Therapy is not something that one would normally refer to as “fun”, but every once in a while a break from the norm during a session can yield some interesting results and put a different kind of smile on your face. This was the second time that I used sandbox therapy as a tool to visualize in my own way, where I see myself in my recovery journey to date.

I was shocked tonight during a therapy session when we went into a different room and there was the sandbox. Well it’s not literally a big sandbox, but one of those shallow plastic storage bins, filled about 1/3 of the way with sand.

The idea is to use your imagination and whatever props are available to make a creation in the sand that depicts where you are now, where you started, and what you think the future of your recovery looks like. There are other reasons for sandbox therapy, but this is why I was doing it. I was able to use little pieces of sea glass, action figures, animals, fish, small fences, toy army men, Disney characters, etc.

Here is what I created, that took me about 20 minutes or so. You can click to enlarge it. sandbox therapy 1

The castle in bottom left corner is me, where I started out at. The drawbridge is up, there are guards around the castle. The Giraffe represents my ex-wife (she loves Giraffe’s). The green pieces of sea glass are the path.  The tiger standing near the castle is the perpetrator who sexually abused me. The red robot represents the bully’s I encountered during late elementary and middle school. If you look close you can see a small white figurine that is being stepped on by the bully. That’s me and how I felt at that time in my life, totally humiliated and buried beneath my own inadequate life.

The turtle on the path is me. I like turtles but it also symbolizes my recovery journey as being slow. All of that stuff is behind me now. It doesn’t mean that I’ve healed completely from those events, but it symbolizes that I’m trying to move forward and that now my recovery journey has taken on a new twist with a new obstacle.

That new obstacle that is blocking my path is a figure that represents my mother and the cross behind her is her using religion to scare me. That is how I felt/feel about her using the Bible as a weapon to scare me. If you notice her finger is pointing at me as if to say, “turn back now and change your ways”. I’ll get back to that in the next picture. 

Just beyond my mother is an army guy who is pointing ahead. He symbolizes my support system encouraging me to look forward and keep going.

Beyond that is a lighthouse, which symbolizes hope. A sign that I’m on the right path and I’m making progress, but also to be wary of what is ahead. You’ll notice a scorpion concealed in the sand near the lighthouse. That symbolizes a new memory currently still buried in my mind that I may not be aware of yet, just ready to surface and pounce on me. My minds way of warning me to be vigilant and prepared for the unexpected. That’s a bit of a double-edged sword though and is part of my hyper vigilance.

The tiger hiding behind the log, just out of eye’s view as I round the bend on my journey represents the hidden danger that still may lie in my head from the sexual abuse. There may be more memories that I haven’t uncovered yet and could catch me off guard at any time.

The two popsicle sticks standing up represent unknown barriers that could be totally new and unrelated to anything I’ve experienced so far. They are plain, not flashy, but standing tall as a reminder to me that there will always be barriers to over come in the future.

Finally just as I round the bend to the promised land of Empowerment; depicted by the cookie monster, the palm tree, the wall, and the army guys of support around me, there is one last obstacle.  This is the perfect storm of everything that I’ve suffered in my life; everything that I’ve fought through in my journey. It’s right in front of the gate to empowerment and trying everything possible to keep me from no longer being bound my past. Also to make me feel boxed in, trapped if you will. I can’t go forward nor can I go back.

Oh yes, the Lion is me. That is how I see myself some day. Strong, powerful, able to handle anything that comes my way. The army guys are my support system who will always be there just in case.

What did I learn from this. Well mainly that I have a lot of irrational fear of what lies ahead. Therefore I need to continue working hard and being dedicated to recovery so I don’t succumb to the fears of the future.

So how do I move past the current obstacle of my mother, standing right in my path? The reason she is there is because that is still happening now. sandbox therapy in healing from traumaWell, notice this picture and you’ll see that Spiderman, hey, he’s cool, is standing in front of the turtle, me, and now is inside a wedge that is powering through the mother wounds and her invalidation of me. This is where I need to see myself. Using that wedge as a way to drive forward and be able to overcome any future roadblocks.

Sandbox therapy can be a powerful tool because you are visually depicting where you see yourself. When used with the help of a professional, it’s a good way to see how far you’ve come and what you need to work on.


I’d love your thoughts on this in the comments, including if you’ve ever done sandbox therapy.