People express themselves in many different ways, and this is something that Dr. Lorraine Freedle understands well. As a licensed psychologist board certified in several different areas of care, she has worked with a diverse clientele. From children and adolescents to adults and families, she has helped people to overcome a wide range of challenges in their lives.
One area that Dr. Lorraine Freedle has taken a particular interest in, however, is sandplay therapy. This innovative technique connects with patients on a variety of levels and offers therapeutic healing. It is used with people of all ages and is especially beneficial for those who have undergone some sort of trauma. They are able to express their thoughts and feelings without having to rely on words.
What is sandplay therapy?
Sandplay therapy is very much what it sounds like – therapy that involves “playing” with sand. However, it goes much deeper than that, explains Dr. Lorraine Freedle. Through the act of manipulating the sand and creating a scene, patients connect with their unconscious thoughts. They create a visual display that conveys their innermost thoughts and feelings. It may depict a specific event or how they feel at a given time. Patients make a series of trays throughout their therapy and each one is progressive, showing how they are healing and changing.
The physical act of touching, moving, and modeling the sand with the hands is very sensory. It releases energy and provides focus. It is easily manipulated and changed as the scene unfolds. Patients do not have to talk about what they are doing and the therapist does not offer any interpretation. The therapist does, however, make notes about how the patient creates the tray and its symbolism, and can use this insight to guide future talking sessions.
Is sandplay therapy right for everyone?
Not everyone becomes involved in sandplay therapy. Some people are not yet ready to make these deep connections or do not have an interest in creating trays. A therapist should not force a patient to participate, asserts Dr. Lorraine Freedle. Some people are very open to the idea, however, and are intrigued by the possibility it can hold. It is beneficial for those who are pre-verbal, non-verbal, or simply at a loss for words. Some patients get caught up in trying to figure out how to explain their thoughts or feelings. Sandplay connects them with their inner emotions in a different way and they can act out what they have trouble expressing in words. The therapist should build a strong rapport with the patient and introduce sandplay to those they feel would benefit and are ready to make these connections, says Dr. Lorraine Freedle.
Lorraine Freedle Details the Sandplay Process
Sand trays are approximately 30 inches long, 20 inches wide, and three inches deep. They are filled two-thirds of the way with sand. The inside of the tray is painted light blue. This is how each tray starts. From there, it is up to the patient to create a scene within.
Patients can either work with the dry sand or add water as needed to help with building and molding. They are provided with an extensive collection of objects in which to create their scene. Objects include things such as:
- Trees and plants
- Rocks and stones
- Household items
- People completing various tasks
- Domesticated and wild animals
- Mythical figurines
- Cartoon characters
- Heroic figures
- Religious objects
- Bridges and fountains
Patients have access to all of these types of figures in order to most effectively depict their scene. Some people do not know exactly why they chose a particular figure or put it in a certain location, they just felt drawn to do so, says Dr. Lorraine Freedle. This is them connecting with their unconscious and their thoughts and feelings coming through.
Patients may gain immediate insight into what they have created and develop a deeper understanding of the situation. It gives them a sense of freedom and control. They are able to make more sense of their thoughts and feelings and become an active participant in their healing. They are able to progressively work through their challenges and overcome them.
Dr. Lorraine Freedle has found much success helping patients to heal through sand therapy. Her work with patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) won her the 2008 Original Sandplay Research Award by the Sandplay Therapists of America. Many patients suffering from TBIs have difficulty with expressing themselves and may have impaired verbal abilities. Through the use of sandplay, she found that these patients had an improved ability to express themselves in a way that helped them to make sense of the situation. They were also able to progress through the seven phases of psychological development that lead to inner healing. Integrating sandplay into their rehabilitation focused on meeting their psychological needs rather than only focusing on their cognitive and motor skills. Dr. Lorraine Freedle has found that sandplay is a beneficial form of therapy for patients struggling with a wide range of trauma.