A Thanksgiving message and announcements

The Generous Heart of Sandplay

Autumn is a usually a time to enjoy abundance as we shift from the warmth and light of summer to the contemplative depths of winter. This fall the storms of change and upheaval have struck, profoundly straining psyches and communities throughout our families, neighborhoods, country and the world. At such a time, sandplay therapy can be a quiet refuge for expression and centering, containing the opposites, and being witnessed.

However, it is very hard to be a therapist in these times, holding one’s own inner uncertainty while offering a safe place for others and receiving their emotions. We try to be practitioners of generosity- kind, openhanded and understanding. But how do we maintain an open heart in the face of collective dissension and rampant cultural complexes?

Remember that symbols support us and our clients in our efforts to represent and feel our way through the unknown and to heal.  At our NCRSS Annual Meeting in September, the wheel symbolized communities and our organization in its symbolic and functional aspects. At the end of the day, we joined hands and became the wheel, turning around the center, feeling the power of collaboration.

But the wheel does not turn without an axle penetrating that center hole. It must be a strong rod that can bear great weight with a fitting called a key that locks to the wheel.  This conjunction of center and axle is the heart of the wheel, an image to contemplate in therapy with our clients when we are the axle for another’s wheel.

I wonder what other symbols, images or figures are helpful to us now? Which figures appear in the trays of our clients that illuminate the spirit of endurance?  How are our bodies responding to the contact with a rough road and emotional acceleration? What is your experience and how can you express it?

We hope you will reach out to other sandplay colleagues to share and support one another with gratitude for our sandplay community. Please read on for upcoming events and news. You will also find all this on our NEWS section of our website, www.californiasandplay.org.

- Ellen Searle LeBel, NCRSS President



Sandplay Therapists of America will hold a day-long meeting February 11, 2017 in Menlo Park. The meeting is open to NCRSS members, California sandplay therapists, and others studying sandplay. The day includes case presentations, lunch and an STA members meeting for a reasonable fee. Hours toward certification will be offered. 

NCRSS will be sending an announcement with details by email. Visit www.sta.org for details or contact us at norcalsandplay@gmail.com to be added to our email list.



Plans are in process for Sandplay Salons!

Many members requested meetings to learn about writing a symbol paper, a sandplay case and the process of becoming certified as a Sandplay Practitioner or Certified Sandplay Therapist.  Dates and locations will be announced soon.

These will be informal, free groups for NCRSS members, hosted by a member in their home or office.  Guest teaching members will provide information and answer questions. 

Watch your email and the NEWS page on the website for more information soon.



The NCRSS Gathering and Annual Meeting brought members and newcomers together on a sunny, warm day in San Rafael for a program of thoughtful and inspiring presentations, a wonderful figure sale, delicious homemade lunch and interactive annual meeting.

This year NCRSS grew in members to 59, is now financially stable, sponsored a successful series of Fundamentals courses last spring and Intermediate courses in sandplay for 2016-17 and is dedicated to supporting training and certification for sandplay therapists. We launched our new website and improved our registration process in 2016.

At the meeting, NCRSS Board members encouraged people to become involved as volunteers, especially Board members, and asked for suggestions from the audience for other events and community activities. 

Thanks to all the hard-working volunteers, presenters and Board members who made this event a success: Lynne Ehlers, Tessamarie Capitolo, Mary Watson, Sandi Peters, Ann Strack, Takako Ainsworth, Hope Dean, Valerie Hinard, Marianne Von Michalofsky,  Sonia Lucana, Laura Bachman, Diana Wood, David Capitolo and Ellen Searle LeBel. 

Special thanks to the donors of the figures, the team who organized the figure sale and all who bought figures. We raised over $1,000 to benefit NCRSS!



THE JOURNAL OF SANDPLAY THERAPY recently published a special issue in celebration of the 25th anniversary year of the journal. Congratulations to Journal editor and NCRSS member Joyce Cunningham for a splendid issue. Other NCRSS members authored several articles. This issue features quotations from Dora Kalff's 1963 presentation, compiled and discussed by Judy Zappacosta. These words are sparkling gems of Kallf's ideas and wisdom that have come to light again. Lynne Ehlers' in depth study of mandalas opens our understanding of archetypal defenses and healing in sandplay.  Sonia Lucana described the Peruvian "mother of the universe", Pachamama in sandplay therapy. Another piece by Judy Zappacosta explored the archetypal black Madonna and her global importance.

If you are not a JST subscriber, you can order an issue or subscribe online at www.sandplay.org or better yet, join as an associate and receive a subscription. 


Remember that anyone can read the Journal Reflections on the STA website. There are book reviews, conference reports and commentary for all to enjoy.