At Compass Rose, we use a variety of experiential treatment models to help our students heal. One of these treatment models is sand tray therapy. 

What is sand tray therapy?

Sand tray therapy utilizes miniatures to allow the client to create scenes or worlds within a tray of sand. The scenes or worlds created reflect the client’s own life as they see it. This treatment model, most often used with children, is especially helpful with clients dealing with trauma or resistance to treatment as it gives expression to non-verbalized emotions or struggles. 

How does it work?

To begin this process, the therapist introduces the sand tray and miniatures. The therapist will then invite the client to create a scene or world, using whatever miniatures the client chooses. The client can choose however many they want. If the client seems overwhelmed by the lack of structure, the therapist can make a suggestion as to what the client might make a scene of, such as “Make a scene of how you feel about your family.” The therapist simply observes while the client builds their scene, noticing details like order and placement of the miniatures. 

When the client finishes creating their scene, the therapist asks the client to describe it to them. After an initial explanation, the therapist may ask more questions about specific areas of the tray or individual miniatures. The therapist can then ask the client if there is anything they would like to change in their scene or build another sand tray. Therapists are advised not to take apart the scene until the client has left the room, so the scene can remain intact in the client’s mind for them to process further. 

Sand tray therapy is just one of several treatment models we use here at Compass Rose. We are excited to have an expanded space to store and display our collection of miniatures on our new campus, and we would love for you to contribute to our collection! You are welcome to mail us miniatures or bring one (or several) next time you visit campus. We would like to have as many as possible for our students to choose from as professionals suggest having a minimum of 300 miniatures available. Here are some examples of the types of miniatures we need:

  • Figurines representing people of different ages and ethnicities
  • Animals
  • Buildings
  • Transportation
  • Vegetation
  • Fences/Gates/Signs
  • Bridges/Shelters
  • Superheros
  • Fantasy items
  • Religious symbols
  • Money/treasure
  • Household items
  • Medical related items

These can be found at dollar stores, yard sales, thrift shops, or online. We look forward to seeing what you find!



Boik, B.L. & Goodwin, E. A. (2000). Sandplay Therapy. New York:
  W.W.Norton & Company.

DeDomenico, G. (1995). Sandtray world play: A Comprehensive guide
  to the use of the sandtray in pscyhotherapeutic and transformational
  settings. Oakland CA: Vision Quest Images.

Homeyer, L.E. & Sweeney, D.S. ( 2011). Sandtray Therapy, 2nd
  edition. New York:Routledge.

Zhou, D. (2009). A Review of Sandplay Therapy. International
  Journal of Psychological Studies, 1(2), 69-72.