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Sandplay and Dreamwork

Humpback whales in Alaska, their dorsal fins just breaking the water's surface, breathe plumes of vapor upward into the air, illuminated by the light of sunset.

Image credit: Paul -

We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life.

                                                            – C. G. Jung        

While our minds chatter away, and our hearts love and ache without understanding, and we find ourselves acting in ways we don't comprehend, we are fragmented and lost. We have not come into the fruitional wholeness that Jung called the Self, the living archetype that encompasses both consciousness and unconscious. When we engage in a "depth" process of psychotherapy – and not all psychotherapy works at depth – we are inviting the Self to communicate what is needed to brings fragments of identity back into a wholeness. Guidance and understanding will often come through dreams, creativity, play, and reverie. As we feel into the symbols that come forth, we encounter unknown parts of ourselves like the shadow, anima, animus, and collective unconscious. As these are integrated, we come into wholeness and Self fulfillment. 


My interest in psychotherapy is broad and not limited to the Jungian perspective, but I resonate with Jung's spiritual drive to know the "numinous," his relentless commitment to his own inner work, and his elucidation of complexes and both personal and universal archetypes. I continue to delve into his work and in particular am engaged in a long training and certification process in Jungian Sandplay. Both dreamwork and Jungian Sandplay invite greater communication with the unconscious and the numinous, contact that brings us closer to the powerfully life-affirming Self. 

Two purple anemone flowers (Pulsatilla patens) face each other, slightly illuminated in a mysterious bluish-purple background.


Image credit: Oleksandr -

Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899, but looking to dreams for understanding goes back to antiquity, and forward to most every psychotherapist who followed Freud. In Jung's words, "The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach." In short, through our dreams we can reach parts of ourselves and our experience that are beyond mind. Or, as one of my psychotherapists once said, "dreams are postcards from the unconscious." Dreams may be particularly important when unwinding early preverbal history, or in bringing forward clues to what has been forgotten. As we reflect on your dreams, we see what is moving in your depth. Some people think they don't dream, or don't dream often. But if we extend an invitation to this channel, we'll likely find that your unconscious wants to speak.

Sandplay was developed by one of Jung's proteges, Dora Kalff. Jung knew from his own inner work that "Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain," a view validated by modern neuroscience. Like dreamwork, Sandplay invites communication from the unconscious. The raw materials are a tray filled halfway with sand and various small miniatures representative of the various domains of life (nature, people, animals, spiritual/mythological figures and symbols, structures, vehicles, and common household items. As you engage the sand, you can shape and move it, and add water and/or figures. This process is often silent. We then contemplate the completed tray, which often brings insight. Over time, we see connections and transformations between trays in a series. Without having to figure anything out, we see change occur. Photographs of sand trays below are used with permission. 

A close-up image of beach sand showing slight contours and color gradations.


Image credit: Николай Батаев -

Sandplay allows a movement within the client that is profound. It identifies unspoken issues and brings solutions. Sandplay is for everyone. Children love it and adults marvel at it.

                                                                   – Marg Garvan, Sandplay Australia

Some of the Sandplay miniatures in the collection of Anne Hoff Therapy in Seattle.
An example of a sand tray created in the Sandplay process, image used with permission.
An example of a sand tray created in the Sandplay process, image used with permission.
An example of a sand tray created in the Sandplay process, image used with permission.
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