Advanced Narrative Sand Therapy©

A Certificate Program

A Live Course with Dr. Dee Preston-Dillon*

*All in-studio workshops are facilitated by Dr. Preston-Dillon in Brandywine, MD.

Practice, Theory, Depth and Process

In this advanced series we focus on clinical skills for engagement with symbols and story in sand. Narrative engagement is grounded in existential psychology, process hypnosis, and active imagination. The clinician attends and protects with a heightened presence, keenly aware of layers of mutual experience – visceral, emotional, existential, and inventive. The sand scene is a third presence, available for perspective and voice.  Competency requires a focused immediacy and creative courage for innovation-in-the-moment. Client validation takes priority over theory or interpretation. It is a process that necessitates safety through layered boundaries, therapeutic skills for culture-informed amplification of symbol qualities, facilitation and respectful private silent work, collaborative active imagination, and mindful use of projection and metaphor.

In the process, we suspend disbelief, protect silence, resonate as attentive witness, and facilitate following the lead of the client. Through wonderment we give permission for inventive expression, protection for a deepening of experiential process, and validation for reclamation of stories held in safe keeping. Narrative Sand Therapy© is an empowering approach to work with existential themes related to trauma, identity, relationships, and unconscious dynamics. It is a reclaiming of truth, externalizing and reframing story, balancing silence with active imagination, and validation for the emergence of meaning.

This is not an introductory course. Participants should have knowledge and experience with similar modalities such as Sandplay, Sandtray, Sand Therapy, or have a background in expressive therapies such as art therapy or drama therapy. The course connects theory with practice, the relevance of culture and social constructions, case material, ethical considerations, practical exercises, and suggestions for clinical practice.

What You Will Learn

During each workshop an experiential activity will anchor participant’s personal experience with images, symbols, and metaphor. A specific prompt will be offered to explore with clients between workshop sessions. Participant questions will end each workshop to explore experience and practice concerns. To extend opportunities for full immersion creating sand scenes, optional additional workshops will be offered in the Brandywine, MD studio.

Work with symbols, alone or in sand scenes, is most effective when therapists have immersed in their own experience. To maintain integrity of this virtual training an emphasis is on participant engagement, a parallel with the experience of immersion when face-to-face. Each session and case consultation will feature experiential use of symbols and individualized guidance, and the inclusion of private personal consultations as a part of this program provides a model for what a personal immersive experience might look like.

Special attention is given to problems that sabotage most all clinical approaches with symbols and sand therapies, such as: reification, concretization, un-bounded projections, dismissal of social-cultural presence, objectification of the process-as-mere-technique, restraint and fear of creativity, presuppositions about expressive therapy, misunderstanding about depth work, hidden shame in supervision regarding therapist’s creativity, lack of protection during silent facilitation, lack of practice with imagination, and a search for rules vs organic flow in process.

1st Workshop - Feb 18, 10am-1pm (EST)*

Presence: This session explores ways of being present while working with here and now explorations and unconscious dynamics. 

2nd Workshop - Mar 4, 10am-1pm (EST)*

Existential Themes: Exploring four existential concerns through symbols in sand we unpack layers of truth in meaning, congruent identity, the challenge of freedom, and authentic meaningful connection. This session will emphasize existential continuums to balance lived experience with archetypal dimensions of the existential.

3rd Workshop - Mar 18, 10am-1pm (EST)*

The Therapist’s Imagination: Strengthening the therapist’s imagination calls us to be receptive to non-prescribed therapy explorations, make available energy and attention for being in the moment, nourish a calming patience with ambiguity, willingness to suspend disbelief – to trust, tolerance with not-knowing, fluidity with shifting client feedback, keeping the process safe, flow instead of control, practice exploring personal creativity, and reflection on the injunctions, judgments and shame that shred early creativity.


4th Workshop - Apr 1, 10am-1pm (EST)*

Silence and Wonderment: Our focus in this session is patience with silence and guided silent process. We will practice Wonderment while mindful of projections. How do we cultivate intuitions, and discern and screen what is not useful in process? What is the creative work we must do to address concerns with countertransference?

5th Workshop - Apr 15, 10am-1pm (EST)*

Process Hypnosis: Like dream work, drama therapy, and gestalt therapy, engagement with symbols in Narrative Sand therapy requires a unique focus and flow, a stillness with deep listening and careful non-self-conscious pacing. Guided by process hypnosis we carefully attend and participate, respecting shifting awareness for both client and clinician. There are essential moments of silence as engagement unfolds through metaphor, poetics, imagined journeys, and symbol dialogues. We experience and practice ways of walking into images, engaging with internal voice, reclaiming stories held in safe keeping.


6th Workshop - Apr 29, 10am-1pm (EST)*

Culture, Social Justice, and Existential Engagement: We are never outside the influence of layers of culture. Culture permeates therapy systems and institutions, the culture of psychotherapy, the cultures of clinician and client, and the many cultures of symbols that emerge during engagement in sand scenes. Cultural awareness includes concerns with power, politics, survival, human relational experience, and struggles with being and identity, with freedom and connection, with being in meaning-filled ways. 

Case Consultations

Five 2-hour group case consultations*

Dates: TBD

*All case consultations are virtual

Two 90-min private individual consultations 

Dates: To be scheduled on individual basis either virtually or in-person according to preference

What You Get

  • 31 Total hours of training
    6 – three-hour workshops–including specific prompts for immediate use with clients
    5 – two-hour group case consultations
    2 – 90-min private individual consultations
  • Handouts, selected articles and bibliography
  • Certificate of Completion

Advanced Narrative Sand Therapy Certificate Course $1,495

Course Requirements

• Advanced degree or equivalent is required

• Participants must attend all workshops, and case consultations and the individual consultations to complete the certificate for advanced Narrative sand Therapy©. If circumstances preclude attendance at a workshop, a certificate will be granted once all classes and consultations have been completed during future programs. There is no extra fee if you must take the class at a future time to complete the program.

• An essential feature of the case consults is individualized feedback on a participant case presentation to enhance understanding of and responses to client sand scenes

Participants must submit a sand scene analysis at the completion of Level I before a certificate will be issued

Dr. Dee Preston-Dillon is the founder and director of The Sand Therapy Training Institute and the Center for Culture and Sandplay. A researcher and clinician educator for over 40 years, she is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, Global Campus, and has been an affiliate faculty for Johns Hopkins master’s counseling program, Loyola’s pastoral counseling, George Washington University’s Art Therapy program, and Argosy’s PsyD program. In addition to her extensive graduate-level teaching, Dr. Dee has presented at over 40 national and international conferences on the use of Sand Therapy. For two decades her focus has been on case consultation for clinics and individual clinicians who use symbols in sand.

In Sand Therapy . . .


Symbols, neurological experience & story merge to bridge images and meaning for healing
Sand Therapy engages our capacity to imagine, to represent, to give voice & connect,
We are witnessed, validated, empowered

As others resonate with our experience . . .

We Exist


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