Hoeberichts, Joan

Journal of Sandplay Therapy, Volume 12, Number 1, 2003

KEY WORDS: sandplay therapy, symbol, snakes, clinical example, separation, individuation, serpent, differentiation, enmeshment.

ABSTRACT: Snakes are found as symbols for separation and individuation throughout history in myth and religion. The serpent is an archetype that contains the qualities needed to separate. Some of these qualities are coldness, independence, solitariness, and anger. Patients engaged in sandplay therapy often unconsciously select snakes to place in a sandtray when they are in the process of struggling with a separation issue, thus providing the clinician with important information. This article presents myths, the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent, and the Buddhist legend of Nagarjuna, as examples of the snake as an agent of individuation. It also provides two clinical examples illustrating the use of snakes by two patients struggling with separation.