The Wizard of Sandplay: Therapist teaches expression when there 'aren't any words'

It’s no wonder that Gita Morena feels an abiding connection to “The Wizard of Oz” — especially to the film classic’s heroine.

Instructor Profile: Gita Morena, Fundamentals of Sandplay Therapy

Dorothy was her given name. And her great grandfather was L. Frank Baum, author of the original book.

“Dorothy shows us the way to get home, the way to overcome adversity, finding the home that exists inside all of us,” said Morena, a Lakeside-based psychotherapist and long-time UC San Diego Extension instructor. “My task in life is to bring consciousness to the image of Dorothy and all she represents.”

Morena’s one-session, all-day courses, themed on “Sandplay Therapy,” are based on the Jungian concept of exploring one’s psyche, in this case creating sand scenes with miniature objects in a 2’ x 2’ sand-filled box.

“Emotional trauma often gets lost in the part of the brain that you can’t unlock with verbal therapy,” she said. “We use sandplay therapy to express what’s going on in that place where there really aren’t any words.”

Merging a child-like concept with serious-minded therapy might seem incongruous. Not to Morena, who adopted the name “Gita” from a spiritual teacher some 30 years ago.

“Sandplay taps into our deepest psyche,” she said, “to help relieve what’s in the way and allow you to feel more grounded, more connected, more whole.”

After several decades as a therapist, what lessons has Morena come to realize? “I’ve learned that we think about the same things, worry about the same things,” she said. “We all want to find that sense of inner happiness.”

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