A brief Introduction to Using Neuroscience and the Satir Model in the Sand Tray


Neuroscience and Satir in the Sand Tray combines Virginia Satir’s great contribution to 20th-century psychotherapy with two other conceptual areas, namely the most recent neuroscience and a new way using the sand tray and figurines. De Little’s particular use of the sand tray offers ways for the psychotherapist to fully harness the potential of the client’s imagination, creativity, and play. Her incorporation of the latest developments in neuroscience accesses the power of the novel metaphor, right-brain to right-brain attunement, and epigenetics.

This work is about creating an internal sense of safety for the client. The therapy begins between the therapist and the client as they explore together the client’s experiences through the metaphorical expressions elicited by the figurines. The client is then able to recognize their special gifts of the presenting problematic way of keeping safe. Subsequently, the client can use the figurines to explore and transform these no longer useful defenses into a more integrated and balanced authentic Self



Main Themes:

NSST brings together for the first time, three critically important features to therapy and working with populations with underlying past relational and acute trauma:

1.     It is a practical application of the latest research in neuroscience to the imaging offered by the sand tray and figurines.

2.     It brings an updated and well-respected body of humanistic counselling therapy theory and practice from Virginia Satir into the process of working with the images in the sand tray.

3.     It outlines and details a design for a new interventionist role for the therapist/counsellor beyond talk therapy in harnessing the creativity, imagination, and playfulness of the sand tray and the novel metaphors that the figurines express.

Target Audience



10:00 AM - 3:30 PM

Secure your spot now.

 Add To My Workshops


  • Counselling for Children and Families
    Dr. Madeleine De Little

    Dr.  Madeleine De Little has been a student for ten years of ‘Transformational Systemic Therapy’ in Canada. She is currently the research chair of the Satir Institute of the Pacific. Her studies of the latest developments in neuroscience and transformational change have led her to develop a unique model of sand tray therapy and write a book, Where Words Can’t Reach - Neuroscience and the Satir Model in the Sand Tray 2nd Edition*.

    Madeleine has been an elementary and high school counsellor for 28 years and continues to be a therapist in private practice and an international trainer in her model of sand tray work. The research for her Ph.D. focused on the personal and professional impact on student therapists of learning and practicing this model of sand tray therapy. Madeleine is a Master Therapeutic Counsellor (MTC) and a Registered Clinical Supervisor, (RCS)  a Certified Clinical Counsellor (CCPA), and the recipient of the “2021 Canadian Counsellor and Psychotherapy Association  Counsellor Practioner Award.”


  • Jim Edmondson

    Jim has been a school counsellor for nearly 40 years in many elementary schools in Surrey, BC. He is now in private practice and assists in teaching Neuroscience and Satir in the Sand Tray (NSST) around the world with Dr. Madeleine De Little.