What Is Sandplay and How Can It Help in Addiction Recovery?
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When you read the word “sandplay,” you may think it is something for children. In fact, it is used with children because it is such a successful treatment modality. But it is also used extensively with adults because it is very effective as a hands-on form of therapy. What is sandplay, and how can it help in addiction recovery?

What is Sandplay?

Sandplay is an experiential form of therapy that helps the psyche to heal through the use of sand, small objects, and sometimes water. Often, the mind puts up barriers to protect painful memories or situations. Sandplay uses a hands-on technique to access the mind’s power to heal itself.

Sandplay is used by trained therapists, who provide a safe space and rely on the patient using their imagination, sand, miniature figures, and sometimes water to express themselves by accessing their inner symbolic world. On the surface, it may look like child’s play. But it is actually an effective therapeutic modality to help people heal from addiction, trauma, and more.

Sandplay as a Therapeutic Modality

Sandplay is typically used adjacent to talk therapy to get the best of both worlds. As a therapeutic modality or type of treatment, sandplay helps reduce anxiety with the patient and allows them to be more relaxed and open with the therapist than they might be otherwise. Too often, patients hear “therapy” and close up out of fear, including the fear of unfamiliarity and expectation. This is particularly true of patients who have experienced trauma.

Because sandplay is experiential, it helps to engage patients and get them involved in their therapy without feeling analyzed or judged. Using figures to play in the sand does not feel like therapy because it is fun and relaxing. Being able to relax and open up through play allows the therapist to gain insights very quickly without the typical anxiety and resistance. Patients can use nonverbal communication that sometimes is more informative to the therapist than words.

How Sandplay Helps to Heal in Addiction

Substance abuse creates a disconnect between your body and your mind. Most people in active addiction do not realize why they began using substances; they are simply focused on acquiring and using their substances. Addiction occurs when substance abuse comes before family, friends, job, and even personal safety. That is how far removed from your body that you can become.

Because sandplay is a physical, tactile, and sensory experience, it can help reconnect your body and your mind. Using sandplay as therapy is like taking a shortcut to the mind without your mind being aware of it. In this way, the therapist is able to unlock and understand a lot of information without resistance from the barriers we put up to guard our emotions and pain.

Bypassing Emotional Filters and Fears

When a therapist offers the sand and the figures to the patient, they are able to bypass the emotional filters and barriers that would typically exist. Instead of worrying about saying something “wrong” or being judged by the therapist, they are able to let go and bypass those filters to engage in telling their story through a hands-on method.

Whatever fears the patient may have had about therapy dissipate when they are engaging in sandplay. In essence, it is like bringing out the inner child inside of you. However, this version of your inner child is one that can then communicate with the therapist regarding genuine adult pain and fears that need to be addressed and healed.

Why Sandplay Works Faster Than Talk Therapy

Therapists can spend a long time talking to a patient, developing trust and understanding, and using different modalities to try to access the pains and fears of their patients. Talk therapy sometimes resembles trying to open up a locked door with a ring full of keys, and you are not sure which one, if any, will open the door. The therapist can keep trying, but sometimes, some patients are difficult to “unlock.”

With an experiential therapy like sandplay, it is like being handed the key to the front door, with no problems at all. The patient is able to use symbolism and play to let go of filters, fears, and socially accepted norms to get to the heart of the problem right away. They can communicate emotions in a way that feels safe by using figures in the sand instead of words or behaviors. In this way, it is far more effective as a method of healing than most talk therapies

Sandplay is a therapeutic modality that allows the therapist to get more information more quickly from the patient because it feels safe and can even be nonverbal. This treatment works much more rapidly to access thoughts and fears because it is able to bypass the filters and barriers that patients put up in therapy. At The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women, sandplay treatment is used along with traditional talk therapies to offer patients the opportunity to heal in the way that works best for them. We are located in Costa Mesa, California, and provide a comfortable, peaceful environment between the mountains and the ocean. We are committed to education, as it is the key to self-awareness. As you become more self-aware, you can step out of addiction and back into your life. Contact us at (714) 581-3974 to learn more about sandplay or start your treatment for addiction.