Game Therapy

I have been brought up playing board games all though childhood and during therapy I realized that some games can help as an ice breaker and make it easier for the client to open up. I decided to write about a few games that I use during therapy with children and adolescents. Generally, I make use of digital games online or go with my personal favorite, board games.

Chess: For sportsmanship, acceptance of defeat, motivation

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A great game for children who cannot take defeat. Chess is a powerful analytical game, where the rules have to be followed. As the game progresses it also gets more competitive. It enables the child to get completely involved in the game and think of all the possible scenarios for the upcoming moves.

Now during therapy, most of the time we let the child win in the first game, which usually boosts his confidence level. But in the second game, the child is not allowed to win the game as easily (or at all) to drive home the point that not every game can be won.
After two games, have a discussion with the child about losing and acceptance. You can also mention how this defeat is going to motivate him to be better in the next game. He then knows that there are other possibilities he missed and could have taken in order to win the game and motivates himself to do better. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, the child can now deal with accepting defeat and motivating himself.

This game usually works for age groups 8-15 years.

Taboo, Pictionary, Charades : For communication skills, ice breaking, team work, group dynamics, trust issues, group therapy

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Taboo is a game where the person has to explain a word without giving specific hints that are taboo ( not to be used for explanation). During this game the children, not only have fun, but realize how important communication can be. It is usually played in a group and this invariably leads to group dynamics and team work.

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Pictionary is a similar game but instead of talking you have to communicate though pictures and symbols. You can also extemporize the game by making your own set of cards where you make the words related to “P” can be people, “O” can be objects of influence (like cell phones, ipads, tablets, laptops), “A” can be action during certain situation, “D” can be describing a feeling and AP can be left as “All Play”. It is a relatively easy game, but can turn out to be insightful after playing.

Charades are again, a communication game where we have to act out the word on the card. Here the words can be related to issues faced by children like bullying, failure, stress, arguments, etc.

After playing the games, the individuals are asked how they feel to be in the group they were placed in, most of them feel united with their group, trust quotient and cohesiveness increases. Every game has a different outcome and it is interesting to know what the children are thinking.

This game can be played with people from 8 years and above.

Jenga : For sharing feelings, thoughts, emotions on a variety of topics.

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Jenga can be played for a variety of issues faced by people. It can be played for talking about “Feelings”,”Family”, “Social issues” and “communication”.

For feelings we can denote each feeling to a color. For example, happy = yellow, angry = red, sad = blue, stressful = green, peaceful = orange. Now the game begins like this. When you get the color on the dice, you need to speak about what you feel while taking out the jenga block. For example, “I feel angry when…”, ” I feel peaceful when…” I feel happy when..”.

For family you can assign each color to a family member. Red = mom, blue = dad, green = brother, yellow = dog, orange = cousin. Make you the family member who are close to the client are assigned the colored and not just random family members. When you start playing the game, you can talk about the family member the color is assigned to. For example, you pick out a green block so questions asked could be “what do you like about your brother?”, when a blue block is removed you can ask ”  what is the one thing you can change about your dad?” so on and so forth.

For social issues you must first ask the client about the people he/she usually spends most of her time. Friends = red, relatives = blue, cousins = yellow, family = green, and red = yourself. Make sure the client knows that they are a part of social settings. When you start the game questions can be asked about friends, family and the client as well. For example, ” how would you react to someone complementing you on your dress?”.

This game can be played with kids above 6 years.

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Experiencing Art Therapy

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Art therapy has been around for quite some time now, but in India the trend has only just started. Art therapy certificate courses and workshops are cropping up all over India. I had heard about counseling, treatment and intervention through the creative process, which made me want to find out more.

I first went to an art exhibition which exhibited some of the pieces created by people who were using art therapy to express personal issues.  Although I tried to feel the emotion of what the artist was trying to express, I could not connect to it, which made me curious to experience this form of expression. So I decided to go to a group therapy workshop conducted by art therapist Susan Bullough- Khare, and explore what this form of creative expression was all about.

So, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a circle of diverse individuals, agog and keen.

We started with an interesting exercise for communication where we were paired and had to interact with our partners without speaking, body language or signs and by using only colors and illustrations. After the exercise, we discussed the limitations people face while communicating in the real world. As we analyzed our exercise, I realized that our way of speaking and interpreting varied from person to person.

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Communicating through art

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We moved on to the second half of the workshop, where we were grouped and given a theme for creative expression. As we discussed our theme, I realized how, even though we were culturally diverse, we had common concerns of life in general and our personal life. We began our artwork based on our theme, but slowly it started evolving into something else. I didn’t realize the change until after we were done. I was quite amazed at what was in front of me.

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Our theme was “FEAR”. As you can see, we wrote down a some words that created fear- fear of the unknown, fear of betrayal, fear of loss, fear of commitment. The theme evolved into having hope, faith,  trust, heal and love to overcome the fear, and resulted in tranquility. I realized that this is the process of overcoming almost all our worries and troubles. We may be lonely or scared, but without tackling it, we wouldn’t move forward.

All the groups had the same theme, but every art piece was distinct. It was interpreted differently. One group showed fear of animals and personal fears in a small corner and dealing with them and another group showed a bridge where pictures and words arousing fear were on a wall and the tunnels were the symbol of overcoming those fears. Although all the groups had the same theme, everyone illustrated it uniquely but they also showed similar methods of intervention for the theme.

In all, the workshop changed my perspective of how individuals think. My opinion would be that art therapy is definitely a better way of expression than words, but it can be limited to subjectivity. Art can be used as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing and can give an insight to the therapist about what exactly is going on. It can be used as a process of communicating to the therapist who, in turn, can delve deeper to mitigate and treat the issue.