Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

MCM - MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling


Expressive Therapies


Raquel Chapin Stephenson


This study explores the use of Sandtray therapy with children in middle childhood who have experienced trauma. Sandtray therapy allows children to create a world of their own with sand and symbolic figures. It supports children’s need for autonomy and provides a way to engage in healing through playful and non-verbal means. Based on the intermodal nature of Sandtray therapy, it was presumed that the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC) could be used alongside the intervention as an assessment tool to better understand how development impacts artmaking. Based on the developmental needs of this population, a method including play and art-making seemed best. For that reason, an adapted sandtray was developed, ensuring that it was best suited to travel and allowing for each student to have a similar experience, despite meeting them in different settings. Each child had a 45-minute session in which they had the opportunity to interact with the tray. Knowing the contradictions between Sandtray's natural blend of all levels of the ETC and the developmental limitations of this population, this study hoped to illuminate Sandtray’s ability to enhance children’s art-making capacities, allowing them to work at all levels of the ETC. Using Sandtray, it became clear how each child felt most comfortable engaging in the art-making process, which coincided with their developmental milestones. Further, research pointed out how Sandtray can uncover symbols that may not be conscious to the child but can inform the therapist and provide further connections.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.




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