An Integrative Approach to Play Therapy Supervision Using Sandtray Therapy

An Integrative Approach to Play Therapy Supervision Using Sandtray Therapy

Elisa A. Niles (Liberty University, USA & Hodges University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4628-4.ch007
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Supervisors are gatekeepers to the counseling profession and the same applies to safeguarding play therapy. Clinical supervision in play therapy helps play therapists master their skills when working with children, adolescents, or adults. Integrative sandtray supervision facilitates emerging play therapist developmental levels. The Integrative Developmental Model of supervision and sandtray concepts offer a different way of conducting play therapy supervision. Supervisees learn to master each stage of development. Sandtray supervision allows play therapist supervisors a new medium for emerging play therapists to process cases, discuss ethical issues, and explore professional and personal challenges. Each sandtray can mark the four developmental stages and three content areas. Supervisors monitor the development of emerging play therapists to ensure fidelity, ethical practice, and multicultural competency. Cultural sensitivity should also be applied within the supervisory relationship and reflected in the miniatures. This chapter seeks to broaden the scope of practice for play therapy supervisors.
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Sandtray is one of the expressive arts and is a medium in play therapy (Hartwig & Bennett, 2017). Unlike traditional talk therapy, the sandtray is the conduit through which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are expressed. Within the context of a child’s world, the sand and miniatures become the words and feelings of expressions. Supervision provides an opportunity for supervisees to explore transference and countertransference issues, biases, therapeutic relationships, and case conceptualization. In the supervisory role, supervisors are teachers, counselors, and consultants (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). They help supervisees develop their counseling skills and professional identity. More specifically, clinical supervision in play therapy helps play therapists hone in on their skills when working with children.

Sandtray therapy facilitates learning, problem- solving and healing through the power of the sand (Homeyer & Sweeney, 2011; Purswell & Stulmaker, 2015). Like other counseling theories, sand tray therapy has several theories that can be integrated into clinical supervision. Furthermore, clinical supervision also builds upon counseling theories to help supervisee develop their professional identity as a counselor and play therapist. In this chapter, I will discuss using sand tray therapy as a technique in supervision. I will describe an integrative approach to supervision rather than focus on a specific theory. This chapter will examine an integrative approach to supervision within the context of sandtray therapy. However, since supervisors are not counseling supervisees, I would like to use the term sandtray supervision instead of sandtray therapy supervision.

When working with supervisees, it is best to identify what stage of development they are in and tailor the supervision to match their needs. The Integrated Developmental Model (IDM), was developed by Stoltenberg and McNeill (2010) and combines cognitive learning theory, interpersonal influence, and social learning, motivation theory, and models of human development (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Huhra, Yamokoski-Maynhart, & Prieto, 2008). The IDM has four levels (1, 2, 3, and 3i) and three content areas, which are self-others awareness, motivation, and autonomy (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Bornsheuer-Boswell, Polonyi, & Watts, 2013).

Sandtray supervision is one way that supervisees can express both interpersonal and clinical issues that may arise between client and supervisee or supervisee and supervisor. The sandtray and miniatures become the words of the supervisee. Through skilled questioning, probing, and reflecting, supervisors can gain insight into the supervisee’s world. There are certain rules within sandtray therapy, such as standard rectangular tray which measures 30 by 20 inches and 3 inches deep and the inside should be painted blue (Homeyer & Sweeney, 2011). Another rule is never touching the sandtray or miniatures without asking for permission. Within the context of sandtray supervision, some of these rules will not be used as it can be limiting to the supervisory relationship and possibly hinder the growth of the supervisee.

For emerging counselors, supervision is pivotal to the success of one’s career. I am sure most of us can recall good supervisors and not so good supervisors. If you are reading this text and aspire to be one of the good supervisors, then learning different modalities to approach clinical supervision will be to your advantage. Sandtray supervision, allows the supervisee to express and project the therapeutic relationship as well as the supervisory relationship in a safe place. The supervisor asks questions about the tray using metaphors and language used by the supervisee.

Although play is a universal language, the content of play is not. Cultural sensitivity should also be applied within the supervisory relationship. Supervisors should be aware of the supervisee’s cultural identity and incorporate them into supervision (Donald, Culbreth, & Carter, 2015). For example, the supervisor should have culturally appropriate miniatures and incorporate the language and meaning given to miniatures.

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