Sandplay as a Healing Modality: Interview with Jungian Analyst Jorge de la O

For Jungian analyst and professor, Jorge de la O, the desire to become a therapist began in the late 1970s when he saw Violet Oaklander[1] the founder of Gestalt therapy with children and adolescents, at a confluent education conference at USC. Oaklander presented some slides on the process of sandtray (a somewhat different process from Sandplay, the Jungian approach to sandtray which was created by Jungian analyst Dora Kalff)[2]. When Jorge saw the trays and the work Oaklander was doing, he was completely taken by it. "It was magical," he reports. As a kindergarten teacher at the time, he knew he wanted Sandplay in his life, and a seed was planted....

After starting the program at Pacifica Graduate Institute (where he now holds a faculty position), Jorge’s early fascination with Sandplay was renewed. The Counseling program required that each student training to be a therapist undergo their own personal therapy, so Jorge immediately looked for a Sandplay therapist who was also a Jungian analyst. All the tumblers just sort of fell into place right from the beginning, he notes.

I can relate to Jorge’s perception of Sandplay as “magical,” having been completely taken by some of the case studies presented at a recent conference I attended on Sandplay, and how Sandplay works so magnificently in the healing process. The founder of Sandplay (and author of the book by the same name), Dora Kalff, saw Sandplay as a free and open space where individuals create images in the sand using miniatures[3], Jorge informs me. It is a nonverbal form of therapy which allows psyche to come to the surface, much like active imagination. Part of the magic, as Jorge explains it....

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