Dora Kalff was born in 1904 in Switzerland, as the third child. She had three brothers and sisters. Her father owned a textile company and he was a very influent person in their town. In her childhood, Dora went to a boarding school located at the mountains, what was beneficial for her fragile health by then. She was known as a great student and she intended to become a professional piano player. She got acquainted with oriental philosophies for the first time through the study of Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.
When she was 29, she got married with a Dutch banker and moved to the Netherlands, where she lived a prosperous life until the beginning of the Second World War, when she returned to Switzerland with her son, on the last trip available. Right after that, the war reached the whole region where they used to live. The extremely long separation from her husband ended up in divorce.
Later on her life, Dora began studying the analytical psychology. Her older son was a friend of Jung’s grandson, and she eventually got to known Emma and Carl Jung. They both recognized Dora’s talent for dealing with children and motivated her to study analytical psychology.
When she was 45, Dora began training to become a Jungian analyst in Zurich. Her analyst was Emma Jung, and she also had some analytical sessions with Jung. By that time, the work with children was not so developed yet and, in 1956, she went to London in order to study with Margaret Lowenfeld, with the objective of offering children a possibility of expressing their unconscious in a non-verbal way. In London, she got acquainted with Michael Fordham and Donald Winnicott, enhancing her knowledge in child psychology.
Motivated by the rich exchange of knowledge that had occurred in London, Kalff realized that there were some similarities between the children’s creations in the sand tray and the individuation process, which, by then, had only been studied in adults.
The positive effects of the therapy with children made their parents curious about the method. Kalff suggested that the parents too experienced Sandplay. Soon she observed that the healing power of Sandplay and the “free and protected space” concept were also extremely important for adults, and that work gave birth to the adults’ processes in Sandplay therapy.
Soon after that, the unique combination of analytical psychology, World Technique (Lowenfeld) and oriental philosophy, facilitated by her ability to communicate in five idioms, attracted people from all over the world.
A group of people began to gather at her house, in Switzerland, the very same group that formed the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST), in 1985, with 13 founding members from the whole world. Kalff used to travel frequently to the United States and other countries, announcing Sandplay to the world.
Kalff died in 1990, leaving us a method that has been validated by scientific studies.