Campus News: First MFT Graduate Students Begin Training in Sandplay Therapy

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First MFT Graduate Students Begin Training in Sandplay Therapy
- 11/24/2021

First MFT Graduate Students Begin Training in Sandplay Therapy


Graduate students in Lee's Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program are the first PhD candidates at Lee to receive specialized, introductory training in sandplay therapy techniques. The students participated in the extra training opportunity as part of their advanced play therapy strategies doctoral class taught by Dr. Constance Ratcliff.


"It is immensely rewarding to teach sandplay therapy to the next generation of therapists," said Ratcliff.  "The students are excited and intrigued to experiment with their own sand trays, which teaches them firsthand the ways sandplay therapy promotes growth, insight, neural integration, wholeness, and healing in child and adult populations of all ages."


Ratcliff teaches part time in Lee's MFT program and is a state licensed marriage and family therapy clinician, supervisor, and educator. According to Ratcliff, the students developed knowledge in facilitating evidence-based sandplay therapy interventions with child and adult populations, which enhances their clinical and supervisory skills as licensed marriage and family therapists.


"Sandplay therapy gives a client the unique opportunity to gain positive changes, new ways of being and viewing reality, a clearer understanding of current problems, possible solutions, inner strengths, and available resources through the completion of multiple sand trays," said Ratcliff. "The universal symbols represented by the sandplay miniature figures provide the avenue and language for an individual to express what had previously been inexpressible through verbal means alone."


Sandplay therapy utilizes sand, water, a sand tray, and a wide variety of miniature figures and building materials to facilitate a client's creation of a three-dimensional pictorial world in a free and protected space facilitated by a highly trained therapist.  In sandplay therapy, the client selects and chooses the miniature figures which represent animate and inanimate beings found in the external world and the internal imaginative world. This non-verbal therapeutic method is based on the work of famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and was developed by Margaret Lowenfeld and Dora Kalff.


According to Ratcliff, sandplay therapy is utilized across the world as a non-verbal method for assisting people of all ages to "speak the unspeakable" for working through trauma, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, eating disorders, ADHD, behavioral and developmental difficulties, and more. Unlike traditional talk therapy methods, sandplay therapy interventions are not dependent on verbalization and are effective cross-culturally with diverse populations, making it a widely sought out clinical method by children, teens, adults, couples, and families.


For more information about the MFT program at Lee, visit

PHOTO: Pictured here (left to right) are Eboni Long, Hannah Barnett, Sara Pennington, Dr. Constance Ratcliff, David Sherwood, and Robert England participating in sandplay therapy training.

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