An exploration of the use of sand as a medium in psychotherapy with adults

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Cadogan, Sheena
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This qualitative study investigated the use of sand as a medium in psychotherapy with adults. The purpose of the study was to conduct field research which would examine the existing theories, concepts, frameworks and clinical models in the literature. It aimed to explore both therapist and client factors as it has been suggested that the therapist plays a pivotal part in the process of sandplay. This present study also aimed to investigate the link between sand and the area of trauma. Previous theories and research suggest that non-verbal mediums which engage the senses are effective in trauma therapy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five accredited and experienced psychotherapists who use sand as a medium with adult clients in their practice. The sample chosen was heterogeneous in terms of training background, theoretical approach and client population. The sample comprised both male and female participants. Thematic analysis was carried out on the data collected. The findings of this study suggest that sand is an effective medium for connecting the unconscious and conscious realms of the psyche. This study found that there are different levels of holding or containment which are necessary in order for the client to safely process unconscious material. These include physical containment, emotional or psychological holding and the holding of the therapist through external supports such as supervision and peer support. This study also found that sand must be respected as it is a very powerful tool in therapy. The findings of this study support previous theory and research in the field of sand therapy and offer field research from an Irish perspective. These findings have implications for the current status of sand in the field of adult psychotherapy in Ireland. At present, further development is needed in terms of public and professional awareness, education, training and integration of sand as a medium in adult psychotherapy. Author keywords: Sand, psychotherapy, trauma, unconscious, non-verbal medium, sandplay