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SANDPLAY IN TRAUMA HEALING - Elizabeth R Lyons - balance
 
 
 
introduction continued..
 
Sandplay has much in common with art therapy, while potentially allowing for a unique flexibility and richness of unfolding process. A client may, for instance, create a static or moving three dimensional world or even a series of worlds in any one session. They may create their sand pictures in a completely spontaneous way, and there is also scope for the creation of specific focus trays at certain times. Some examples of specific focus trays, through which the client might be invited to express their current front issue, include those with a single theme (such as "safety", "my resources & strengths", or "identity") and those which highlight positive differences (such as "past v/s present").
 
Sandplay can be a powerful and safe complement to verbal processing in trauma therapy. Within the context of a truly free and protected space, it can become a non-threatening symbolic language for the communication of what might otherwise remain "unspeakable truths". Clients sometimes place the sandtray miniatures to show actual trauma memories in a safely contained "miniaturised" form. When combined with body-awareness, most of the senses are involved in this sandplay expression, which is consistent with what we know of the nature of traumatic memory storage and processing. Over time, sandplay can facilitate a client's ability to safely access this nonverbal information, and then to integrate this with a life-affirming verbal narrative.

Sandtray work is essentially nonverbal (at least initially) and so can provide clients with a useful bridge across the limitations of verbally-based therapies. Sandplay can be used to free creative inner resources and to express feelings, perceptions and nonverbal memories bringing these into a contained space for processing and healing. As such, it can provide a powerful modality when used in a safe therapy context by clients whose verbal and cognitive skills might otherwise form an internal barrier to safely feeling and processing trauma memories. Most trauma survivors experience some form of (protective) dissociation from traumatic memories, and may also have absorbed messages to shut off feelings, to think rationally and linearly, and to conform and repress imaginative processes. The best evidence suggests that each of these factors reinforces a right/left brain split - in sandplay terms, a split between the traumatised self v/s the logical persona. "Flashbacks" of trauma demonstrate this split between the part/s of the person experiencing the traumatic memories as though still occurring in the present with all their sensory terror and panic, and the part of the person who knows the trauma is now in the past.

Sandplay allows the invisible, unknown, and dissociated (repressed) aspects of trauma and the traumatised self to safely be given symbolic form and be witnessed, and so can help the person to heal the imprint of trauma within the innermost psyche, - the person's feeling core.

Sandplay has been described as a "bridge to the unconscious" and as a "garden for the soul". It provides an "in-between-space", where the link/connection between a client's inner and outer life can express itself and develop strength. (In trauma therapy terms, the connection/integration between the "experiencing self" and the "observing self"). Sandplay can help clients link their inner worlds to their outer worlds, their nonverbal processes to their verbal processes. their experience to their growing awareness.

Sandplay has much in common with art therapy, while potentially allowing for a unique flexibility and richness of unfolding process. A client may, for instance, create a static or moving three dimensional world or even a series of worlds in any one session. They may create their sand pictures in a completely spontaneous way, and there is also scope for the creation of specific focus trays at certain times. Some examples of specific focus trays, through which the client might be invited to express their current front issue, include those with a single theme (such as "safety", "my resources & strengths", or "identity") and those which highlight positive differences (such as "past v/s present").

Why sandplay as an adjunct to therapy for trauma survivors?

... because sandplay reflects commonly recognised principles of trauma healing:

Sandplay is intrinsically respectful of trauma survivors' inner wisdom and inner processes as they are in complete control of their own sandplay creations and the uniquely individual meanings of their creations. The sandplay itself is usually experienced as non-threatening and relaxing, and there is no therapist agenda imposed, nor any pressure to "do" anything (just an invitation to play/create a picture). The safety of this modality can help the client create a sense of safe containment of traumatic material within the boundaries of the tray. By readily allowing for change in the representation of the inner reality, over time sandplay can also facilitate the ability to transform the experiential reality, whenever ready.

Sometimes one picture is worth 1,000 words!:

Sandplay can be a powerful and safe complement to verbal processing in trauma therapy. Within the context of a truly free and protected space, it can become a non-threatening symbolic language for the communication of what might otherwise remain "unspeakable truths". Clients sometimes place the sandtray miniatures to show actual trauma memories in a safely contained "miniaturised" form. When combined with body-awareness, most of the senses are involved in this sandplay expression, which is consistent with what we know of the nature of traumatic memory storage and processing. Over time, sandplay can facilitate a client's ability to safely access this nonverbal information, and then to integrate this with a life-affirming verbal narrative.

Sandplay as a bridge to healing:

As work in the sandtray is essentially nonverbal (at least initially), it can provide clients with a useful bridge across the limitations of verbally-based therapies. Sandplay can be used to free creative inner resources and to express feelings, perceptions and nonverbal memories, bringing these into a contained space for processing and healing. As such, it can provide a powerful modality when used in a safe therapy context by clients whose verbal and cognitive skills might otherwise form an internal barrier to safely feeling and processing trauma memories. Most trauma survivors experience some form of (protective) dissociation from traumatic memories, and may also have absorbed messages to shut off feelings, to think rationally and linearly, and to conform and repress imaginative processes. The best evidence we have suggests that each of these factors reinforces a right/left brain split - in sandplay terms, a split between the traumatised self v/s the logical persona. "Flashbacks" of trauma demonstrate this split between the part/s of the person experiencing the traumatic memories as though still occurring in the present with all their sensory terror and panic, and the part of the person who knows the trauma is now in the past.

Sandplay allows the invisible, unknown, and dissociated (repressed) aspects of trauma and the traumatised self to safely be given symbolic form and be witnessed, and so can help the person to heal the imprint of trauma within the innermost psyche, - the person's feeling core.

Sandplay has been described as a "bridge to the unconscious" and as a "garden for the soul". It provides an "in-between-space", where the link/connection between a client's inner and outer life can express itself and develop strength. (In trauma therapy terms, the connection/integration between the "experiencing self" and the "observing self"). Sandplay can help clients link their inner worlds to their outer worlds, their nonverbal processes to their verbal processes. their experience to their growing awareness.

The sandtray is always available in the therapy room, and can be used whenever clients want to use it, for instance to help strengthen a sense of inner safety and control, to unblock inner processes, to express the unspeakable, to help resolve inner conflicts or JUST TO PLAY!



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