Play therapy refers to a method of psychotherapy with children in which a therapist uses a child's fantasies and the symbolic meanings of his or her play as a medium for understanding and communication with the child. The aim of play therapy is to decrease those behavioral and emotional difficulties that interfere significantly with a child's normal functioning. Inherent in this aim is improved communication and understanding between the child and his parents. Less obvious goals include improved verbal expression, ability for self-observation, improved impulse control, more adaptive ways of coping with anxiety and frustration, and improved capacity to trust and to relate to others.
Play therapy is used to treat problems that are interfering with the child's normal development. Children communicate their thoughts and feelings through play more naturally than they do through verbal communication. As the child plays, the therapist begins to recognize themes and patterns or ways of using the materials that are important to the child. Over time, the therapist helps the child begin to make meaning out of the play.
Sandtray, sandbox or sandplay therapy is a form of experential workshop which allows greater exploration of deep emotional issues. Sandplay therapy is suitable for children and adults and allows them to reach a deeper insight into and resolution of a range of issues in their lives such as deep anger, depression, abuse or grief.
Through a safe and supportive process they are able to explore their world using a sandtray and a collection of miniatures. Accessing hidden or previously unexplored areas is often possible using this expressive and creative way of working which does not rely on "talk" therapy.
The technique was developed by the Swiss therapist Dora M. Kalff (1904-1990) and Margaret Lowenfeld.