which he enters the features of the child’s “work” in the sandbox: the used figures (each selected figure embodies some important character or reflects the child’s current state), the arrangement and fullness of the sandbox space, the construction of the landscape.
The psychoanalyst puts in this protocol a series of photographs of sandboxes, each of which reflects changes in the child’s psychological state. At the same time, he seems to be “listening” to the child’s play and creates a safe space for the expression of his various feelings.
Creating such conditions and building a special relationship with a small “patient” in this case is the professional task of a specialist.
One of the main features of sand therapy is that it does not imply a direct impact on the problem. It is rather a harmonization of the emotional state of the child as a whole. Moreover, the process can be long, difficult and uneven.
When a child first encounters with complex experiences, he is not always able to immediately “make friends” with them and adequately express them. For example, a shy and obedient child may surprise their parents with too much sudden protest.
And the fact that for himself and the psychoanalyst can be a joyful symptom of “healing”, parents can be alarmed or cause a feeling of confusion, because the child’s habitual behavior can change significantly. Parents need to be prepared for these changes and try to support the baby.
The success of psychotherapy also depends on how much the parent is ready to support and accept, change himself and build new relationships with the child.
Books that tell you how to play with sand:
- N. Kuzub, E. Osipuk, “Visiting the Sand Fairy” (“Speech”)
- T. Zinkevich-Evstigneeva, “Playing with sand. Workshop on sand therapy “(” Speech “)
- N. Sakovich, “The technology of the game in the sand. Games on the bridge “(” Speech “)
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