Thesis Title

Developing Positive Self-Talk Using Symbols in Sandplay

Graduation Date

Spring 2003

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


Between childhood and adolescence, self-esteem undergoes a metamorphosis. Consequently, adulthood then becomes a time of recapturing and redeveloping one’s self-esteem. Elements included in the makeup of self-esteem are cognitive competence, social competence, physical competence, and an abstract sense of global self-worth. Being able to describe one’s self with positive and meaningful terms is shown to be one component in developing good self-esteem. Studies have shown that people who have a high self-esteem participate in much more positive self-talk than negative self-talk. Therefore, affirming self-talk is positively correlated with high self-esteem. Learning a new habit can be especially effective through incorporating motor performance along with the intellectual knowledge (Craig, 2001). One hands-on therapeutic technique that may prove to be effective is Sandplay. Equipment used in Sandplay include two rectangular containers measuring 19 V2” x 28 V£” x 3”. The inside is painted blue, representing symbolic water or sky, and one is filled with dry and one with wet clean sand. Sandplay uses symbols that are chosen by the client and placed in different configurations on the sand (Steinhardt, 1998). Sandplay and the use of symbols is a kinesthetic method for broadening understanding of one’s own personal, positive qualities. Choosing a symbol. with which a client can identify, and learning about its archetypal meaning may increase the ability to recognize those qualities within the self. The ego can begin to develop once the self has been encountered, which is done through identifying with symbols. Sandplay can bring new ego position out of the unconscious and through this process clients might grow to recognize the symbol’s qualities within themselves.