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Sandtray Therapy for Adults

Sandtray therapy gives therapists insight into clients’ worlds and helps “express their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories in a safe, therapeutic environment” (Saltis et al., 2019, p. 381). It can result in clients learning new solutions, being open to ambiguity, and self-reflection. It can be an excellent tool for those struggling with verbalization and prefer something more hands-on. The therapeutic process allows clients to self-regulate before jumping into a rapid process where they are emotionally overwhelmed too quickly. Clients can physically and non-verbally portray their inner world and communicate to their therapist how they feel and what they are experiencing internally.

Although sandtray therapy is often used in play therapy for children, it can also be a great

tool for traumatized adults. Military veterans are often associated with traumatic experiences and aftermath. Those experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms have limited activity in the part of their brain responsible for verbalization. They then experience hyperarousal, which triggers the “fight or flight” response, making it much more difficult to verbalize their trauma (Popejoy et al., 2021). In their research, Popejoy et al. (2021) found that when demonstrating sandtray with veterans, the processing and scenes shown by each participant aligned with emotions and symptomology outlined in the DSM-5. The researchers found recurring themes of responsibility, order, betrayal, attachment and connection, and injustice with participants.


Popejoy, E., Perryman, K., & Broadwater, A. (2020). Processing military combat trauma through Sandtray therapy: A phenomenological study. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health,

Saltis, M. N., Critchlow, C., & Smith, J. A. (2019). Teaching Through Sand: Creative

Applications of Sandtray Within Constructivist Pedagogy. Journal of Creativity in Mental

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