Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dream Catcher

Cut out a circle and glue it onto a sturdy piece of paper, like cardstock.  Have the child write negative feelings, experiences, and so forth inside the circle.  

On the outside of the circle, have the child write positive feelings, experiences, and so forth.

Then have the child "catch" all of the negative things inside the circle with twine, yarn, or another string-like material.

Lastly, have the child decorate their dream catcher!

I have had a lot of fun with this one with all ages.  You can change it up by using different or additional materials and allow the child to be even more creative with it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Paper Garden

I love this project.  I have it hanging on a main wall outside of my office.  I used this for my group home boys but have thought about having my therapy children add to it.

Part 1 - Thankfulness (we did this part around Thanksgiving)

Quotes - Put thankfulness quotes on the tree and have the child read some of them with you and tell you what the quotes mean to him/her.

Leaves - Have the child write one thing (s)he is thankful for on each leaf.  

Part 2 - Goals (we did this part at the new year)

Seeds - Have the child write one goal for the new year on each seed and then "plant" the seed.

Rain drops - Have the child write something (s)he needs to do to accomplish his/her goals on each raindrop (the cloud is for decoration - because we can't have raindrops without a cloud!)

Sun - Have the child write people or things that offer him/her support (i.e., family, friends, school, church, etc)

Flowers - When the child accomplishes a goal, "grow" a flower out of the seed with the pertaining goal.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


In a group with 5 adolescent boys, I introduced the idea of journaling.  None of these boys had ever journaled before, according to their own recollections.  I put together the attached list (with my source cited at the bottom) to discuss with them how journaling can benefit them.  I then let them each choose a journal, which they were much more eager to do than I expected.  

Since they reside in group care, each boy was provided a lock box to keep his journal in, as many adolescents are hesitant to journal because of privacy concerns.  The boys were assured that, even though staff have key copies to the lock boxes (in case a room search was deemed necessary for safety reasons), staff were not permitted to read their journals under any circumstances.  This seemed to put the boys' minds at ease.

Journaling can be a very therapeutic exercise for both children and adults.  The below list outlines some of the reasons why.  However, if a person is to feel comfortable putting their deepest thoughts on paper, he or she needs to be given the appropriate privacy.  It can be hard for many parents to give their children this kind of privacy.  My recommendation is always that a child's journal need only be read by a parent if that parent reasonably suspects that the child may be doing something harmful to him or herself (i.e., drugs, suicidal thoughts/attempts, and so forth).

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Let's Jenga!

I use Jenga a lot in sessions for kids with ADHD or other diagnoses that include symptoms surrounding impulse-control or concentration and focus issues. The object of the game is to act slowly and to concentrate in order not to knock the tower down and it gets taller and more unstable. 

 The other day, one of supervisors gave me a fun idea that I had not thought of before to add even more therapeutic value to the game: writing questions onto the Jenga blocks and having the client answer the question on the blocks he or she pulls. The questions can be general for any client or can be specific to certain disorders or clients. In googling Jenga, I found that this is a technique that many are already using. What a fun way to get younger clients to open up and share a little more in session!

Monday, December 29, 2014

DBT House

I have been looking for new activities to use with depressed children and adolescents and came across this activity in an MFT Facebook group that I am a part of.

This "DBT House" (DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is a mindfulness activity.  It helps children to recognize their strengths, ways of coping, support system, values, and so forth.  After doing some more research on how to create a DBT House and finding instructions at Kim's Counseling Corner, I created my own template for those children who don't wish to draw their own house.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blowing Bubbles to Practice Deep Breathing

To help younger kids learn deep breathing skills: 

 I hand them a bottle of bubbles and coach them through breathing in deeply through their nose and then blowing out slowly through their mouth, just hard enough to release bubbles from the bubble wand. I ask them to imagine that the bubbles are all of their anger, sadness, and/or fear being released from inside their bodies.  I allow them to keep the bubbles for their coping skills box and remind them to use the bubbles (and other items in the box) when they are feeling angry, sad, scared, etc.

The kids I have practiced this with so far have responded well to it.  Of course, little kids love bubble blowing, but the hands-on activity really helps them to understand and practice deep breathing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Therapeutic Value of Play Dough

Working with children, I am seeing how many parents hate Play Dough!  Oftentimes I suggest using Play Dough as a coping skill and my little client will tell me, “My mom doesn’t let me play with Play Dough!”  The caregivers’ reasons range from hating the mess to hating the smell.  What the parent doesn’t usually understand is the therapeutic value that Play Dough can have.  A parent cannot always be convinced that Play Dough’s therapeutic value is enough for him/her to start allowing it in their home, but I still continue to use it in the therapy office.  

Play therapy is used with children as a means to communicate, increase understanding, resolve issues, and so forth.  Playdough can be a great tool for releasing aggression, telling a story,     redirecting and distracting, building self-esteem, and so forth.  I found great articles outlining the therapeutic uses of playdough here and here.