Virtual Sandtray®© Underworld

by Jessica Stone, Ph.D., RPT-S

            One of the powerful benefits of using the Virtual Sandtray App (VSA) is the ability for multi-level, multi-dimensional depiction of one’s world. As we know, sand therapy was created by Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld to provide “a way to allow children to share their inner worlds” (Homeyer, 2020).  The World Technique was born, and with it, Projective Play Therapy formed (Lowenfeld, 2007; Homeyer, 2020). Numerous adaptations followed and this creative, expressive, projective technique used to work with clients of all ages is a mainstay for therapists many different theoretical foundations and approaches. 

            The Virtual Sandtray App allows the client to customize a number of components within the tray to allow for a greater level of expression and creation.  Sandtray is not merely about putting items in the sand or having a representation of an item placed on a sand-like field; sandtray is a series of processes which culminate in a mind-body connection and expression of one’s inner world, experiences, and how one sees themselves within multiple layers of being. To create a tray, the process must be intentional and immersive. Miniatures, items, figurines, symbols, models…  whatever you call them, must be selected ~ a process by which the mind and body feels a connection to the  depiction and how it will assist the person in expressing what is needed. A mindful process of scrolling through items, placing them one by one with one’s fingers, customizing the item individually to be “just right”, moving the sand with one’s fingers; these are all part of the process of intentional, immersive, projective creation ~ as intended by what we know from Dr. Lowenfeld’s writings and teachings. All of these critical features have been incorporated into the Virtual Sandtray.

            Additionally, when one ponders the components of intentional, immersive, creative projections (IICP), it would be natural to wonder what new mediums and platforms can provide.  Given the absence of many limitations in the traditional sandtray process, what might expand this IICP process? Here at Virtual Sandtray we believe the ability for multi-level, multi-dimensional depiction is a key portion of this process. Therefore, we developed features such as a liquid layer, skybox, and the ability to have 3 different layers to one’s world:  the base tray world, the sky world, and the VSA UnderworldTM.

            The VSA Underworld is created by removing sand from the tray, placing items in the liquid layer (think of a layer similar to the classic blue-bottom tray), changing the liquid layer to the desired color and texture, and then burying the items under the sand. Then, when the tray is tilted downward and the user zooms in, a world beneath the sand is revealed.  When the tray is tilted back to a level position, the Underworld disappears, tilt back down and it reappears.  A common use is to have the sand level be what the client shows to their world – what their friends, partners, families, peers, co-workers, etc. see and are allowed to know, while the Underworld is that which energy is expelled to hide. It could also be two visible but distinct portions of oneself or one’s world.  The possibilities are virtually endless!

            To learn more about this technique – play around with the Virtual Sandtray! Bury items, tilt all the way down, and zoooooooooooom in.  Keep zooming until you achieve the desired amount of the Underworld being shown.  Rotate around in the tray to reveal different items and portions of the depiction.  Take photos and videos of each and all. These IICP depictions allow for such ownership and investment in the creation; the meaning to the person, the process, the therapy, and the movement toward the therapeutic goals is priceless.  Enjoy!

VSA Underworld tray with poison layer depiction
VSA Underworld tray with lava liquid layer and planet skybox shown.

Lowenfeld, M. (2007). Understanding children’s sandplay: Lowenfeld’s World Technique. Sussex Academic Press.

Homeyer, L. (2020). History of sand therapy. https://worldsandtherapy.org/history-of-sand-therapy

To learn more about the VSA Underworld technique (and more), please take the Level III VSA course, offered in 2021 through this website (under trainings).

To learn more about Dr. Lowenfeld, please read her books and visit The Lowenfeld Trust website: http://lowenfeld.org/

For more information about the Virtual Sandtray®© App, please visit: https://sandtrayplay.com/newsite/

Jessic Stone profile image.

Dr. Jessica Stone, PhD is a psychologist, international speaker, sought after clinical supervisor, and renowned play therapist.  She is the co-creator of The Virtual Sandtray®©, a best-selling author, and developer of Digital Play Therapy. Dr. Stone has been featured for her work throughout the virtual world as an innovator, ambassador of play, and stalwart advocate for the use of digital technology in the field of psychology.

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