Creative Counselling Techniques

I have experience of working with various creative counselling techniques. These include a sand tray, small world play, writing and shell work. The addition of other media into the counselling room can provide very powerful experiences. Sometimes, using visual or written aids can help to understand things that didn’t make sense or where unknown to you.


Sand Tray / Small World Play

A sand tray in action with symbols: one of many creative counselling techniques

The sand tray is designed to fill a person’s vision. Therefore, its size lends itself to use with various children’s toys and symbols. Broadly speaking, if we agree to use the tray you will have the opportunity to select objects and place them in the tray. I will encourage you not to consider your choices too long, just select whatever appeals. The same goes for positioning in the tray. Put things wherever you like. Move the sand around. The only rule is to keep sand in the tray!

Compartmentalised box containing sand tray symbols

As you can see from the lower picture on this page, your choice will be wide and varied. The toys are arranged from the prehistoric to modern. Furthermore, the range extends to spiritual and fantastical. The finished ‘picture’ can then be observed from different angles, rearranged or started again. It can be especially helpful to ‘have a go’ if you are a particularly visual person or are having trouble expressing (in words) an event or situation from your life. It can be a fun way come to quite profound realisations.

The sand tray tends to stay at my Fishponds room, so it is best to ensure we meet there for a creative sand tray session.


Creative Writing

If the thought of playing with toys and sand does not appeal, there are other creative counselling techniques. In a way the aim is the same – to find an alternative method to talking. This can enable us to understand more through a medium with which you feel more comfortable. It is not the case the one or other are better, just different. Given that we are all different people, we find different things appealing.

Once again, this creative counselling technique can be revealing. Sometimes it is a lovely way to relax out of life’s stresses. The exercises are generally fairly brief and contained within one session. However, on some occasions it can be beneficial to explore something in more depth over a longer time. For example, there may be someone to which you would like to express some feelings. It might also be the case that you are not quite sure how to go about it. A ‘no-send letter’ is one way to approach this dilemma. You can write down all your feelings towards that person. You will probably experience what it would be like to explain these things to them. However, in the security of my counselling room there are no consequences. No come-backs and no retaliation – no risk!

Creative writing can also be put to good use to help understand how you are feeling. We can write poems of varying length. Alternatively, a short story – even with pictures. Sometimes, keeping a diary can be useful. All your activities are yours to keep and the experiences you have are yours to keep or share with me or the wider world, if you wish.


Shells and Stones

As in the picture on this page of my website, shells and stones are a great way to visual family dynamics. I have a box full different shapes, sizes and textures. All you need to do is select a few to represent various members of your situation, family, friends or even parts of your personality. In a similar way to the sand tray, the shells can interact with each other and move around. We can view them from different angles and consider their position relative to others. It is even possible to play out hypothetical situations to work out what might happen. 

For example, you may have an overbearing boss at work. You may be feeling that work has become over pressurised as a result. Maybe, with the shells, you set up a scenario during a session that represents you and a few colleagues. From this point it would be possible to move people around or even out of the situation altogether. Once something has changed and having knowledge of the others in the situation, you can consider what may happen. If you challenged your boss, how would he react? Would a colleague step in to help you? If someone got angry, how would others respond and interact? This can, of course, be applied to any situation you choose.



I will ensure that creative counselling techniques feel safe. Therefore, a priority of mine is that we allow time to reground and continue with your day after the session is over. Importantly, these creative techniques are always an offer you can decline. As such, you will be in control. However, if any of these appeal please ask me to explain more. To find out how I work in a more traditional talking based session, please click here.