My playroom shelves are packed full of therapy games. I mean, really packed. I have well over a hundred therapy and counseling games on my shelves. As the president of the largest US publisher of therapeutic and counseling games, I have a lot more options than most child clinicians when it comes to acquiring games and selecting the ones I want to use in my sessions. Most of the time I try to be prescriptive. That is, I select games and activities most appropriate to the client I’m meeting with. Despite taking this approach I find myself gravitating to some games much more than others. Below are some of the games that I’m getting the most out of right now, and would recommend to my fellow clinicians for their play therapy practices.
Yes I Can! Handle My Anger – I’m a little biased, since I developed this activity. The Yes I Can! Handle My Anger game is designed to help participants understand and appreciate various aspects of being angry. There are three types of cards designed to help participants identify triggers for anger, identify positive and negative behaviors associated with anger, and identify thoughts associated with anger. Developing anger management skills is aided by discussion and role playing during the game. Participants use the cards to spell out “Yes I Can!” as they play, which keeps them interested and engaged.
Bridge Over Worried Waters – Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems during childhood and adolescence. Anxiety affects normal day-to-day activities and causes considerable emotional and physical distress as well as impaired academic and social functioning. Bridge Over Worried Waters is designed to support treatment of anxiety disorders in children ages 6-13 years old. The game incorporates relaxation, positive self-talk, and other coping behaviors into a game format. I like this game because it teaches concrete skills as well as providing lots of opportunities for discussion and exploration.
The Social & Emotional Competence Board Game – The Social and Emotional Competence Board Game was designed to give counselors and teachers another tool to teach social and emotional skills. Social and emotional competence refers to the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish and maintain relationships with others. The Social and Emotional Competence Game is a fun way to teach empathy, communication skills, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, self-management, and responsible decision-making. Of course, I’m biased about this game since I developed it as well. It has turned out to be one of our best-selling games and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback.
The Social & Emotional Competence Card Game (ADHD cards) – The Social and Emotional Competence Game Card Set (Revised) can be used with the Social and Emotional Competence Board Game or as a stand alone card game. I use it both ways. The goal is to educate players about a specific disorder and provide skills for managing the disorder. There are five decks of cards, one for each disorder: Anxiety, Depression ADHD, Asperger’s, and Bipolar Disorder. When playing the board game, any of the five decks can be substituted for the Communication cards. The cards are used to facilitate an appreciation and understanding of the child’s difficulties, and develop strategies for managing and coping with their challenges. I have been using the ADHD and Anxiety cards, without the board, a lot lately. There are no time constraints and the game can be played for 5 minutes or 15. The game is over whenever time runs out.
Dr. Playwell’s Don’t Stress Game – Stress is a factor that contributes to almost every mental health problem. Stress can affect a child’s physical health, too. This is an engaging game helps children develop some of the skills they need to deal with all kinds of stress, including both developmental and situational problems. I’ve found that this game engages kids well.
Boundaries Baseball – Boundaries Baseball helps children understand and respect boundaries. Boundaries are essential for positive relationships with peers and adults; children who act out are often asking for the security of clear boundaries and the skills needed to respect them. Boundaries Baseball utilizes a baseball diamond format as a visual reminder for not going out of bounds. As part of the action of the play, participants will also have opportunities to toss a ball so that it stays within the boundaries of a strike zone. Game cards teach four kinds of boundaries: (1) Saying and accepting No, (2) Managing strong emotions, (3) Respecting personal space and property, and (4) Relationship/communication limits (friendship). This is another very engaging game.