About Us

“The clinician is alert gatekeeper, a protective witness, a mindful guide, while easing the client’s journey into depths of expression. For the client, it is a process of reclaiming experience and identity, of finding voice and integrity.

The therapist must be able to go to these depths … tune into their own instinctive, kinesthetic experience, deepen their understanding of symbol meanings, with a heightened discernment of voice and connection between symbols and client.”

Dee Preston-Dillon, MA, Ph.D.

The Sand Therapy Training Institute

The Sand Therapy Training Institute (TSTTI) is unique in its particular focus on the ethical and safe use of Sand Therapy through facilitating rigorous and immersive training for mental health professionals.

Courses designed for psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers are built from research-based and clearly articulated core clinical competencies.

With a strong emphasis on the theory which underlies clinician engagement and an eye toward the latest developments in neuroscience, TSTTI integrates the existing approaches of both Kalffian Sandplay and Sandtray with the broader theoretical work of Carl Rogers, Milton Erickson’s therapeutic metaphor, White and Epston’s Narrative Therapy (engagement from a social constructionist approach), as well as Rollo May and Irvin Yalom’s existential psychotherapy.

Based on more than 40 years of clinical research, teaching and training professionals, courses are designed to walk participants through a step-by-step process to develop the knowledge, awareness and skills that are essential for the effective and ethical use of Sand Therapy with clients of all ages, backgrounds and cultures.

An essential feature of the use of symbols in sand is psychological projection. Therapist immersion in their own sand scenes is an indispensable component of understanding the projective process. Immersion grounds clinicians in the firsthand experience of the tremendous depth and power of symbols in sand and develops a practical awareness for ways of responding to clients and their sand scenes.

Through TSTTI’s unique courses, participants explore a variety of approaches to therapy and gain essential feedback on process. Personal insight and professional competence are developed through the pursuit of key questions such as:

  • How do we use silence to enhance client experience in their sand scene?
  • How do we integrate metaphor with symbols?
  • How do we engage without being invasive?
  • What is the relevance of culture?
  • How do we empower clients on their journey for meaning?

Dee Preston-Dillon, M.A., Ph.D.

Dr. Preston-Dillon is the founder and director of the Center for Culture and Sandplay and co-founder of The Sand Therapy Training Institute. A clinician educator, professor of psychology, Dee’s 40 years teaching and clinical research anchor her immersive approach with clinicians and graduate students. Trained in Kalffian Sandplay in the early 1980s, her life work has been the study of the therapeutic use of symbols and sand therapy as a projective process.

Research: Emphasizing phenomenological and hermeneutic methods, Dee frames process with symbols from a socio-cultural, client-centered, neo-analytic, existential perspective. Her framework bridges deep existential work with heightened therapeutic presence to understand and respond to sand scenes. A significant part of her approach is process hypnosis, kinesthetic resonance, and an active imagination.

A master’s in counseling and a doctorate in psychology, her early research examined cross-cultural perceptions of indigenous sand scenes both through the lens of Jungian analysis as well as a critique of this and other western psychological constructs and approaches.

Subsequent projects include a Sand Therapy Competency assessment, graduated scales to measure sand therapy skills, and a Sand Therapy Study Guide with over 160 questions and answers on the use of symbols in sand.

Teaching: Presenting at over 40 national and international conferences on expressive arts, clinician competencies, and play therapy, her focus has been on theory, ethics, and the clinical use of metaphors with symbols, especially in sand therapy. She currently teaches the sand therapy elective for the master’s in Art Therapy at George Washington University, trains graduate interns, and teaches professional CE courses through Hudson Valley Professional Development and the Ferentz Institute for Trauma Training. The Sand Therapy Training Institute offers pre-recorded courses and a virtual Foundations in sand Therapy for international clinicians. She collaborates with clinics to design training appropriate for specific client populations, and live in-studio Advanced Certificate programs in Sand Therapy, level I and Level II. Her studio is in Brandywine, Maryland.

Training Approach: Dr. Preston-Dillon sees the essential nature of clinician-learning as an immersive process, a deepening experience, within their own sand scenes. Competencies are grounded in presence, imaginative use of metaphors, and engagement to validate and extend clinician capacity to resonate with client representations in sand scenes. A new approach to work with sand scenes emerged from her research and consultations, Narrative Sand Therapy©.

Dee provides private consultations, agency clinician training, and staff retreats.

Tim Mewmaw, M.S. LGPC

Having met Dr. Preston-Dillon during his graduate studies at John’s Hopkins, Tim has been assisting her with clinical trainings and conferences since 2018. In addition to clinical consults and mentorship in group process, he has been immersed in the theory and practice of symbols in sand.

He continues to provide a supportive and collaborative role in the development of curriculum, videos and trainings through the Center for Culture and Sandplay. Tim completed the Sand Therapy certificate program through College Park Youth and Family Services, Maryland. He used this modality with clients at Hospice of the Chesapeake and continues to do so at the Annapolis Counseling Center.

Tim’s orientation is deeply person-centered, believing that the client is their own best healer.

He views problems as interwoven parts of the whole person. Tim sees counseling as a collaborative process to empower clients on their journey to find healing and existential meaning.

Drawing on extensive professional and international experience and an insatiable appetite for understanding the world we live in, Tim utilizes the lenses of a broad range of theoretical orientations and philosophical approaches in his clinical work (e.g. neuroscience, biology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, cultural awareness and sensitivity).

In addition to individual psychotherapy, small group process, parenting skills and couples/family counseling, Tim also offers professional workshops and staff training.