Sandtray Therapy Centre – Opengate Institute

Sandtray Therapy Centre

Sandtray Therapy Centre

Situated within the Institutes business centre is a purpose designed Sandtray Therapeutic Centre

The therapeutic centre allows students to practice within the Institute by offering members of the public free Sandtray Therapy sessions with students who have recommended hours to complete their training.

The therapeutic centre also provides private practice facilities and we currently have Fiona Werle as the therapist in residence. See her details in therapists

Why Use Sandtray Therapy

A summary from Sandtray Therapy A Practical Manual, Homeyer and Sweeney, 2017

  1. Sandtray therapy gives expression to nonverbalised emotional issues
  2. Sandtray therapy has a unique kinaesthetic quality
  3. Sandtray therapy serves to create a necessary therapeutic distance for clients
  4. The therapeutic distance that sandtray therapy provides creates a safe space for abreaction to occur (the expression and consequent release of a previously repressed emotion, achieved through reliving the experience that caused it)
  5. Sandtray therapy is an effective intervention for traumatised clients
  6. Sandtray therapy with families is a truly inclusive experience
  7. Sandtray therapy naturally provides boundaries and limits
  8. Sandtray therapy provides a unique setting for the emergence of therapeutic metaphors
  9. Sandtray therapy is effective in overcoming client resistance
  10. Sandtray therapy provides a needed and effective communication medium for the client with poor verbal skills
  11. Conversely, sandtray therapy cuts through verbalisation used as a defence
  12. Sandtray therapy creates a place for child, adult, couple, family or group clients to experience control
  13. The challenge of transference may be effectively addressed through sandtray therapy
  14. Deeper intrapsychic issues may be accessed more thoroughly and more rapidly through sandtray therapy


The very fundamental and sensory aspects to trauma related issues indicate the need for a sensory-based treatment such as Sandtray therapy. See the DSM-5 for diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder which is largely sensory based. Note the diagnostic criteria of re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognition and mood and arousal. There is fundamental recognition that trauma in and of itself is sensory based. In fact, many researchers note that traumatic memories are encoded not only in the brain, but within the body (Van der Kolk, 2014). It makes sense then that treatment for traumatised children, adolescents and adults should also be sensory based. Talk therapy approaches do not meet this criteria, sandtray therapy does (Homeyer, 2017).

Who can do Sandtray Therapy


Sandtray therapy is used with clients across the developmental lifespan.

When working with children, either individually or in a family system, we must recognise that they do not communicate in the same way as adults do.

Children do not have the cognitive or verbal maturity to communicate their issues, they mostly communicate through play which can be seen as a natural medium of communication.

For children play enables them to enact out their experiences and feelings in a natural dynamic and self-healing way.

Developmental psychology supports the use of play rather than talk as a means for communicating with children. Since children do not possess the developmental or intellectual sophistication to participate in adult verbally based therapies, it should be concluded that the very nature of childhood is incompatible with the formal operations of adult therapy. Children include teenagers and adolescents, especially when the internalised issues is one of trauma such as sexual abuse.


Adults who have experienced trauma (generally defined) are able to use non-verbal, non-re-traumatising expressive sandtray therapy as an expressive intervention. The effects of trauma are most pronounced on the midbrain, where the limbic system resides. This is the primary seat of emotions, and speech, so there is a decreased ability to verbalise emotions. Expecting even adults to talk about issues, traumas or other events may be difficult if not impossible. Therefore an expressive intervention like sandtray therapy is arguably a wonderful fit.

Couples and Families

Presenting issues are often complex in these settings and entrenched, as a result, many couples and families delay seeking treatment, patterns of communication see that family members are unable or unwilling to verbally express themselves in their daily relationship, a nonverbal means of expression such as sandtray therapy is helpful.


Cross-theoretical approaches can be applied to group Sandtray therapy. Group sandtray therapy allows clients an experience for self-growth and self-exploration. There are opportunities for vicarious learning. Groups can be formed of 2 or more children, 1 child and an adult or adults