Excerpted from Sandplay, The Sacred Healing, A Guide to Symbolic Process
by Katie Amatruda, PsyD, MFT, ISST and Phoenix Helm Simpson, LMFT

Therapy can happen anywhere as long as it is a safe place for the client and therapist.  With sandplay, however, specific guidelines will have to be followed.  Whether in private practice, community clinics, schools, hospitals or shelters, look for the following:
* sand tray and collection of toys
* orientation training for staff who will use them, including personal sandplay experience.
* a safe place for conducting sessions.


 The sand
 Sand can be found at beaches or purchased at lumber yards.  If you get it from the beach, rinse it many times, as the salt will corrode the paint on the inside of the box.  For purchased sand, grade 30 is best - fine-grained, but moldable.

 A good thing to keep in mind in collecting figures is that you want a wide range of objects; the ideal (and impossible) collection contains:
  everything that is in the world

  everything that has been
  everything that can be.
Another good guideline is to allow yourself to be chosen by your collection.  This is the same process we ask our clients to do, so it is a good practice for us.  You may be surprised at what figures want to be in your tray collection.  Try to give yourself permission to get "oddball", oversize and strange figures.  This models for the client the expressiveness of the psyche.  Take time to bond with your collection, as this seems to affect how frequently clients (especially adults) use it.  No matter what the setting, get to know the toys, what they evoke in you, what memories they bring up, how you feel around them.

 Budgets are often limited in various settings.  Try to have a general collection that includes a few things in each category. In school collections, have graduates, desks, multi-cultural people and house representations.  Gear your collection toward the developmental level of the students.  Preschoolers will want more family and fantasy figures. Latency age children will use soldiers, people doing tasks, princesses, horses and dwarves.  Teenagers may go for more archetypal figures, including images of transformation.  If you are working in a hospital, try to find figures of doctors, nurses, hospital beds, etc.  Band-Aids are important for all clinical populations, as are syringes (with needles removed.)

 The following list of figures is a general guideline.

 Figures should include:
 A. Animals: (Try to get animal families as well.  Vary the size of the animals - a huge lion expresses something very different than a small one.)

 Wild: lions, tigers, panthers, zebras, bears, rhinos, elephants

 Forest: deer, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, wild boars, skunks

 Domesticated: cats, dogs

 Prehistoric: dinosaurs, mammoths

 Fantasy: dragons, unicorns

 Farm: cows, goats, chickens, sheep, horses, pigs

 B. Birds:  ducks (air, land, water), owls, lovebirds, swans, birds in flight, eagles, birds with nests, peacocks

 C. Insects: butterflies, spiders, ants, caterpillars, miscellaneous bugs

 D. Sea Creatures: fish, sharks, dolphins, octopi, whales

 E. Half-human- half- animals:  centaurs, mermaids, satyrs

 F. Reptiles and amphibious creatures: frogs, crocodiles, snakes, lizards,

 G. Monsters: large and small; include 2-headed monsters (which often appear when there is an alcoholic or inconsistent parent)

 H. Food: include eggs, cakes, liquor and nourishing food

 I. Fantasy Figures: witches and wizards, ,princes and princesses, kings and queens, magicians, fairytale and cartoon figures

 J. Plants: trees [deciduous and evergreen, full and bare], flowers, seaweed, cacti (It is good to have a "special tree" which can symbolize the Tree of Life.)

 K. Rocks and shells and fossils.

 L. Mountains and caves, volcanoes.

 M. Buildings:  castles, houses, teepees, igloos, bridges

 N. Barriers: screens, fences, signs

 O. Vehicles: cars, police, emergency and rescue vehicles,
    trucks, fuel

  P. People: Families - multicultural, elderly, adult, adolescent, children, babies. (Paint your figures if cannot find enough range in skin color.)

    Action oriented figures, saints, shamans, skeletons, historical people

 Q. Fighting figures:  army soldiers, knights, cowboys and Indians, aliens

 R. Spiritual: gods, shiny objects, candles, mandalas, mirrored objects, figures from different religions

 S. Miscellaneous: marbles, jewels, Band-Aids, stars, snowflakes, cloth, feathers, clay, bones, anything and everything.

 Try to have some order in your shelves,  Please avoid the "baby with the tigers" syndrome, in which figures end up in inappropriate or scary places.  This will unsettle both children and adults.  We aspire roughly for developmental order on the shelves.

 A stepladder is important if your clients are little and your shelves high.  Some shelves can be built into a double closet, with the doors removed.  Others are on bookshelves which may be covered by a curtain, to avoid overwhelming or distracting clients who are not engaged in the sandplay process.

 Other helpful equipment to have on hand is water, matches, glue, tape, dollhouse, wax (helpful in putting objects together, such as a bird atop a house), and plastic wrap so water will stay in the lakes and not be absorbed into the sand.  Clay or playdough and other art supplies that allow clients to make their own figures are especially important.  It is often a very significant part of the therapeutic process to make materials and create something entirely of one's own.  Tapping a creative source  deeply often transfers to many other areas of  life. Deep healing wants to resonate to other media and spheres, thus the centering sandplay becomes a clay ball, transforming to a sculpture  which represents a new creative and centered  outlook.

Excerpted from Sandplay, The Sacred Healing, A Guide to Symbolic Process
by Katie Amatruda, PsyD, MFT, ISST and Phoenix Helm Simpson, LMFT


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