The client is given the possibility, by means of figures and the arrangement of the sand in the area bounded by the sandbox, to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a pictorial world comparable to the dream experience. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation described by C. G. Jung is stimulated and brought to fruition.
The work itself that is performed during sandplay can bring about the relativising encounter of the ego with the forces of the Self as a numinous experience which frequently finds its expression in religious symbols. Another aspect of the wholeness upon which particular emphasis is placed in the sandplay is the totality of body and spirit. In its negative aspect the spirit appears as exclusive intellect which has lost all connection to feeling and the body. This lack of connection expresses itself in contempt for feeling as something unclear and in the opinion that the body is primitive and non-spiritual. This attitude, all too frequent in modem man, is often the cause of psychic disorders. Only when the intellect has learnt to understand itself as one element among others making up the total person, can the client find the way back to the sense and meaning of life. Symbolically, the newly found wholeness expresses itself in mandala-type representations.
"Sandplay" is the method I use in therapy both with children and with adults in order to gain access to the contents of the unconscious. As the name suggests, it consists in playing in a specially proportioned sandbox (approximately 19.5 x 28.5 x 2.75 inches; floor and sides painted with water-resistant bright-blue paint). Boxes of dry and moist sand are provided. Clients also have at their disposal a number of small figures with which they give formal realization to their internal worlds. The figures from which they can choose should represent as complete as possible a cross-section of all inanimate and animate beings which we encounter in the external world as well as in the inner imaginative world: trees, plants, stones, marbles, mosaics, wild and domesticated animals, ordinary women and men pursuing various activities, soldiers, fairytale figures, religious figures from diverse cultural spheres, houses, fountains, bridges, ships, vehicles, etc.
In sandplay it immediately becomes clear that the human being can come closer to wholeness. It becomes possible to break through the narrowing perspective of our bogged-down conception and fears and to find in play a new relationship to our own depth. Immersed in play, the person succeeds in making an inner picture visible. Thus a link is established between internal and external.