Dissertation Title:

Sandplay Therapy and Telehealth: A Phenomenological Study of Practitioner Lived Experiences


Amy S. Jessen

Date, Time & Place:

February 21, 2024 at 11:00 am


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rapid transition to telehealth for the delivery of mental health services. Furthermore, teletherapy is known to be as effective as in-person psychotherapy for children and adults. However, little is known about the use of sandplay therapy via telehealth; sandplay is traditionally offered in person. The purpose of this study is to understand what phenomena therapists experienced and how the sandplay therapy process is experienced through telehealth. Using a transcendental phenomenological design, in-person interviews were conducted with four sandplay therapists about their clinical experiences with sandplay and telehealth. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed; common themes were identified. Textural descriptions of each participant’s experience were summarized into a final statement of experience validated by participants. A final overarching description of the experience for the group as a whole was then described. Research results contained textural descriptions of common themes of meanings shared by sandplay practitioners in the United States. The data lead to four core themes/phases: pandemic lockdowns, modification processes, observations, and learnings. Three adaptions were identified: online sandplay, assisted online sandplay, and virtual sand tray. All participants utilized online sandplay (i.e., the client created a sandplay in their own sand room or at a third-party office, which was witnessed remotely by the therapist). Study implications include best practices for adapting sandplay for use via telehealth, process implications for the differences of working online versus in-person, similarities to in person sandplay therapy processes, and access considerations for future practice (e.g., geographic barriers, emergencies).

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, A, 2018
  • Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown
  • Reader: Dr. Elizabeth Schewe
  • External Reader: Dr. Lynne Ehlers
  • Keywords: Online Sandplay, Remote Sandplay, Teletherapy, Pandemic, Therapeutic Relationship, Transference, Co-transference, Figure Collection, Dismantling, Accessibility