What is Sand Tray Therapy? (+7 Sand Therapy Advantages)

In this detailed post, we will be explaining what Sand Tray Therapy is and the conditions that this therapy can serve. Furthermore, we will be checking out the different types of Sand Tray Therapy techniques along with the advantages and limitations of this method.

What is Sand Tray Therapy?

Sand Tray Therapy is a form of therapy that uses a combination of play therapy and art therapy. In this approach, the client is encouraged to express themselves through play and through creativity.

Sand Tray Therapy sessions are usually conducted by a licensed and qualified professional who provides a tray of sand for the client to use as their medium to create their own world. Once the ‘world’ has been created, the therapist and the client will discuss the context used.

Conditions helped by Sand Tray Therapy

Sand Tray Therapy can benefit a number of conditions and problems such as:

  • Autism Spectrum disorder
  • Learning Disability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia

Apart from these clinical conditions, Sand Tray Therapy can also be very useful for people who are going through certain stressful events or are showing maladaptive personality traits. Examples of these are,

  • Anger management issues
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Experiences of sexual or physical trauma
  • Divorce or relationship issues
  • Grieving the loss of someone or something

Types of Sand Tray Therapy Techniques

Sand Tray Therapy uses various techniques that the therapist will choose depending on the needs and aims of the client. The various types of Sand Tray Therapy Techniques have been discussed in the following section.

The Humanistic Approach

The Humanistic Approach is the most common type of Sand Tray Therapy technique which is used. Here, the entire session is client-led and encourages them to create the things that they want to express, as in a regular therapy session.

The World Technique

The World Technique encourages the client to create their own world in the sand tray through the use of figures and other miniature decorations. Once the world has been created, the therapist will then assess the scene with the client.


Role-Playing is a very powerful psychotherapy tool and this is only made better through the use of Sand Tray Therapy. The client will be prodded to create new scenes from different perspectives in various situations.


In the scene-editing technique of Sand Tray Therapy, the client first creates a scene they want to visit and explore and then the therapist asks them various questions about the particulars. The client will also be asked to edit and change the scene for better perspectives.


In this technique of Sand Tray Therapy, the therapist will ask the client to create a particular scene or may create one on their own. After the scene has been created, the therapist will ask the client their opinion and their perspectives about the particulars of that scene.

Advantages of Sand Tray Therapy

Sand Tray Therapy brings numerous advantages for those who are participating in it and therefore is one of the most recommended therapies today. The main advantages of Sand Tray Therapy are listed as follows,

  • Sand Tray Therapy provides a calming sensory stimulation. The best advantage of engaging in Sand Tray Therapy is the sand itself. The sand, which is the main medium, is taken from smooth sources such as the beach and is comfortable to play with.

Playing with sand offers a calming sensory stimulation for the users and can be very beneficial for anyone who is dealing with a sensory processing disorder. This is the reason Sand Tray Therapy is highly indicated for autism.

  • This therapy is easy to learn. Another main advantage of Sand Tray Therapy is that this therapy process is very easy to learn. It is as simple as playing with sand on the beach and this simplicity makes it superb for children and even adults who are super-stressed.
  • It provides an avenue for creativity and imagination. Sand Tray Therapy encourages the participant to express their inner feelings and thoughts through play which is a natural avenue for creativity and imagination.
  • It can be conducted anywhere. This form of therapy also requires very little equipment and not much space. While most of the sessions are recommended to be conducted in a professional setting, it can also be conducted at home.
  • It can be used for individuals and groups. Sand Tray Therapy can not only be used for the treatment of individuals as well as groups. This form of therapy is often used in psychiatric facilities as the go-to form of group therapy.
  • It benefits all age groups. Sand Tray Therapy can also greatly benefit all types of age groups. Due to the simplistic and fun nature of this form of therapy, Sand Tray Therapy can be used for children, teens, adults and even senior citizens.
  • It does not need words. Sand Tray Therapy also has an added advantage that it does not need many words to be spoken, especially in the step of creating the world or the scene. Thus, this can be splendid for those who have an introverted personality.

Limitations of Sand Tray Therapy

While Sand Tray Therapy holds numerous advantages, it still has a few limitations that make this form of therapy inappropriate in certain conditions. The different limitations of Sand Tray Therapy are:

  • Sand Tray Therapy may be still seen as play and therefore not everyone might take it as a serious form of therapy. The sessions may also seem age inappropriate for some people who are looking for a more clinical and serious approach to their treatment.
  • The sessions in Sand Tray Therapy are often unstructured and can seem very vague, especially when compared to the other forms of therapy which are practiced in a clinical setting. The vague nature of these sessions may discourage certain users.
  • The effectiveness of Sand Tray Therapy sessions largely depend on the interpretations of the therapist. While the interpretations of licensed and qualified Sand Tray therapists can be relied upon, not all clients will agree with this.
  • Sand is often a very calming sensory medium for anyone who has a sensory processing disorder, especially those who are hypo-sensitive in nature. However, for those who are hypersensitive, playing in sand may not be easy at first.
  • Since the main medium used in Sand Tray Therapy is obviously sand, small children who are likely to put the sand in their mouth may not be perfect for these sessions. This is especially regarding children who are not able to understand commands.
  • While Sand Tray Therapy seems simple and effective, finding a licensed and qualified therapist may be difficult since this form of therapy is pretty rare. This is another common limitation that Sand Tray Therapy possesses.
  • Sand Tray Therapy does not only consist of creating the scene or the world but also consists of heavy discussion once the scene has been created. This requires quite a bit of discussion and talking and thus may not suit everybody.
  • When compared to other therapies and treatment modes, Sand Tray Therapy actually has very few research studies which support it. This can discourage or demotivate certain users from starting Sand Tray Therapy.
  • Another main limitation of Sand Tray Therapy is that it is not covered by insurance often. This can make the sessions very expensive for those who are planning on starting Sand Tray Therapy, mainly since several sessions need to be covered.


In this detailed post, we have explained what Sand Tray Therapy is and the conditions that this therapy can serve. Furthermore, we have checked out the different types of Sand Tray Therapy techniques along with the advantages and limitations of this method.

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