Monday, October 28, 2013

Suitcase Termination Activity

Suitcase Termination Activity: At termination, your client is finally ready to continue their journey on their own.  Even though they will be leaving you behind, they can pack up everything that they have learned during their time with you to take with them.  This metaphor is easy for most people to identify with and it is a fun activity. 
Supplies: Plastic or cardboard suitcase (see tutorial here); Blank sticker labels; Paper luggage tag (real ones are cheap, but you could also just use the template); String; Cards; Travel stickers (optional)
Goals: Process termination; Provide transitional object; Help prevent regression; Identify accomplishments, goals, coping tools, etc.
  1. Have your client make and/or decorate their suitcase. 
  2. Then they write something they will “take with them” from their time in therapy on each card provided (I print cards with travel clip-art on the back).  This can be things they have learned, coping skills, supports, resources etc. 
  3. You can also integrate this with the after-care kit I posted.
  4. On the labels they write or draw goals they have accomplished.  (Like the old suitcases in movies that are covered with stickers of past travels).  I also provide additional travel stickers.
  5. On the luggage tag they write where they are going next.  This could be a new life stage (ex. my 8th graders usually write “high school”) or a goal they would like to accomplish that the contents of the box will help them achieve on their own.
  6. Process feelings about termination throughout the activity.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Careers in Social Work

I got an ask about what you can do with an MSW besides being a therapist.  It is a very broad degree and this is a list of common areas social workers work in.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Treasure Chest Termination Activity

Supplies: Treasure box (Michaels has wooden “treasure” boxes that are cheap and easy to decorate.  Directions on how to make a paper one can be found here; Stick-on plastic jewels (found at crafts stores, oriental trading co., etc.); Small note cards (cut to fit the box); Pen.
Directions: First, have your client decorate a treasure chest.  Then stick a jewel to each card as your client writes down the “task” that is assigned to that specific color (see below).  On the back of the card they include a specific example of how what they identified has helped them in the past and/or how it will help them in the future.  Below are examples of possible color codes, but you should change them to meet your client’s specific age and needs.  In the end the chest will be full with a stack of jeweled cards.
  • Blue: Strengths (Identified by both the client and therapist)
  • Red: Coping skills
  • Green: Supportive people in their life
  • Orange: Resources from therapist (ex. hotline numbers, therapist referrals or directions for reenrolling in services.)
  • Purple: Self-care activities
  • Pink: Inspiration (future goals, motivational quotes, etc.)
  • Yellow: Things they have learned in therapy

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DIY Play Dough/Clay

DIY Play Dough/Clay: More sensory substances.
  1. Play Dough (Flour/koolaid)
  2. Glow Dough (Four/florescent kids pain)
  3. Foam Dough (Shaving cream/corn starch)
  4. Silky Soft Play Dough (Hair Conditioner/corn starch)
  5. Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough (Peanut Butter/powdered milk)
  6. Cake Mix Dough (Cake mix) or Cake Play Dough (cake mix/butter)
  7. Modeling Clay (Baking soda/corn starch)
  8. Baking Clay (Flour/salt)
  9. Glitter Play Dough (Flour/glitter)
Click here to view more DIY sensory substances including, slime, gak, cloud dough and moon sand.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

You’ve Got Mail: Group Termination Activity

Directions: First, have your clients create their own paper mailbox (click here for a tutorial).  Then, each person, including the therapist, writes a short note to every other member of the group.  You can instruct them to write something that they have gained by knowing that person, a strength they can identify, a motivating message, etc.  The notes are then placed in the mailboxes for the group members to take home.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Travel Play Therapy Ideas

Travel Play Therapy Ideas: Lots of clinicians work at multiple sites and must take their office with them.  Here are some portable ideas.
  1. Travel Play Therapy Kit: This rolling case is perfect for a travel kit.  This link also has a list of important toys to include.
  2. Portable Art StudioThis is easy to grab and can fit a lot of supplies.
  3. Play Therapy CartI worked  as a school therapist and would sometimes get kicked out of my office during standard testing, etc.  One of these carts made the move much easier.
  4. DVD Art Box: Easily pack up your colored pencils/markers with paper.
  5. Portable DollhouseThis is easy to make and when you are ready to put it away it turns into a box for you to store your dolls.  Here is a similar dollhouse that collapses flat.
  6. Game Supplies: A good way to organize game supplies without losing small pieces.
  7. Lego Box: Just glue a lego board onto your storage box.
  8. Snapwear Sand TrayYou can put sand in the top and then keep your miniatures in the bottom portion.
  9. Rainbow Rice TraySand is ideal, but if you are going somewhere that you can’t risk sand spillage then fill a tub with colored rice for east clean up.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DIY Sensory Substances

DIY Sensory Substances (My social skills groups for young Autistic children love these activities)
  1. Slime (Glue/liquid starch)
  2. Glow in the Dark Slime (Borax/glue/glow paint)
  3. Cloud Dough (Flour/oil)
  4. Silly Putty (Clear glue/liquid starch)
  5. Moon Sand (Sand/corn starch)
  6. Goop (Cornstarch/water)
  7. Flubber (White glue/borax)
  8. GAK (Clear glue/borax)
  9. Floam (Borax/Glue/styrofoam)
Click here for more DIY sensory substances

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Separation Anxiety Pocket Hearts

Separation Anxiety Pocket Hearts: Young children often have trouble separating from their caregivers.  It sometimes helps for them to carry transitional objects (ex. a photo) with them to help manage their anxiety during time apart.
  1. The caregiver can make these hearts for their child on their own, or the dyad can create them together (Click here for a tutorial).  The hearts can be substituted by any other handmade or personal items the family desires. 
  2. Just before each separation the caregiver gives the child a heart representing their love and assures the child that they will be reunited.  The hearts are not a substitute for taking time with the child to process their anxiety (do not “sneak out” of the house).  They can tell the child that if they begin to miss them then they can take out their heart and know that their caregiver loves them, is thinking of them, will come back, etc.  Sometimes it might help for the parent to carry around a heart as well representing that their child is always in their thoughts and they are connected (kids like this).
  3. If possible, take baby steps.  Initially, a child might use a heart for a brief separation when the parent is in another room, and then move on to short outings that get progressively longer as the jar gets fuller.
  4. Each time they are reunited they place their heart in a jar.  Children may have trouble recalling all the times their caregivers returned and this provides a nice visual.  Looking at their jar will help to assure them that their caregivers always come back.
  5. Ideally, separations will become easier and they will look to the heart for support less and less until they no longer need it.  At this point just thinking about their jar back at home should become enough to assuage any remaining anxiety.
  6. These hearts are a supplemental intervention.  It is more effective when caregivers commit to building trust, following through with what they say will do, and continue to talk to their children about separation and encourage self-expression.
  7. I have also known children who used a calm bottle to help self-regulate after their caregivers leave (click here)
  8. More suggestions for dealing with separation anxiety and promoting independence can be found here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apps For Social Workers/Therapists

  • Waze (free)This is a must have if you do home visits.  It is my favorite GPS app and it finds you the fastest routs and alerts you to hazards/police/weather .
  • Dropbox (free)Dropbox lets you share documents among all of your devices and is an easy way to share files with others.
  • Evernote (free): Evernote is an electronic organizer that allows you to take nots and save web pages, photos, research, articles, etc. It is not HIPPA-compliant so refrain from using for client notes.
  • The Square and Paypal: 
  • Social Work Helper (free): This app provides up to date social work related information.
  • GoogleVoice (free)Google voice lets you create a second phone number/work line for your phone.  This is great if you need to call clients while you are in the field but do not want to disclose your actual cell phone number.
  • Line2 (free):  This app lets you have a separate phone line.  You can port your office number to it, and stop carrying two cell phones. While downloading the app is free, the second phone line costs $9.95/month.
  • Card Munch (free): CardMunch allows you to snap photos of a colleague’s business card and convert it to a digital one which it stores in your contacts.  It also synchs with LinkedIn.
  • Remind 101 (free): This app was created for teachers but would be useful for social workers who want to text clients reminders without disclosing their number.
  • PsychDrugs (free)When a client brings up a medication you aren’t familiar with this is a quick way to determine what they are being prescribed.
  • IbisMail ($3.99): This program allows you to set up automatic filters, so you can sort through mail.  But it also allows you to set up folders for client emails, so that you can have them all in one place.  Then it is up to you to decide when you review your patient communications, rather than have everything coming through one inbox.  Supports multiple email accounts.
  • GoToMeeting (free): This is a good app for therapists who want to do online sessions.  It has both desktop and app versions of videoconferencing software, which is HIPAA-compliant.  
  • iAnnotate ($9.99): iAnnotate allows you to mark up .pdf files on your mobile device.  It also supports highlighting and annotating research articles and synchs with Mendeley and Dropbox so you can store your research library with notes online.
  • Mendeley (free): One part social network, one part research library,  Mendeley allows you to store research articles and annotations online and on your device.  It allows you to network with other colleagues to see what they are researching, share articles, and store all of your articles in one place.  Often it can even pull up the bibliographic entry from the web just by reading the .pdf metatag
  • Paypal (free): This is one option for billing clients and paying vendors.  You can invoice by email, transfer money to your bank account, and keep track of online payments on the website. There is usually a small transaction fee but if your client initiates a direct transfer to you then you can get around that. They recently came out with a credit card reader.
  • Square (free): When you register with Square they send you a free credit card reader that you can connect to your smart phone or tablet.  They charge a 2.75% transaction fee.
  • Google Translate (free): It’s good to have a translation tool handy.  It even translates speech.
  • The Savvy Social Worker (free): This app was created by the UB School of Social Work to help social workers stay current with new developments in best practices.
  • Psychological First Aid Tutorial (free): This is a review for previously changed health professionals.
  • Prezi (free): This presentation software allows you to create dynamic visual presentations on your computer or mobile device.  Prezi supports importation from powerpoint, and provides free online hosting of your prezis as well as tons of templates and tutorials.  You can also upload Prezis to your LinkedIn profile.  They look really cool so check out their website for examples.
  • TED (free): This app allows you to stay inspired and experience innovation daily, by beaming TED talks to your mobile device from the offical TED site.  You can favorite, search, and share your favorite ones, or hit “Inspire me” for random ideas.
  • CamScanner (free):  This ap turns your phone into a portable scanner and would be useful for child welfare social workers who often have to make copies of client documents/paperwork.
  • Co-Occuring Conditions Toolkit (free): A quick reference when treating patients presenting with mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and common co-morbid conditions.
  • Narrative Therapy QuestionsThis app is interactive and demonstrates narrative therapy questions.
  • 101 Theory ($1.99): This is a social work theory app that contains over 101 theories for practitioners.It allows you to quickly conduct a search and find a description as well as an overview of whatever theory you want to know more about.
Apps for Adult Clients (and clinician self-care)
  • Unfrazzle (free)This is an ap for caregivers that helps them keep track of their day-to-day tasks, and appointments.  They can set remindser and share tasks with others.
  • PTSD Coach (free): Mobile app created by the Department of Veteran Affairs to track PTSD symptoms and provide information and support to sufferers.  Review from a follower: “I can’t speak highly enough of this app, it’s been an instrumental tool in my recovery from PTSD.  It prompts you to do a variety of exercises and activities, allows you to rate the severity of the symptom and makes suggestions based on how severe the symptom is.  It’s very easy to use and I frankly can’t imagine not having it.”
  • PTSD Connect: This app aims to connect people with PTSD to accessible information and support.
  • CBTReferee ($4.99): A useful tool for clients in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to keep track of their thoughts and become their own “referee.”
  • eCBTCalm ($.99): CBT Calm helps people who are feeling stressed and want to learn relaxation skills. It assesses your stress level, provides relaxation skills, and also includes links to online resources for stress and anxiety.
  • Micromedex (free): Keeping up-to-date on medications is pretty daunting, but this app, with frequent updates, helps you keep track od a medication, its Black Box warnings, contraindications, drug interactions, adverse effects, alternate names, standard dosages and more.
  • Unstuck (free): Unstuck is an ipad app for personal growth, designed to kick-start success for specific kinds of stuck moments
  • DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach ($4.99): THis is a DBT resource manual that provides an easy way to fill out diary cards.
  • eMoods Mood Tracker ($1.99)This ap lets clients track their moods, medication, triggers, etc.
  • Live Happy ($.99): This is a strengths-based ap that draws on principals of positive psychology.  It helps clients to engage in coping tools, exploration and mindfulness.
  • GPS For The Soul (free): This app helps you track and self-regulate your stress.
  • My Pain Diary ($4.99): This is an award-winning app that helps clients manage chronic pain.
  • Gothere ($4.99)This ap provides directions and compares cost and travel time between driving and taking a bus, train or taxi.  There is a free Safari version of this ap.
  • One Love Lite (free): This app helps people detect abusive patterns in their relationship and aids in seeking professional assistance.  Remember that having this kind of app on ones own phone can be dangerous for someone in a current abusive relationship.  
  • Circle Of 6 (free): This app connects abuse victims who are not currently in abusive relationships with a circle of support.
  • Intend (free): The change reminder app for people who are working to create positive change in their lives.
  • Happier (free): This app encourages people to reflect and share a few happy moments each day.
Apps for Child Clients
  • Don’t Feed The Worry Bug ($2.99)This is an interactive story book from the Worry Woos collection that helps kids learn how to manage their anxiety.
  • Calm Counter ($2.99): This is a social story and anger management tool for children with special needs that helps them choose different calm down strategies.
  • The Sesame Street Incarceration App (free): This app provides parents and caregivers with tools to help children ages 3-8 cope with the many transitions related to a parent’s incarceration.
  • Sesame Street For Military Families (free): The Sesame Street for Military Families app puts all of Sesame’s bilingual (English & Spanish) resources for military families right in one place.
This list was compiled from apps featured in a number of articles, on pinterest  and in my phone.  I have not tried many of these apps personally so do your research before downloading.  To view the source articles click hereherehere, and here.  Does anyone have any favorite apps they want to share?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Free PTSD Books

Message or E-mail me ( if you want me to send you PDF versions of any of these books.

Trauma Mask-Making

This activity that creates a visual representation of a person's trauma and its impact can be highly therapeutic aid in self-expression and processing. Click here for a DIY suggestion. Above are masks created by Veterans suffering from PTSD.  You can read the full article here. Below are descriptions of the masks above (numbered left to right, top to bottom)
  1. This mask from an army medic features the quote "I have destroyed my life and myself so that others may live'
  2. This Marine depicts a 'split sense of self' in his mask
  3. 'The Shock of Death' shows the traumatic memory of seeing an Iraqi killed after a gunshot wound to the head
  4. 'Emotional Hostage' is the name of this mask
  5. This mask shows the soldier's need to camouflage to try and acclimate back into society
  6. This mask dually examines the significance of death and the surviving spirit that exist once a person is killed.
  7. Fingerprints on the nose and chin represent resuscitation efforts by this commanding Marine for troops he lost.
  8. The three stitches represent the healing process the soldier feels at Walter Reed
  9. The soldier who created this mask wanted to show his trouble with opening up to his emotions

Sunday, September 8, 2013

DIY Dollhouse Furniture

Click the links below to view directions on how to create each of the furniture pictured (numbered from left to right, top to bottom).
  1. Matchbox Drawers
  2. Yarn Rug
  3. Wire Chair
  4. IPhone Box Fridge
  5. Cardboard Bed
  6. Block Kitchen
  7. Plastic Toilet
  8. Bottle Cap Stools
  9. Cardboard Sink

Free Gestalt Therapy Books

I got a request for Gestalt Therapy books.  Send me a private message or email ( if you would like free PDF versions of the following books:
  • Opening Doors by Rosenblatt
  • Gestalt Therapy: 100 Key Points and Techniques by Mann
  • Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality by Paris, Hefferline and Goodman

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yet another FREE book.  
I have a PDF of School-Based Play Therapy by Drewes and Schaefer.  It has a lot of information and is 526 pages long.
Just E-mail me if you want me to send a copy over to you (

Group Puzzle Activity

This is a good team building activity that can be used to talk about acceptance, differences, working together, etc.  Group members all get their own piece to decorate.  At the end each individual piece is unique and beautiful in its own way but when the puzzle comes back together it creates an intricate “masterpiece.”  This lends itself to many metaphors and discussions you can tailor to fit your group.  You can paint over or glue paper to an old puzzle or just buy a blank one (Bare Books sells then for $.99).  Get creative with the materials you provide.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Therapeutic Games

Therapeutic games are great but usually pretty expensive.  Children and teens disclose and express a lot more during games than if I were to just ask them questions.  One way I keep the cost down is by buying low cost regular games and give them a therapeutic twist (see jenga and feelings tic-tac-toe posts).  
Bare Books has really cheap blank game boards, books, puzzles, etc.  A professional looking blank board game is just $3.95.  They have flat rate shipping so I suggest getting together with a couple people to place your orders.  Click here to check it out.

FREE Play Therapy Activity Book

Here is a link to a great 120 page play therapy activity book compiled by Liana Lowenstein.  My mentor also contributed :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Feelings Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic-tac-toe is a very quick and smile game that can easily be made therapeutic.  I made these three activity sheets in “Pages."  
Feelings Tic-Tac-Toe
  1. Goal: To help children correctly identify/convey and express feelings
  2. Supplies: Tic-tac-toe activity sheet (I created the ones above in Pages), space markers (ex. 2 kinds of animal miniatures, skittles, etc)
  3. Each time a marker is placed on a square, the child is asked to act out the feeling with their face.
  4. After a couple games, I change the rules (ex. “Each time you put your marker down, tell me about a time when you felt that way”).
  5. Play-do face activity sheets (a few posts below) can also be integrated into this activity.
  6. Feelings skittles/fruit snacks is a nice compliment to this game (see above post of group 2 outline)
Tic-Tac-Toe Variations
  1. Goal: To increase disclosure/expression/comfort and what ever you want (highly adaptable game).
  2. Supplies: Tic-tac-toe activity sheet (I created the ones above in Pages), space markers (ex. 2 kinds of animal miniatures, skittles, etc)
  3. This game is easily adaptable to your client’s specific needs if you simply use blank/colored squares.
  4. Create a key so that every time they place their marker on a certain color X happens.
  • Ex. Every time you land on blue share a time when you were angry, when you land on green name a coping skill you could use. 
  • Answer a question on a blue card when you land on blue and a green card when you land on green)
  • Write a different question, role-play scenario, task etc. that corresponds with each colored square.
Feelings Tic-Tac-Toe was originally developed by Liana Lowestein:  You can buy the book here

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Free Play in Child Development and Psychotherapy PDF

Here is another FREE book.  This one is Play in Child Development and Psychotherapy by Sandra Russ.  Send me an E-mail if you would like me to send you a PDF version (

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Common Sand Tray Symbols

Here are a list of possible symbolism that certain miniatures may hold for children.  I feel that my themes post is extremely helpful when looking at sand trays, but I don’t use this list as much.  It is interesting to look at, especially if certain figures are used repeatedly, but I take these with a grain of salt.  I was taught not to give my interpretations too much weight because it could possibly make me miss something the child is communicating.  It’s not important to know what every piece represents so don’t obsess over this list too much, or ask the child to tell you what every figure means/represents in their lives (they probably wouldnt be able to tell you anyway)
  • AMERICAN FLAG: Symbol of identity and belonging. May be used as symbol of ego.
  • BABY: Frequently used as symbol of the young self (and fledgling ego)
  • BEAR: May symbolize instinctual wisdom or strength. Bears are fiercely protective of their young. May represent positive side of mother love.
  • BIRDS: Fly and often seen as carrying spirits
  • BRIDGE: Symbol of connection and integration. May indicate attempt to make connections between polarities or opposing aspects of individual.
  • BUTTERFLY: Symbol of rebirth and transformation
  • CASTLE: Often represents a place of safety
  • CAVE: Can suggest place of safety or unknown. May indicate digging into depths of unconscious. Considered a feminine symbol, often symbolizing Good Mother.
  • DINOSAUR: May symbolize unconscious rage
  • DIVER: Suggests venturing into depths of unconscious
  • DOLPHIN: Represents instinctual and guiding intelligence. Appears in myths and legends as saviors.
  • DOVE: Symbol of purity and innocence. White dove may also symbolize awakening spirit.
  • DRAGON: In fairy tales, is something overpowering to be overcome. Is often guardian of some treasure. May also be symbol of devouring feminine (Terrible Mother archetype).
  • EGG: May symbolize new beginnings
  • FENCES: Use may indicate efforts to bring some structure to life. May provide either protection or limits. Presence in trays may suggest either increasing ability to set boundaries or a felt need for control and restrictions in connection with instincts.
  • FIRE: May symbolize either destruction or cleansing. Often a symbol of sexual energies.
  • FLOWER: Often symbolizes transformation and rebirth
  • FROG: Is the ultimate animal of transformation. Changes from tadpole to frog to prince.
  • GIRAFFE: May symbolize attempt to “stay above it all” to avoid the turmoil going on below.
  • HOLY GRAIL: Quest for healing and spiritual nurturing.  Feminine container of spirit.
  • HORSE: May represent helpful, guiding instincts. Bridging sea and sky, instinct and spirit, feminine and masculine.
  • JUNGLE ANIMAL: Expresses relationship to instincts and aggression (especially large predators).
  • KEY: Symbolizes unlocking something (hopeful future?/ traumas of past?).
  • LAMP: May signify new illumination of consciousness
  • MILITARY FIGURE: Common symbol of authority and conformity
  • MIRROR: Mirror provides reflection. May symbolize self-realization, truth or wisdom. May also represent impulse toward consciousness, reflecting back to individual what she/he has not yet seen.
  • MONSTER: Often symbolizes fears or out-of-control feelings and impulses.
  • OWL: May represent wisdom, protection or sometimes death. 
  • PEACOCKS: Its glorious tail feathers may symbolize flowering of the personality. May represent all-inclusive kind of wisdom (because of many eyes on tail feathers).
  • PEGASUS: Winged horse born of severed snake-covered head of Medusa. May symbolize bringing unconscious to light or converting evil to good.
  • RAINBOW: Often represents transformation or bridge between spiritual and temporal.
  • ROAD (OR PATH): Suggests journey in progress
  • SEEDS: Universal feminine symbols of fertility and creative life
  • SHELLS: Frequently express relationship to feminine.
  • SIGNS: May indicate either containment or need for guidance and direction.
  • SPIDER: May represent Great Creator (who spins thread of life). May, also be symbol of devouring Terrible Mother (especially black widow).
  • STAR: Often connected with hope (since it shines in darkness).
  • SUN: Often symbolizes nurturing aspect of father.
  • TREES: Symbolize presence of growth and life.
  • TUNNEL: Can signify avenue to unconscious.
  • TURTLE: Is often symbol of abandonment. Mother turtle leaves and babies must make perilous journey back to sea alone. May also symbolize survival in hostile environment.
  • VEHICLES: Are most often symbols of mobility. May represent control power or escape. May symbolize energy available for movement and growth.
  • WATER: Is feminine symbol, signifying the unconscious or unknown.
  • WELL: May symbolize access to nourishment or energy being gathered from unconscious (water/depths)
  • WITCH: May symbolize Terrible Mother archetype

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rainbow Rice Tray

Sand trays are a great asset to any playroom, but can be messy and difficult to clean up at times.  Sand is definitely preferable, but this is a cool alternative if you are sharing an office and don’t want to have to deal with cleaning up sand.
Click here for more info on how to color your own rice.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sand Tray Themes

I created this chart in Pages.  You just check off what themes you see in each sand tray your client does.  This chart helps you to create a great visual of your client’s progress in therapy.  Initially, check-marks are usually all clustered on the left, but as time goes one more and more drift over to the right.  It is great to see.
Themes That Suggest Wounding
  • Chaotic: Haphazard, fragmented, or formless arrangement; e.g., objects’ flung into the tray; boundaries of outer reality disregarded; items carefully placed but overall appearance is jumbled or disconnected.
  • Empty: Reticence to use figures or lifeless feeling with lack of energy and curiosity; e.g., a nearly empty tray with only a dead tree placed in a corner.
  • Split: Parts of tray appear separated or detached; e.g., river, fence, or elephants placed from bottom to top of tray seem to divide tray
  • Confined: Figure or groups normally free are entrapped or caged; e.g. an agonized figure is placed in a cage; a sand wall is built around an old woman.
  • Neglected: Figure is isolated from possible support; e.g., a baby in a high chair while mother is sleeping in the nextroom.
  • Hidden: Figures buried or hidden from view; e.g., a gun hidden behind a house; a witch buried in the sand under a tree.
  • Prone: Figures normally upright are intentionally placed in a reclining, fallen position; e.g., a standing pregnant woman placed face down in the sand.
  • Injured: Figures with injuries or in the process of being injured; e.g., a bandaged man lying on a stretcher; a cowboy placed in the mouth of a dinosaur.
  • Threatened: Menacing or frightening events and the inability of the endangered figure(s) to escape the experience; e.g., aggressive animals surrounding small child.
  • Hindered: Possibility of new growth and development is impeded or hindered; e.g. a boat moving into new waters, while under siege by an army.
Themes That Suggest Movement Towards Healing, Wholeness, and Transformation.
  • Bridging: Connection between elements, joining of opposites; e.g., a ladder joins earth and tall trees; a bridge links an angel and devil.
  • Journeying: Movement along a path or around a center; e.g., a knight follows a trail, someone paddles a canoe down a stream.
  • Energy: Alive, vital, intense energy is visible; e.g., organic growth present, construction machines work on a task, airplanes take off from a runway.
  • Going Deeper: Discovery of a deeper dimension; e.g, a clearing is made, a treasure unearthed, a well dug, a lake explored.
  • Birthing: Emergence of new development; e.g., a baby is born, a flower opens, a bird lays eggs.         
  • Nurturing: Nourishment or help are provided to support growth and development; e.g, a mother feeding babies, supportive family groups, nurse helps a patient, presence of food.
  • Changed: Sand and/or objects are creatively changed or used; e.g., sand is contoured to build a land bridge; sand is moved/stacked as an essential part of a lunar compound; a house is built from twigs picked up on walk to school.
  • Spiritual: Religious & spiritual symbols present, such as supernatural beings, worshiping figures or numinous items; e.g., Buddha overlooking a couple.
  • Centered: In center of tray, elements are aesthetically balanced or a union of opposites occurs; e.g., a man and woman married; mandala centered in the tray.
  • Integrated: Congruent organized idea encompasses entire tray; unity of expression; e.g., day at the zoo, baseball game, abstract construction unifying whole tray.j

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Suggested Sand Tray Activities

  • "Create your own world" or “Tell me a story in this tray"
  • Client constructs representation of real-life experience, interaction or problem situation.
  • Can provide reassuring distancing for client by keeping in third person.  For example, suggest a scene about "a girl who feels betrayed by her best friend"instead of the client.
  • Client builds tray portraying particular issue requiring solution.  Client then selects miniature to act as a Helper or Wise One to answer questions or aid in needed actions.
  • Client builds tray illustrating particular feeling and circumstances (or miniatures) that evoke that feeling.
  • Client constructs a scene representing own family.
  • Therapist selects clinically significant group of miniatures (to focus upon particular situation) and then asks client to create a world for the miniatures.
  • Client may play out situation in tray
  • Client and therapist do a Joint Tray (similar to Oaklander’s joint picture technique).
  • Therapist and client create story in tray together where client selects miniature and supplies first sentence. Therapist follows suit for next sentence and miniature, etc.
  • Therapist suggests that client build an Amplification Tray for certain part of constructed world that is confusing or difficult to experience.
  • Miniatures involved are moved to second empty tray where they dialogue or play out situation.
  • Client adopts physical stance of particular figure in constructed tray, (Therapist may mirror client’s stance.) Client focuses on feelings/thoughts the stance evokes.
  • For small group: Members construct individual trays, then select figures symbolizing their own journey to form a group tray.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sand Tray 101

1.  Direct a child to create a scene (can be general or specific)
  • Allow client to work unhindered in tray until they tell you they are finished.
  • Pay attention to what the child picks, discards, does with the sand, etc.
  • Take not of themes and the energy in the tray that may occur to you as you think about this client’s, particular presenting problem, early years, family situation, etc
2.  Look for themes and comment on what you see (relating to the selection and placement of figures).
  • I notice that…. (ex. this one is all alone in the corner)
3.  Make gentle interpretations, but do not share them.
4.  Invite the child to describe their scene (examples below)
  • Tell me about your world

  • Does your tray have a name?

  • Does it have a story to go with it? Will you tell me the story?

5.  Ask relevant questions (examples below)
  • What was difficult about doing this?  What was easy?

  • What do you dislike about the scene? What do you like?

  • Is there anything you would like to change?  (Have them change it) How did that feel?

  • I’m wondering about _____________
  • If you had to choose one of these figures to be you, which one would it be?
 (Don’t go farther than this and ask them to tell you what each figure represents, the probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you)
  • Does this world remind you of anything in your own life?
7.  Invite parts of the scene to talk to each other
  • Does anyone (referring to the figures) have anything to say?