Leading Training Centre and Advocates for Integrative Sand Therapy in Australia

Graduate Certificate in Sandtray Therapy (NAT10757)

This course is intended to broaden technical and theoretical knowledge and skills of learners to perform the functions associated with Sandtray Therapy.

The pathway for Sandtray therapists leads to working in specialist fields with children, adolescents, adults or groups in human services, community services, mental health, disabilities, youth or educational setting to support the emotional expression and wellbeing of clients.

About Us

Opengate Institute is a registered training organisation (RTO 45703) specialising in Integrative Sand Therapy training courses, personal development and workshops. Workshops are an important ‘hands on’ element of sandtray and are targeted for PD Counselling, Psychotherapy, Education, Social Work, Psychology, Indigenous, Youth Work and Disabilities or tailored to suit stakeholder/organisation or individual training needs.

We also are excited to announce that we are Australia’s only organisation registered to deliver the accredited and nationally recognised Course 10757NAT Graduate Certificate in Sandtray Therapy. For more details click here

Sandtray as an Expressive Therapy

Sand therapy is a whole brain healing technique and is a highly therapeutic and multidimensional form of therapy that can provide non-verbal or verbal emotional release. Using an indoor sandtray measurements approximately 70 cm c 50 cm x 10cm (wood with the bottom painted blue) and array of sandtray miniatures 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.

Most traumatic memories are stored as implicit memories (Goodwin & Attias, 1999), containing emotions, physical sensations, images and sounds rather than facts, dates and details. Homeyer and Sweeney (2011) describe that these memories are stored in the limbic system and the brain stem, two of the oldest parts of the brain, and are unavailable for cognitive processing. Instead, significant neurological activities in the form of hyper-activated chemicals responsible for different brain and body functions produce a high level of emotional and physiological arousal which continues to activate fight, flight or freeze responses to any perceived threat. 

Sand therapy is invaluable when working with adults and children alike. Children can unconsciously process an issue by representing it in the sand, by manipulating the symbols, the child has ‘control’ of the situation. Control is choice and when given choice anxiety is alleviated.

Improve Cognition

Improve Sensory-Motor Function

Cultivate Emotional Resilience

Foster Self Awareness

Foster Self-Esteem

Promote Insight

Enhance Social Skills

Reduce Conflict

How Integrative Sand Therapy Heals


You may know the why – diagnosis/trauma history and when – behaviour.

But HOW do you heal your clients and help them move into a state of feeling safe & socially connected.

Sandtray Therapy establishes a system of safety (neuroception) for your clients through connection (therapist attunement) to help them work toward healthy psychological well-being,  development & restoration (unmet needs).

The client engages their right brain hemisphere to do Sandplay therapy using creativity to express feelings, release anti-anxiety chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters Oxytocin, also known as the love drug and Serotonin to create the feeling safety, reducing feelings of anger and aggression.

Sandplay is a highly engaging form of therapy that can provide emotional release. Using the indoor sandtray and the vast array of sandtray miniatures clients build worlds that represent their own intrinsic worlds. By building sand worlds there is little need for a verbal explanation of inner feelings nor a need to verbally explain emotions, bodily sensations, rather there is a felt sense and a unification of body and mind.

The sand player will resolve issues in the sand, changing the scene, building resilience, finding unmet needs with the support of the therapist unconditional approach. Sandplay therapy helps clients to change their brains, create new neural circuits through brain plasticity. It leads clients towards healthy psychological growth and well-being.

 Sandplay is invaluable when working with adults, young people, children of all abilities. 

Ideal settings include early learning as Early Intervention, School Counselling, NDIS settings, Private practices, Youth centres, Social Services (OOHC), Social Work setting, Psychological practices and more.

Our Therapeutic Services

We offer therapy services at our cottage for clients young and old. We use Sandtray therapy as the integrative approach to health and wellbeing.

In the 1920’s Margaret Lowenfeld child pediatrician, developed the technique we now call Sandtray Therapy. Sandtray Therapy helps clients understand issues and help them express feelings and emotions using the nonverbal, expressive therapy of Sandtray. Sand play is a right brained integrative therapy for; children/adolescents who are having difficulty expressing their emotions, non verbal due to intellectual disability, trauma or non English speaking.

Upcoming Groups: ‘Girls with Autism’ – Therapy Groups

Individual Counselling

Therapeutic support for individual one to one facilitation helping children & adolescents towards self-knowledge, emotional acceptance and self growth.

Couples Counselling

A reconciliation process within a supportive environment to talk through relationship concerns.


Early Childhood Supports (Ages 0-6), Therapeutic Supports (Ages 6+), Out of Home Care & FACS support. Click here for NDIS info.
To unite the Sand Therapy industry and therapists current and emerging, who serve in this area following the evidence-informed research developed by Dr Margaret Lowenfeld & Dora Kalff.

Why Opengate?

We are the leading provider of training, supervision, ongoing professional development and support in Sandtray Therapy in Australia.

Our Books

Fiona has 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)

Personal Development

A group workshop helps professionals to see their own inner stories and recognise in others their own emotional awareness.


Fiona is an awesome Counsellor, would highly recommend for families, couples, kids and adults. As one of Australia’s leading clinical Sandtray Therapist, Fiona is highly professional, with a passion that is contagious. Highly recommend Fiona and her training, well worth the investment

David Lipták

Opengate Institute’s amazing professional training makes them leaders in the Sand Therapy industry.

Melissa Morgan

Having a child with ASD can feel terrifying and inspiring all at once but as I watch Fiona work with Eli I can see his ability to communicate and express himself growing in leaps and bounds which leaves us excited about what the future holds.

We are grateful for the amazing work that Fiona is providing to the community and our family.

L. Grech

Had an amazing therapy session. Fiona was very professional and worked wonders in the sand room. Definitely worth a session for anyone who struggles with communication.

Chandelle Denne

Our Blog

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