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Sandplay is a non-verbal psychotherapeutic tool used with adults and children. This symbolic form of therapy was developed by the late Swiss psychotherapist Dora Kalff, after Carl Jung encouraged her to pursue therapeutic work with children.
In London the child psychiatrist Margaret Lowenfeld had been pioneering the healing potential of play for children and developed what she called the World Technique, a therapeutic method whereby children used miniature figures and sand to make scenes in a tray. Jung suggested that Kalff study with Lowenfeld, which she did for a year in 1956, as well as studying with British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott.
Dora Kalff added to Lowenfeld's basic approach her own background in Eastern Philosophy and her theoretical studies at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Kalff's approach rested on the basic hypothesis postulated by Jung that there is a fundamental drive toward healing in the human psyche. She recognised that the images created by children in the sand correspond to the inner psychic processes of individuation described by Jung. Kalff developed her own method of working and called it sandplay.
In sandplay the client is given the possibility, by means of figures, small objects and the sand in an area bounded by the sandbox, to set up a three dimensional image corresponding to his or her internal state. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation is stimulated and becomes visible.
Kalff also saw that sandplay was also applicable for adults. By creating their inner images in the sand, adult clients experienced positive changes, particularly in the area of their feelings and outlook on life. Dora Kalff's book ‘Sandplay - A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Psyche’ reprinted by Temenos Press in 2003 remains a classic exposition of her ideas and work.