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About Us

“The clinician is alert gatekeeper, a protective witness, a mindful guide, while easing the client’s journey into depths of expression. For the client, it is a process of reclaiming experience and identity, of finding voice and integrity. 

The therapist must be able to go to these depths … tune into their own instinctive, kinesthetic experience, deepen their understanding of symbol meanings, with a heightened discernment of voice and connection between symbols and client.”

Dee Preston-Dillon, MA, Ph.D.

The Sand Therapy Training Institute

The Sand Therapy Training Institute (TSTTI) is unique in its particular focus on the ethical and safe use of Sand Therapy through facilitating rigorous and immersive training for mental health professionals.  Courses designed for psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers are built from research-based and clearly articulated core clinical competencies. With a strong emphasis on the theory which underlies clinician engagement and an eye toward the latest developments in neuroscience, TSTTI integrates the existing approaches of both Kalffian Sandplay and Sandtray with the broader theoretical work of Carl Rogers, Milton Erickson’s therapeutic metaphor, White and Epston’s Narrative Therapy (engagement from a social constructionist approach), as well as Rollo May and Irvin Yalom’s existential psychotherapy.

Based on more than 40 years of clinical research, teaching and training professionals, courses are designed to walk participants through a step-by-step process to develop the knowledge, awareness and skills that are essential for the effective and ethical use of Sand Therapy with clients of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. 

An essential feature of the use of symbols in sand is psychological projection. Therapist immersion in their own sand scenes is an indispensable component of understanding the projective process. Immersion grounds clinicians in the firsthand experience of the tremendous depth and power of symbols in sand and develops a practical awareness for ways of responding to clients and their sand scenes. 

Through TSTTI’s unique courses, participants explore a variety of approaches to therapy and gain essential feedback on process. Personal insight and professional competence are developed through the pursuit of key questions such as:

• How do we use silence to enhance client experience in their sand scene? 

• How do we integrate metaphor with symbols? 

• How do we engage without being invasive? 

• What is the relevance of culture? 

• How do we empower clients on their journey for meaning?

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

Dee PhotoDr. Preston-Dillon is the founder and director of the Center for Culture and Sandplay. A clinician educator, Dee’s 40 years teaching and clinical work anchor her immersive approach with clinicians and graduate students. She considers her life work a study of sand therapy as a projective process, incorporating cross-cultural, client-centered, and existential approaches. A master’s in counseling and a doctorate in psychology, her dissertation was a cross-cultural study of Sandplay, a qualitative analysis comparing indigenous and Jungian understanding of sand scenes.

She is an affiliate faculty for the graduate Counseling program at Johns Hopkins University, the master’s in Art Therapy at George Washington University, and the Ferentz Institute for Trauma Training. Presenting at over 40 national and international conferences on expressive arts, clinician competencies, and play therapy, her focus has been on theory, ethics, and the clinical use of metaphors with symbols in sand. Dr. Preston-Dillon sees the essential nature of clinician-learning as an authentic immersion, in a deepening experience, within their own sand scenes.

Her work with clinicians is an active engagement to validate clinician insights and extend their capacity to resonate with client representations in sand scenes. She developed the Sand Therapy Competency Scale, a graduated skill-set for clinicians who use different approaches such as Sandtray and Sandplay. A new approach to work with sand scenes emerged from her cross-cultural work, Narrative Sand Therapy©.

Dr. Preston-Dillon provides professional CE courses, private cohort retreats, agency staff training, and individual consultation for practiced immersion in sand. She teaches the advanced certificate programs in Sand Therapy, level I and Level II, through College Park Youth and Family Services, Maryland. Her training studio is located in Brandywine, Maryland.

Tim Mewmaw, M.S. LGPC

Tim Photo

Having met Dr. Preston-Dillon during his graduate studies at John’s Hopkins, Tim has been assisting her with clinical trainings and conferences since 2018. In addition to clinical consults and mentorship in group process, he has been immersed in the theory and practice of symbols in sand. He continues to provide a supportive and collaborative role in the development of curriculum, videos and trainings through the Center for Culture and Sandplay. Tim completed the Sand Therapy certificate program through College Park Youth and Family Services, Maryland. He used this modality with clients at Hospice of the Chesapeake and continues to do so at the Annapolis Counseling Center. 

Tim’s orientation is deeply person-centered, believing that the client is their own best healer. He views problems as interwoven parts of the whole person. Tim sees counseling as a collaborative process to empower clients on their journey to find healing and existential meaning.

Drawing on extensive professional and international experience and an insatiable appetite for understanding the world we live in, Tim utilizes the lenses of a broad range of theoretical orientations and philosophical approaches in his clinical work (e.g. neuroscience, biology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, cultural awareness and sensitivity). In addition to individual psychotherapy, small group process, parenting skills and couples/family counseling, Tim also offers professional workshops and staff training.

Allison Stein, B.S. 

Allison Stein has Bachelor of Science with honors, with an emphasis in anthropology and psychology and a minor in criminal justice. She is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Immaculata University where her focus is on complex trauma, substance use disorders, and neuropsychology impacting youth. As an intern with Dr. Preston-Dillon, Allison conducts literature reviews relevant to the clinical use of symbols in sand and assists in formulating continuing education exam questions for licensed therapists.

Allison has presented at three national conferences as a leading author at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Baltimore County where her research included substance use screening patterns among pregnant women, community-based participatory research, and the impact of social support on mental health and resilience. Currently, she is collaborating with a university colleague to publish on the topic of photovoice: A participatory action research methodology incorporating narrative and symbols in participant photographs. This method is critical to inform public policy and community stakeholders to enact true social change among marginalized populations. Allison is a guardian ad litem volunteer attending court hearings with children in foster care. She is a fierce advocate for rehabilitation in the court systems, examining ways to transform punitive measures for affirming, systemic methods for transitions.