The use of gates or portals in sandplay scenes may symbolize the process of preparation and approach, the actual passage or journey, and the experience of successfully navigating the passage. The use of a gate may signal the awareness of or the ability to navigate a psychological passage.
The sacred Japanese torii gate, consisting of two upright posts with a crossbeam, may symbolize themes related to transition and transformation. In sandplay, the torii may represent the readiness prior to a journey, including the preparation one must make. Bradway and McCoard (1997) explain that the torii gate may symbolize "the boundary between the conscious and the unconscious; movement may be in either direction". The use of the torii gate may also be representative of the "release of energy for life which occurs after the experience of passing through the gate" (1997 p. 93).
Gates in sandplay scenes can be closed to prevent passage and to protect or open to allow entry or passage. Bradway and McCoard offer insight into the use of a gate in a sandplay process. In an initial tray, the client placed a fence in front of a house. When asked about the fence the client explained that it was between where one lived and the world outside. A subsequent tray showed a house with a fence, yet this scene had an open gate with a dog coming through. "Now there is a gate in the fence and the dog, his instinctual feeling, can go through the gate and connect the house with the world outside" (Bradway and McCoard, 1997 p. 135).