About – Opengate Institute


Opengate Institute

Building P2, Yarramundi Lane

Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury Campus

 Richmond, New South Wales




Our Aim

To promote the development and practice standards of education and training in Integrative Sand Therapies. We respect and support the diversity of approaches within the field. We provide a united training standard for current and emerging practitioners, to foster professional identity, support training and research, and ensure public accountability.


Our Values

Integrity, Clarity of Thought, Self-awareness, Empowerment


Our Purpose

To unite the Sand Therapy industry and therapists current and emerging, who serve in this area following the evidence-informed research developed by Dr Margaret Lowenfeld & Dora Kalff.


Our Principles

To offer quality and accredited Specialist Integrative Sandtray Therapy training, supervision and support to current practitioners and emerging graduates of integrative sand therapies who have current training or life skills in cognizant areas and work in industry as registered counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, mental health workers, youth workers, play therapists, art therapists,  creative therapists, expressive therapists, community workers, school counsellors or other areas where integrative sand therapy can be utilised to support good psychological health and well being across the life span.


Those who seek recognition of their skills and abilities using all the methods of sand in an educational or therapeutic manner can gain recognition of their skills and do further training to meet the ethics and standards of their governing associations and the frameworks and guidelines.


Our Purpose

The Integrative Sand Therapy Code of Ethics sets out ethical standards, frameworks ad principles for all training organisations to adhere to in order to develop good practice standards, ethical codes of conduct and a unity of purpose that all therapists can feel confident in knowing their industry is united. Working closely with industry associations, private practitioners, advanced practitioners and researchers from Australia and abroad to set  ethical standards and procedure sin alignment with national and international associations, which protects the public and community interests.



All Integrative Sand Therapy practitioners will need to meet ongoing Professional Development requirements and practice within the ethical guidelines of the profession in order to retain their professional qualifications. Support can be found to enable all practitioners to gain further learning or supervision. 




Integrative Sand Therapy is a person-centred, humanistic method that is cross-theoretical, evidence-informed and can be applied across the developmental lifespan. This method is sensory in nature as clients use the indoor sand trays, the sand and sandtray miniatures to tell their stories, verbally or non-verbally. These miniatures are the language, the sandtray the pages on which the sand world stories are told. The therapist tracks the story, or theme by following the sand worlds. It is here that the therapist must be educated in the power of silence, of sitting with their client in what neuroscience expresses as mirror neurons (Marco Iacoboni, Dan Siegal, 2019, Bonnie Badendoch 2018).

A sand world filled with trauma, complexes and chaos, is reflected by the therapist. The importance of the role of the therapist as significant other cannot be underestimated. Self-regulation is limbic regulation, set patterns can be modified through therapeutic practice with a well trained practitioner who applies their knowledge and experience. Often this connection allows the therapist to feel the emotions of their client, in this instance the client has felt the neuroception of safety of the therapeutic alliance.


Sandplay Therapy is based on the Kalffian and Jungian methodology of symbols and archetypes. Sandplay differs in that it considers the psyche of the individual as an autonomous movement towards individuation and healing. Jungian Sandplay therapists find great sources of meaning for the archetypal miniatures through mythological stories and deeper meanings. No interpretation is made to the client of their sand plays until after the process is completed and sufficient time has passed to allow for the integration of the work undergone (Turner, 2005).


Sandtray Play Work  is aimed at children as a means of academic learning, emotional and social skills and regulation. Its roots are found in Sandtray Therapy, however SPW is specifically designed for the early learning and school setting. The educator, teacher or school counsellor works in collaboration to give the child a space using the sand tray and miniatures, to learn, regulate emotions and collaborate with peers to formulate their own unique stories. This wonderful method can bring a cohesive alliance into class rooms, enable educators/school counsellors to follow children as they express through SPW their untold stories.

Please note: This method is NOT intended to replace any therapy, it is a learning tool firstly



Our trainers come from different orientations and have diverse life skills. Their passion, however, is what unites them. A passion for Sandtray Therapy and a united training program that adheres to ethical standards, guidelines and principles.


Fiona Werle

CEO of Opengate Institute, Fiona was responsible for the development and accreditation of the Qualification Graduate Certificate in Sandtray Therapy (level 8, ASQA accredited NAT 10757 ). Fiona is the therapist in residence at Opengate Institute, she is a registered Counsellor, practicing Integrative Sand Therapist and trained as a Jungian International Sandplay practitioner, Member of the College of Supervisors and mother of four. Fiona works with a diverse range of clients including disabilities, NDIS provider. children, adults, couples and families.


Melissa Morgan

Owner of Healing Sands a therapeutic service that uses Sandplay therapy to support healing and growth for clients of all ages. Melissa has a background in teaching, she is a registered counsellor and works collaboratively with schools and other stakeholders. She specialises in children with complex trauma using Sandplay Therapy. Melissa is our Far North Coast trainer.


Cathie Cresswell

Owner of Artasiam private practice she specialises in art therapy, sand tray therapy and counselling psychotherapy working with people from all ages and specializing in children’s mental health and well-being. Her experience includes 12 years working in education and visual arts roles. She currently is also working in schools to bring her creative and expressive therapies to children. Cathie is our WA trainer


Eunice Stagg

MA, MBACP (Senior Accredited), AST STR-Supervisor, Dip Theology. She is a Registered Sandplay Therapist and a Senior Accredited counsellor/Psychotherapist with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Eunice is a teaching member of, and serves on the council of The Association for Sandplay Therapy (AST) she has been an Associate Lecturer for both Canterbury Christchurch University in the UK and the National University of Ireland Galway.  She is an Accredited Play Therapist, Senior Supervisor and Senior Trainer for Play Therapy International (PTI) and has conducted Sandplay trainings in the USA, Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Romania, Singapore and many countries throughout the world.


Training Centre Richmond, NSW

Our cottage is located on the grounds of the beautiful University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury campus, Richmond. There is parking (paid), cafes, library, gym and access to transport. 


Other Training Centres

Perth, WA

Lismore, NSW


Accommodation: cottages are in the grounds of UWS link to website for short term accommodation bookings – short stays https://www.mystudentvillage.com/au/westernsydneyuv/hawkesbury/short-stays/

Bookings can also be made via third party websites if you type Western Sydney University Village Hawkesbury into google. Any direct short stay bookings or questions can be directed to live.hawkesbury@westernsydneyuv.com.au or by phoning 02 8024 6050

(Opengate Institute is not able to help with accommodation support)


Conferences for 2019

Asia Pacific and Australian Counselling Association International Conference

Fiona Werle will present a workshop on Sunday 29th August 2019

Sandtray Therapy as the Central Model of Counselling & Psychotherapy. In this 90-minute workshop we will explore felt senses using mindfulness techniques, mirror neurons, and create stories with metaphors using the Sandplay miniature figurines.


2019 World First Nations Early Childhood Conference

Fiona Werle will be presenting at this conference

The 2019 World First Nations Early Childhood Conference: Empowering Generations is envisaged to be the largest gathering of First Nations Elders, inter-generational experts, early childhood educators, teachers, researchers, paediatricians, child practitioners, psychologists and community-controlled early childhood education and care providers amongst others.


Opengate Institute

Contact us for more information or go to the Course page to start your Sandtray journey now

Don't miss the opportunity to become a part of the growing Sandtray movement, whether you are working with children or adults you can make a real difference!