Karen A. Smyers Ph.D.
Jungian Analyst
Former President, Western Massachusetts Association of Jungian Psychology


The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth.

-- C.G. Jung (CW 6:93)



Sandplay was developed by Swiss analyst Dora Kalff, influenced by the “World Technique” therapy of British child psychologist Margaret Lowenfeld, who in turn had been influenced by H.G. Wells' “floor games” with his two sons. It basically consists of a sandbox at about waist height and a profusion of miniature figures with which to make a picture. Clients are invited to use this “free and protected space” (Kalff) to create whatever comes to them in the moment. It is a largely non-verbal process; analyzing the sand trays usually takes place some sessions later. A photographic record is kept of the different trays, and like a dream series, it can illustrate the transformation and healing process.



sandplay northampton, ma

sandplay - river and people image

Jung did not use sandplay as a formal technique. However, in his own confrontation with the unconscious, he found himself spending hours at his “waterworks,” an elaborate creation of canals and buildings on the shore of Lake Zürich. Already an adult and doctor, he felt compelled to play as he had with such fascination as a boy. “I went on with my building game after the noon meal every day, whenever the weather permitted. As soon as I was through eating, I began playing, and continued to do so until the patients arrived; and if I was finished with my work early enough in the evening, I went back to building. In the course of this activity my thoughts clarified, and I was able to grasp the fantasies whose presence in myself I dimly felt.” At other periods of confusion, he turned to painting and stone carving.

Sandplay is a wonderful creative activity:
it is very satisfying and requires no artistic talent whatsoever.

sandplay castle and trees


Often the hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect has wrestled in vain.

--C.G. Jung (CW 8:180)