Kristen Bellows, BSW

Kristen currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with her partner and 2 cats. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University and engages in anti-oppressive work.

IMG00301 20121011 1205 150x150 Sandplay Therapy, Ever Heard of It?I remember when my former counsellor first brought up “sandplay therapy”. I thought it sounded ridiculous to be honest but I was willing to give it a chance. Early in 2013 the materials  were built, collected and ready to go and I had my first experience with sandplay therapy. Yes, I played with sand in therapy. And I had fun!

Sandplay therapy was first developed by Dora M. Kalff in Switzerland during the 1950′s. Sandplay therapy is for both children and adults with the aim of  ”psychological healing” and the “expansion of consciousness” (Sandplay Canada, 2013). By providing a free space and no rules, children and adults are free to explore the sand and create whatever moves them. Using natural materials like sand and water (optional) are meant to produce a calming sensation. The bright blue that you can see in the box (above) can also substitute as water or even the sky.

While at first I thought Sandplay therapy was silly, after experiencing it i would have to say that I would do it again. I loved running my fingers through the sand and choosing an object to go into my creation. The openness of the process was refreshing and liberating given the usual rigid confines of some mental health treatments. The creative aspect of creating in the sand is exciting and something I appreciated.

The above picture is what I created during my session. A cage with it’s door open on a mound of sand. This represented to me how I feel that I trap myself (the cage) despite having the tools to succeed (the open door). It was up to me to create and tell the story/meaning of the creation at the end. My counsellor’s role was to be empathetic and silent during the process. Taking a photo of the end creation is a part of the process.

Sandplay therapy is one of the many different types of therapies that can be used to help with mental health issues. I feel that sandplay therapy is a great lesson in how simple and natural things can be helpful in allowing us to release pain and gain a better understanding of ourselves.


Sandplay Canada

(Photo credit: Kristen Bellows)

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