What Does the Beginning Sandtray Therapist Need to get Started?
The most important thing is getting training. A Google search will assist in locating in person and online training. Training is also available at national conferences, such as the annual Association for Play Therapy conference. Joining the Association for Play Therapy will give you access to their journal and magazine. The Handbook of Sandplay Therapy is an excellent resource as well. In addition to obtaining appropriate and ongoing training, the child therapist who wants to do sandtray work will need sand, a sandtray, and sand tray therapy miniatures.
The best sandtray sand is going to be sand that is safe and free of dust and asbestos. White is the preferred color. If starting with a standard size tray, you will need 35-40 lbs. We generally recommend buying 50 lbs. when starting. This gives you enough sand to fill the tray and have some left over to replace sand that is spilled or knocked out of the tray.
The Sand Tray
Many therapists prefer the standard size tray which is based on a model developed by Dora Kalff. The tray is 29” x 19” x 3”. Individual craftsman may vary the dimensions slightly. The size of the tray is determined by what an individual can see without turning their head. Therefore, slight differences in length and width are not important, and the depth is adjustable. Some tray makers prefer to make a slightly deeper tray. The inside of the tray should be blue, to represent sky and water. Some therapists prefer two trays, one for dry sand and the second for wet sand. For therapists on a limited budget smaller trays, and trays made of plastic make sense. Click here to see a variety of sand trays.
The Sand Tray Miniatures
Buying sand tray miniatures when starting out can be a daunting task. Guidelines for buying miniatures can be unhelpful. For example, it is recommended that a sand tray miniature collection include “everything that is in the world.” More helpful guidelines break things down into categories (see below). Allow yourself to be flexible and open to a range of sizes, objects, and figures. There is no “right” size or perfect miniature. ChildTherapyToys.com has tried to make the process simpler by offering a number of sets, beginner packages, and collections. However, many therapists enjoy shopping for their own packages and creating their own collection. ChildTherapyToys.com carries well over 1,000 sand tray miniatures. Arrange your miniatures on narrow shelves, so that the items in the back are not hidden. Create categories that make sense to you and try to avoid putting “scary” items next to a child or small animal figure. Other considerations for collecting miniatures includes the ages of your clients & presenting issues. It is important to have a variety of cultural backgrounds and ethnicities represented. It is also important to have a variety of environments represented such has home, school, playground, hospital, office, and sports field. Include both real and fantasy objects and creatures. Sculpey may be used to create interesting and hard to find objects, such as fire or a tornado.
A list of suggested figures can never be complete. However, this list should provide a good place to start thinking about what you want to include in your collection.
Animals: You will want to include the following categories of animals in your collection: Dinosaurs, domestic animals, farm animals, ocean animals, reptiles and amphibians, wild animals, birds, and bugs/butterflies/spiders.
Fantasy Creatures: This may include unicorns, Cerberus, mermaids; cartoon and movie figures; fairies; as well as action figures. Other fantasy figures that should be included are witches and wizards; royalty; and mythical beings.
Landscaping Materials: This includes not only trees, but bridges, stones, shells, fences, signs, water, hiding places, and plants.
Vehicles: Try to have a variety of vehicles including trucks, passenger cars, rescue vehicles, and water vehicles.
People: It is hard to have too many people. You will want to have human figures to represent all ages, and a variety of ethnicities and occupations. Human figures will also include religious figures, action figures, and fighting and military figures.
Buildings: Buildings that can be represented include the home, schools, offices, lighthouses, as well as partially destroyed buildings.Miscellaneous: This might actually be the largest category. It can include just about anything including shiny objects, poop, bones, demolition tools, cigarettes, volcano, pills, statues, and so on.