Play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy with children that uses play to help them express and/or act out their experiences, feelings, and problems by playing with dolls, toys, and other play material, under the guidance or observation of a therapist. A child plays in a protected and structured environment with games and toys provided by the therapist, who observes the behavior, affect, and conversation of the child to gain insight in thoughts, feelings and fantasies. As conflicts are discovered, the therapist often helps the child understand and work through these psychosocial challenges. It is to help them towards better social integration, growth and development.
Sandtray therapy is a technique of play therapy using sand, water, and toys/play materials, as a means through which the observer and the child could communicate. The child is invited to create a world in the tray by making patterns in the sand or by placing objects into the sandtray in any configuration that feels right. The child is encouraged to play with the sand as they wish—there is no right or wrong way to play. Sandtray communicates personal experience into a concrete, three-dimensional form. A figure or scene can express feelings, emotions, and conflicts/challenges that previously had no verbal language. Hence, the “sand-worlds” that are created offer a personalized vocabulary for nonverbal experiences, and internal struggles and tensions can be played out. Without having to depend on words, children can increase their capacity for expression through the sandtray. Self-awareness and communication are enhanced through this process.