Book Reviews:

Steinhardt, L. (2013). On becoming a Jungian sandplay therapist: The healing spirit of sandplay in nature and therapy. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

This book spoke to my soul, giving substance and form to what has innately appealed in seeking more understanding of this therapeutic form. Giving space and credence to ‘numinous’ qualities in therapy has been an important search in my own journey.

Numinous is the thread I found woven through this book. Steinhardt is an Israeli art therapist and a Jungian sandplay therapist who brings considerable experience in these fields to this book. She features the parts of the process in the book; addressing the therapist, the symbols, taking cognizance of the sand and how the interplay of these parts can transcend the ordinary to enhance the client’s “…innate spiritual strength to endure and overcome generational and personal trauma” (p.26).

There is a mixture of written chapters for this publication interwoven with presented or published articles. Thus we are invited into the world of Delphine’s ten year therapeutic journey using sandplay as she addresses her past and present issues with the sand and symbols. It provides a valuable look at a longitudinal case study, one that I am unlikely to experience.

The two symbols that are researched provide us with two quite different origins that promoted this in depth work. Steinhardt observed how, over years, her fisherman symbol was being used consistently but only once within each client’s sandplay series. As therapists we need to be aware of ‘markers’ those things that keep occurring in our therapeutic work. The other symbol group that Steinhardt acknowledged in depth were shells, inherently part of the sand but providing an ancient interaction between humans and shells representing fundamental human rites of passages.

I also resonated with Steinhardt”s use of a celtic Tri spiral for a symbol of her supervision. She writes of this tri spiral image she created, with two outer circles. This is the same image I have used to represent the supervision practice I offer.

The three spirals representing the client, therapist and created work, the outer circles being the safe place provided and the coming together of all the parts. The three parts are universal symbols for those life tri-cycles, e.g. the maiden, the wife and the crone or past present and future.

In the final chapter, Steinhardt writes of the annual one-day, same group of sandplay and arts therapists who come together to work in their sand trays. This provides a time for the therapists to experience comraderie, expression and renewal. To know this place of sanctuary can be visited each year must provide a stable and trusted platform. A rather inviting idea for development in Aotearoa.

Sheryn Buckley 2015


Steinhardt, L. (2000). Foundation and form in Jungian Sandplay. London: Jessica Kingsley.

If I were to forced to choose just one book on Sandplay for my bookshelf, I would want to have access to Lenore Steinhardt’s Foundation and form in Jungian sandplay. The number of post it notes inserted into my well-thumbed copy bear testament to the number of times it has provided me with inspiration. As much as the content of the book, the attraction lies in the art therapy paradigm from which Lenore Steinhardt writes and her integrated discussions of Jungian concepts related to sandplay.

Writing in an accessible and clearly articulated style, Steinhardt initially sets the context of her book where Sandplay is viewed through the lens of Art Therapy. Just as a client presenting for art therapy will have access to various art materials, so the client engaging in Jungian Sandplay is offered a way to create an ‘impermanent symbolic picture during a tactile experience’ that may resonate emotionally and symbolically in a unique way.

The blue-bottomed sandtray, sand, water and miniatures contribute to the art therapy setting and additional, unique method of making images. Art-making behaviour in the sandtray begins with direct body contact with natural materials as a dialogue between the hands and the sand (p.10).

The concept of Foundation referred to in the title of the book is the sand being a constant base or foundation, as well as a visual form which is taken notice of in art therapy as an option in forming a sandworld rather than a reliance on placing miniatures on an unworked flat surface. Many times there is energy and foundational image or Form present in the sand that become visible and integral to the finished sandplay. Indeed, I have noticed images (forms) created in the sand integrating into the visual gestalt of the symbol images only on reviewing a client’s photograph. In my training as an art therapist, body movements, client affect, energy and dynamic processes in art making are observed as being equally important to the final image. Alongside the notion of the client transferring or projecting unconscious thoughts and emotions into their art or sandplay process, the therapist is aware of resonating with these processes and holding and containing them within the session and the therapeutic relationship. It was stimulating and affirming for me to read of this marriage of sandplay and art therapy in an understanding of the Sandplay process.

Steinhardt relates this dynamic foundation forming process to Whitmont (1991) citing Jung’s assertion that ‘in the long runno conscious will can ever replace the life instinct’ (p.19). Whitmont’s discussion of the child’s emerging psyche evolving from an instinctual life to higher functioning thus forming a sustainable ego. During the sandplay process our clients have the invitation to manipulate and work sand and water, to experience the properties and possibilities of materials just as authentically as a sculptor and artist who connects their hands with the clay, paint or mixed media. The therapist is thus alerted to enabled to witness the clients’ struggles to either build or rebuild their own psychic base –foundation in the sandtray. Steinhardt claims that ‘an art therapist’s acknowledgement of sand and water as sculptural materials may confirm the importance of phenomena.

Our attention is engaged in the first chapter by a contribution by a Native American Lakota Sioux, Carole Proudfoot-Edgar. The story and myth of the Turtle as a metaphor for the disruptive life processes of humans gives the reader a glimpse into the possibility of Mythology being enacted in the tray. Steinhardt cites Jung in his autobiography comprehending ‘the existence of a myth producing level of mind which was common to all men’ (Jung 1961, p.17).

Steinhardt’s point of difference in sandplay literature is an inquiry into the appropriateness of integrating the historically different therapies of Jungian sandplay and art. Expanding on the comparisons made by Weinrib (1973) and Bradway & MaCoed (1997) Steinhardt posits that both art therapy and sandplay have developed wider acceptance in Jungian theory as imagery has become more acceptable. The sandplay image is transient, save for the photographic image captured. At the other end of the continuum is the permanence of images created in art therapy. However, sandplay imagery is more visual than dream imagery, an integral part of Jungian analysis.

Sandplay has its origins in the work of Jungian analyst Dora Kalff and the writings and encouragement of Carl Jung. Steinhardt outlines Jungian concepts relevant to sandplay, and illustrates these with passages from Jung’s writings on the central Archetypes of The Self, the Great Mother, the Spiritual Father, Fantasy, Active Imagination and Transformation. She reminds us that ‘Jung was able to heal himself during a period of disorientation after his decisive break with Freud in 1912 to 1913 through the use of symbolic play, constructing a village using stones, mud and water on the banks of a lake, just as he had done as a child’ (p.21).

Part 1 thus offers a review of sandplay literature in relation to form. Part 2 examines the art therapy setting in relation to sandplay, a particularly valuable perspective for art and creative expressive therapists also offering sandplay. Her assertion that sandplay is an immediate form of image-making that is validated in the Jungian approach as a form of active imagination, but also bridging play and art, has a contextual reassurance for me. I had instinctually felt a marriage between the two paradigms but was bothered whether offering both to clients could compromise theoretical purity. Steinhardt is reassuring and encouraging of the complementary witnessed processes in an art therapy setting ‘restoring permission to be playful, to take risks…regulated by the psyche’s support of the Individuation process … (and observed) through (the) Transcendent Function’ (p.82-83).

Part 4 is devoted to the creation of Form or visual expression in art therapy and sandplay. Steinhardt offers interesting perspectives and insights into materials one offers as symbols, display of symbols, colour and space and form as metaphors, A useful section, “maps in the sandtray”, reviews the work of Ryce-Menuhin (1992) Amman (1991) Cooper (1978) and Bradway and McCoard (1997) on spatial interpretation of trays, concluding it could be possible to assess potential meanings in the quadrants or spatial layouts, particularly with clients who are involved in the arts and are intuitively aware of space and materials.

A fascinating and instructive Part 5 names and describes the primary modes of play with sand and water. Many times we observe our clients moulding, drawing, making impressions, creating holes and tunnels, burying, dripping and flooding. This section offers insights into the unconscious processes of what is being communicated as well as exploring an understanding of clients whose refusal to touch the sand and suggestions for how to proceed in therapy with them.

Finally in Part 6 the work of several clients and in particular, one in-depth presentation with full colour plates is offered in the context of Jungian principles informed by the principles and practices of art therapy. So many frameworks I had been exposed to in my own sandplay process with an art therapist, but had not found explanations for to help in client reflections, is present in this section. Further, the indices, references and clear sectioning of each Part into relevant sections have been useful in locating information that assists post-session reflections. This book is not specifically for art therapists who are also sandplay therapists aspiring to emulate and understand Jungian principles and practices in their sandplay practice. It is a dynamic reference encapsulating threads and connections to principles being reinforced in my current and ongoing creative therapies and ISST training. Additionally it enabled me to access concepts from the next book I am enthusiastic about.

Lenore Steinhardt is a co-founder and director of an art therapy graduate programme at The Kibbutzem Seminar in Tel Aviv. In her private practice she is an art therapist and sandplay therapist. At a recent International Sandplay Symposium (ISST) in Cambridge, England she presented a workshop on Spiral Dreaming which I attended where even the process by which we entered and took our places in the room, shared impactful dreams as a foundation and subsequently made an image or form from the symbol work we collaboratively produced, invited me to revisit this book marvel at the collective unconscious which guides and inspires dynamic thinking about sandplay


Brief reflection on:

Zoja, E.P. (Ed.) (2004). Sandplay therapy: Treatment of psychopathologies. Verlag, CH: Daimon

In nominating the sandplay book most frequently out on loan from my collection, and one of which I have 2 copies, I am acknowledging a contrast in styles and content. Whereas the Steinhardt book needs to be read as a whole, Sandplay therapy: Treatment of psychopathologies needs to savoured chapter by chapter or paper by paper. I have chosen this book to encapsulate both a second review and from it, one paper for discussion. However, the three chapters mentioned have become guidelines for professional reflection and so the perspective is personal.

Current research in neuroscience continues to inform and impact on the way we think about non-verbal aspects trauma. Each chapter or paper in this collection from ten European sandplay therapists describe how sandplay may allow manifestation of trauma to manifest itself as a form, shaped by the hands. Treatment of presenting psychopathologies of psychoses, borderline syndromes, psychosomatic illnesses, drug addictions or narcissistic character disorders and trauma in children are viewed through the sandplay lens. An underpinning belief of each author is what cannot be expressed in words and has therefore been hypothesized and patholigised, has the chance in sandplay to be manifested in visual and kinaesthietc form thus making it more accessible to transformation.

My initial reaction was that I would understand little of the content yet the attraction was being able to select pertinent chapters to savour individually. The three chapters to which I return regularly when reviewing case work are directly related to my work.

On Resonance by Ruth Amman.

Ruth Amman’s chapter On Resonance generically informs my thinking about resonance, mutual projections, transference and counter-transference but also brings up and challenges the current discussions of evidence-based practice in art therapy and sandplay. With Ruth being my principle ISST trainer and group supervisor, this chapter is a reminder of the thinking and practice being modeled in her teaching. Working as we do in the company of psychologists whose training extols the absolute effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, those of us who espouse psychodynamic theory are constantly challenged in our reflective practice. Ruth has a way of painting verbal metaphors such as this:

A great musician is not the one with a perfect technique, but one who is able to move people’s hearts, to create a resonance between his way of making music alive for himself and the audience. We all know the story of Orpheus, the greatest singer and musician of “all” time. Not with his technique but with his music he transferred the vibrations of his heart to the stone’s “heart”. To move a stone – and to move a human soul – is an art and a mystery, not a technique.(p.245).

 Ruth’s case study of a woman with hereditary muscular dystrophy vividly demonstrates the analytical resonance but more importantly the relationship between client, therapist and process which emerges from Ruth’s integrity as a psychoanalyst. In times of self doubt it is reassuring to return to this chapter and hear again her voice containing my anxiety and projecting confidence and trust in the process.

Ruth is the President of the International Sandplay Society, a Jungian Analyst and practicing architect.

Children in Distress  by Stefano Mariucci.

This chapter holds a particular interest for me both as a child psychotherapist in the field of child protection but also in private practice as a sandplay and art therapist.

While not minimizing the effects of physical and sexual abuse on children, Mariucci contextualizes his discussion on psychological violence which he claims is less visible and therefore difficult to diagnose and treat since its borders are indistinct. He posits that psychological violence is marked by a number of specific features. In brief, it can originate in very early life, even pre-birth, when the psyche is at its most unformed and vulnerable. Secondly, the effects of prolonged psychological violence take time to manifest. Thirdly, the child is defenseless against these indirect, ambiguous and paradoxical psychological assaults (p.84). Of particular interest is the link between new insights of foetal experiences and the impact oi parental and familial fantasies which he describes as forming a ‘psychological cradle’ (p.85).

Mariucci elucidates the institutional violence which can unwittingly be perpetrated by child protection practices and judicial decisions leading to removal of the child and fostering. He illustrates his concern with the case history of a boy removed from a physically abusive father into care, becoming increasingly violent and unable to form relationships over the course of time. Citing Neumann(1990) he says

The Ego, in isolation from the Self, has lost its soul and identifies with the negative hero…The only chance for returning to health and wholeness lay in the possibility of recreating relationships between all these conscious and unconscious complexes into which the boy’s psychic reality had splintered (p.105).

 Through Sandplay and metaphor the boy was able to reconstruct and transform healthy relationships and to experience love and being loved. The impact of insights offered by this chapter to my practice is influential and allows me to reflect in a paradigm different from those I have previously accessed and to have insight into two cases for ISST supervision presentation. Many of the children I work with have experienced significant disruption to their family structure and relationships, either through family break up and subsequent adjustment to change; grief and loss through death or change with parental or sibling illness; short term but repeated changes through family circumstances or care and protection issues. In the learning from this paper I was encouraged to reflect differently on the unfolding stories of an eight year old adopted boy client; a twelve year old boy trying to integrate family change because of a family secret concerning his birth, and a seven year old girl traumatized through family displacement .

The Self and family archetypes in children  by Francesco Montecchi.

The impact of this chapter / paper on my reflective practice has been to challenge me to attend in more depth to Jungian conversations. Montecchi considers the triadic aspects of the family Archetypes in relation to Self: the Family, the Maternal, the Paternal from within a Jungian and sandplay perspective. His Jungian dialogue is more complex and challenging for me than Marinucci’s style but that may be partly attributable to translation from Italian to English and partly to my perception there is a Freudian influence to his interpretations and explanations .

Montecchi begins with an explanation of the realization of Self within the Family Archetype prior to explaining stages of development and activation of Archetypes. The value of this paper is it is helpful in identifying stages of a child client’s process from an analytical perspective and therefore supporting the awareness of attachment issues which may be worked through in the sandplay process.

There is comfort in Montecchi’s assertion The child begins at birth to articulate its own development by becoming accustomed to the “suffering” that derives from the loss and abandonment of a constant bond with the parent figures, and later having to relinquish the satisfaction of primitive needs and desires – and as well to abandon idealizations – as a basic condition for the pleasurable enjoyment of what life has to offer (p.145).

In essence that seems to encapsulate the possibilities and hopes for the work to be done with our children.

In summary, this book offers a compact form of accessing up to date research and thinking on Sandplay from a European Jungian perspective and which contains the essence of Sandplay accessing areas of specific human suffering. This is important for me as a sandplay practitioner who is indirectly accessing Jung from the far reaches of Australasia. I look forward to digesting other chapters and knowing the spirit of Jung’s teachings are contained within and moderated by a jury of Jungian peers.