Become A
Qualified Sandtray Therapist

Australia’s only Registered Training Organisation (RTO) accredited to deliver the nationally recognised course 11242NAT Graduate Diploma of Sandtray Therapy.

Sandtray Therapy is a powerful therapeutic technique that helps evoke conscious and unconscious memories through tactile play. This trauma informed, evidence-based Method is over 100 years old. Grounded in Developmental, Attachment Theory & Neuroscience.

Sandtray Therapy

What is Sandtray Therapy?

Sandtray therapy is a psychological process which helps people work through any painful conscious (known) or unconscious (unknown) memories.

Sand play enables people to unconsciously process an issue by representing it in their sand world, by manipulating miniatures/symbols that represent daily activities, people, buildings, movement, nature, spirituality and more.

As a whole brain activity clients learn to explore their internal feelings, emotions, bodily sensations and images expressed in ‘sand worlds’ by parts of the brain that have no verbal language. Once this image is expressed externally a dialogue between client and therapist begins as issues are explored. These can be past childhood memories or current issues. The experience can be verbal or non-verbal. Meaning children do not need to talk about what has been expressed in their ‘worlds’, adults do not need to re-address their childhood trauma. The building of their worlds is often enough to start the process of an inner resilience. 

Integrative Approaches to Sandtray Therapy

Sandtray therapy as an integrative approach aligning to different theoretical orientations and frameworks. 

  • Behaviourists can use the sandtray therapy as a diagnostic tool, to gather data and assess maladaptive behaviours.
  • Cognitive therapists work with children (clients) to help restructure unhelpful patterns of thinking.
  • Family therapy uses sandtray therapy to facilitate children’s or family’s exploration of family, boundaries, structures and patterns of interaction within IFS.
  • Child-centred therapists use sand tray therapy to build the therapeutic relationship and establish trust and acceptance.
  • Psychotherapy sandtray enables the therapist to work long term with the clients to uncover the unconscious layers and issues – complexes/traumas.
  • Spiritualist approach combines a transpersonal lens with sandtray therapy.


Opengate Institute trains students in these approaches and how to apply them  to your own approach whatever it may be.

Who Uses Sandtray Therapy?

Sandtray therapy graduates use this method as a standalone way to work in areas of disabilities, NDIS, with Indigenous children, early childhood, private practice, schools, community services or within government services such as OOHC or private institutions.

It can also be integrated into:

  • Play therapy
  • Art therapy 
  • Expressive therapy 
  • Counselling & Psychotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Social Work
  • Psychodelic Assisted Therapy
  • Education & Care
  • and more

How Can Sandtray Therapy Help?

Trainers & Supervisors

Fiona Werle, CEO & Founder of Opengate Institute

Fiona is one of Australia’s leading clinical Sandtray therapists and Professional trainers who’s passion for Sand therapies is contagious.

Fiona is the lead trainer at Opengate Institute which is a registered training organisation delivering a very high level of sand therapy training. Fiona began her career in mental health as a registered Counsellor after completing her Bachelor degree. Fiona then went on to train as a Sandplay therapist with STANZA an affiliate of the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST), her trainers included many highly esteemed international Sandplay analysts and therapists. She also studied with Marg Garvin, Sandplay Australia. Fiona then went on to develop her own training program that takes the best of Sandplay and Sandtray Therapy to develop a training program with the only government accreditation in Australia – 11242NAT Graduate Diploma of Sandtray Therapy.

Fiona has also written two books – A Parents Guide to Psychological Well-being for Children, A Therapists & Teachers Guide to Psychological Wellbeing for the Inner Child. (Volume 2).

Contact Fiona for Private Supervision Sessions.

Our Courses

We are Australia’s only Registered Training Organisation (RTO) accredited to deliver the nationally recognised course 11242NAT Graduate Diploma of Sandtray Therapy.

Terrence McBride Scholarship

Terence McBride was a prominent Sydney Jungian and founding member of the Sydney Jungian Society. Known as Terry he was President of the Society from 1981-1993 and a prolific writer and speaker on Jungian matters and a personal and professional inspiration to many. His family has kindly donated his Sandplay collection to Opengate Institute and in his honour we have created the Terry McBride Scholarship program.

The story of how we came up with the name:

Opengate Institute

As we were driving home along a country road, we were looking about us being a bit silly about names to call the company. Things like ‘flying bird’, ‘tree leaves’ and the like. Then it was said ‘Opengate’, this triggered a series of thoughts and deep impressions of the metaphorical meanings. Think about the gates of Heaven or Hell, standing there as your fate is decided. The image portrayed of being welcomed with the gate wide open into the training centre. An Opengate as a portal to the collective consciousness where knowledge and wisdom is abound!

Wellbeing Programs Insurance and Marketing

Sandtray Wellbeing Programs

Sandtray Play Work to Promote Mental Health & Wellbeing in Schools Program.

Sandtray Play Work for Academic Learning, Social & Emotional Skills Development.

8-week program 1 day per week x 2 hours 

High School – Group work

Connections with sand worlds opening up stories within to tell and share!

This expressive therapy mental health and wellbeing peer support program is facilitated by trauma-informed highly skilled sandtray therapy professionals. Working closely with teachers in schools, wellbeing staff and families to promote the psychosocial needs through peer support to enable participants to find a voice.

Program Overview Outcomes

Sandtray Play Work for academic learning, social and emotional skills development.

  • Safe distance from the overwhelming aspects of trauma, or issue making it more accessible for exploration, expression, and story telling
  • A sense of identity from within and without through expressive communication
  • A developing sense of wellbeing through peer support and social connections
  • Confidence in their learning through creative expression
  • Reframing of perception leading to empowerment through story sharing
  • Improved communication skills, emotional regulation and academic skills

These outcomes are based on research from similar expressive therapy sandtray groups

This program is delivered by highly trained sandtray therapists.


Sandtray Play Work to Promote Mental Health & Wellbeing in Early Intervention

Train the trainer – 3 day training program over 3 weeks

This training is only available to educators with their qualification in Sandtray Therapy.

This program is a three day train the trainer. The educator will learn to understand how to use the sandtray play work as a tool for co-regulation and as a transition activity for young children with attachment needs or other issues.

This intervention does not include any sandtray miniatures to be used – resources include an indoor sandtray, sand, scoops and other tools, an educator with the skills to understand how to enable children to co-regulate using sandtray play work.

These training programs can be tailored for working with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. 

In these programs we offer bespoke sandplay training courses to suit the needs of services and stakeholders. The blended courses are guided online and classroom training from the Sandtray Therapy Training Package.

Using the Sand Tray to Facilitate Client Creativity: A Strengths Focused Approach to Adolescent Depression: Journal of Creativity in Mental Health: Vol 12 , No 3 – Get Access (

ANZMHA Membership

The ANZMHA member benefits have been carefully curated to provide you access to sector-leading support and offers on programs, services and courses to enhance your professional learning. Membership is free for anyone to join.

Join here

Student Insurance

Opengate Institute are continuously advocating for our students to help with recognition as you become qualified Sandtray Therapists. We also support students who need insurance during their training.

In partnership with the International Institute of Complementary Therapists students can purchase insurance for as little as $1.00  Yes you read that correctly!

Follow this link to take advantage of this offer. Once you complete your studies you will be able to purchase full membership insurance to practice as a sandtray therapist. 

Use the following

Referral code


Marketing Platforms

Natural Therapy Pages

Once you have gained your qualifications and you want to start to promote yourself, we have advocated with Natural Therapy Pages for a separate section under the generic term Sandplay.

Psychology Today

We have advocated with Psychology Today, which is a paid marketing platform, to accept your Qualification in Sandtray Therapy (Postgraduate Certificate) or the current (Graduate Diploma of Sandtray Therapy). See their website for details.

Join first 6 months free

a Sand Tray

We have sandtrays available for purchase to use for sand therapy. Beautiful wooden trays painted blue to represent the water and the sky.

Join Hundreds of
Satisfied Students

“I can see my son's ability to communicate growing in leaps and bounds.”

L. Grech

“Fiona was very professional and worked wonders in the sand room.”

Chandelle Denne

“Fiona is highly professional, with a passion that is contagious.”

David Lipták

Ready For A
Career Change?

Sandtray Therapy graduates work in areas of disabilities, NDIS, with Indigenous children, early childhood, private practice or within government or private institutions.