Friday, December 28, 2012

Hidden Messages

Valentine's Day. Cut hearts from white paper and write love notes on them with a white crayon, then hide your hearts in strategic morning locations. Place a box of watercolors at the breakfast table, and brush paint over the hearts to reveal the messages.

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it would be a perfect project for Valentine's Day!  It is similar to an art therapy project I like to do with my geriatric patients. The original idea was posted here.

White paper
White crayons

Cut out various heart shapes using the white paper and scissors.  Then, write a special message to a loved on the heart.  Give the valentine, along with the watercolors to the person.  When they paint over the heart, the message written in white crayon appears.

This would also be a cool project to do in a rehab setting.  Have each client write down inspiring messages, notes of encouragement, or personal affirmations, each on a piece of white paper.  Then, when they are feeling down or discouraged, they can pull out one of the sheets of paper, color over it with watercolor and remember the message as a "pick me up."

You could also use this idea for a "graduation" from a program.  When a person successfully completes your program, have all the other clients write down positive notes and congrats.  Give the stack of white papers and a set of watercolors as a departing gift.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Creative "Journal A Day" Activity

I've never been a good journal keeper.  But this is another activity I found on Pinterest that I've been dying to try out.  With the New Year just a few days away, I figure now's a good time to share it, so we can all try it out!

I work at an acute facility, so our patients are only there for a few days.  However, for longer term care, this could be a fun project!
Calendar journaling.....5 minute activity at the beginning or end of class.....

Large Monthly calendar (I got one at Walmart)
Various Art Supplies (Glue, stickers, memorabilia, markers, etc.)

At the end of each day (or week--depending on what works at your facility) have the residents think about the most important thing that happened that day.  Help them come up with some creative way to represent that aspect of their day, and put that in the box for that date.  For example, if they went to a movie, they could glue the movie ticket stub onto that square.  If they got a letter from a friend, they could glue the stamp from the envelope.  Have them write a short (one sentence) description of the event.  Then, as time passes, they will have an amazing record of the year.

The original idea was posted here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Communication Jenga

Here's another fun adaptation for Jenga!

For those that missed the Social Skills Jenga game, the idea is the same.  Basically, I have a Jenga set with a colored dot on one end of each piece.  The dots are red, green, blue or purple.

Play Jenga as normal.  When a player pulls out a Jenga piece, look at the color of the dot.  Based on the dot color, the player has to do a specific thing.  Examples include:

Red = Name one way to communicate positively
Blue = Name one person that you have a positve relationship with
Green = Name one way effective communication can strenghten a relationship
Purple = Give the person to your left a compliment (that hasn't been said already)

It's a fast, fun game that can be adapted to any ability level.  Hope you enjoy!!

Idea submitted by Andrea Call, CTRS, TRS.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

I love using this Dr. Seuss book in my groups.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Today is your day...
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose...
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go....

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!...
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you...

And when you're in a lump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done....

Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find....

But on you will go...
and face up to your problems
whatever they are...

You'll get mixed up, of course...
So be sure when you step,
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act...

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!!"
Copyright, 1990, published by Random House

Isn't that a great message?  I love to use it in my groups because it talks about how we have the power to act, and not just react to the situations we find ourselves in.  It says very clearly that we will have difficulties and times of fear and loneliness, but we can overcome them and still find success.  I find that no matter what population I work with, this book is always a hit, because everyone can relate to some part of it.

Depending on the topic of the group, you can focus on different aspects of the book as you process it with the patients.  For example, if the theme was coping skills, you might choose to talk about how you could cope when things don't go as planned, or you find yourself in a slump.  If the theme is about making decisions, you could highlight the part in the book about deciding which way to go and how you make that choice.  The possibilities are endless!!  I hope you enjoy it!!

Idea submitted by Andrea Call, CTRS, TRS.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Personal Mottos

Purpose:  Help patients understand who they are, their unique characteristics, and their capacity to overcome difficulties in life

Maya Angelou
   Colored paper
   Markers, crayons, etc.
   Examples of motivation quotes

Talk to the group about what a personal motto or mission statement is.  Discuss how to create a personal mission statement.  Have the group share inspirational quotes that help them keep going when facing difficult situations.

Have each person in the group make their own personal motto/motivational poster.  Tell the to put a quote that inspires them on the paper, and decorate it however they wish.

After everyone has created a poster, share them with the group.  Have the patients explain why they chose that particular saying, and how it motivates them to be better and not give up.  Have the patients hang their pictures in their rooms, on a mirror, etc. where they will see it daily as a personal encouragement.

Examples of motivation quotes can be found on this Pinterest board.

Idea submitted by Andrea Call

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Come On Six

This activity is taken from the book "More Activities that Teach" by Tom Jackson, and introduced as an activity at our facility by Brooke Sessions.

   1 piece of paper per person
   1 pen/pencil per group of five
   1 dice per person

Split into groups of five.  It is best if you have each group sitting at a table, although the floor works too.  Each person needs to have a piece of paper and each group gets one pen and one dice.

The first person starts by rolling the dice.  The object is to roll a six.  If person one does not roll a six, the dice is passed to the next player, then the next, etc.  When a person does roll a six, that person takes the pen and starts to number on their piece of paper from 1 to 100.  The rules are that the person must write the numbers one at a time, in consecutive order, and the numbers must be legible.  The person must count out loud as they write the numbers down.  The person continues writing, as fast as possible, while the other players continue rolling the dice.  When someone else rolls a six, that person gets the pen and starts writing numbers on their own paper.  If you roll a six again, you can keep writing numbers from where you left off.  The game ends when a player successfully writes the numbers all the way to 100.  Multiple rounds can be played.

Talk about stress and how different players felt stress during this activity.  Consider the following questions:
   -How easy was it to roll a six?
   -How far did you get in writing the numbers?
   -How did the level of excitement or stress change as people got closer to 100?
   -How can we compare this activity to stress in our lives?
   -How anxious do we feel about something that is going to happen a year down the road?
   -Do we sometimes cause ourselves to become stressed when we really don't need to be?  Explain.
   -What are some of the behaviors we exhibit when we feel stress?
   -How does our behavior affect others around us?
   -What are some positive ways to cope with stress in our lives?

For a lower functioning group of individuals, I have often wrote out the numbers 1 to 100 on a piece of paper and made several copies.  Each player gets a copy, and on their turn they cross out the numbers in sequential order rather than writing them.  You could also play to 50 for a lower functioning group.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Card Bingo

Kristina Martin emailed me this idea, and it looks like lots of fun!  Geriatric units are famous for their bingo loving, and I thought this would be a fun twist.


Take 8 playing cards (2 from each suit) and place on a colored piece of paper.  If possible, laminate the paper so it can be used over and over.  Using another deck of cards, pull out one card at a time.  Whomever has that card covers it up.  Continue until someone gets all their cards covered, and then the game starts over again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wildlife Sanctuary Guided Imagery

I love doing guided imagery and relaxation with my patients!  Here is a link to one of my favorite relaxation scripts.  It talks about a wildlife sanctuary, and I have a Nature's Sounds CD that I put on as we go through the exercise.

This is a good activity for discussing coping skills or dealing with anxiety.  After reading through the script with the patients, we talk about how we felt during the activity and how powerful relaxation can be.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Wheelchair Kickball


I first learned about this game when I was doing my very first RT internship.  I thought it was perfect!  Active enough to get people moving, but totally appropriate for their needs.  Enjoy!

Everyone sits in a circle.  This worked really well at that facility, because each resident was in a wheelchair.  We just got chairs for the staff to sit in.  Once a circle is formed, the activity leader throws a big beach ball in the middle.  The patients take turns kicking the ball across the circle.  It's a pretty simple activity, but helps keep their legs a little more active.  Sometimes we even got a patient who kicked it out of the circle!!  That always made him feel so strong!

Idea taken from Jody Slagowski at Orchard Park Care Center.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Stained Glass" Coloring Project

This is one of my favorite projects to do with the geriatric patients.

Black Markers
Blank Paper
Coloring pencils or crayons

To begin, have patients draw a bunch of random lines on a piece of paper.  It could look something like this:

Afterwards, have the patients fill in the blanks with different colors.  The end result is something like this:

When I do this activity, I usually talk about coping skills or dealing with stress in life.  I usually lead a discussion something on the lines of... The first paper represents all the stress, frustration, and other negative emotions we feel.  Sometimes these emotions create chaos in our lives and don't make any sense to us.

However, if we practice healthy coping skills, we can begin to make sense of the chaos.  Each color I use in the final product represents a different coping skill I discuss.  When we utilize these coping skills in our lives, we can make more sense of the experiences we are having.  In the end, even difficult experiences can become meaningful, just like the picture we just created.

Idea taken from Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital, Activity Therapy Department.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hot Lava

I did this yesterday at work, and it was fantastic.

You'll Need:
   -Paper plate for each participant
   -Blindfolds (optional)
   -Ear plugs (optional)
   -Tape to mark the start and finish lines

Set Up:
Patients should each be given one paper plate and a length of space should be available, for example the hallway on the unit or the gym.  Use the tape to mark a start and finish line.

The Goal:
For all patients to cross over the "hot lava" without touching the floor.

The Rules:
   -Patients cannot touch the floor!  If a patient touches the floor, the entire group goes back and starts over from the beginning.
   -Once a paper plate is put on the ground, a patient has to be touching it at all times.  If the plate is left untouched for five seconds or longer, the plate is melts in the lava and is taken away.

When we play this game at our facility, we usually adapt it to meet the needs of the daily theme (codependency).  To do so, you could have a patient wear a blindfold or ear plugs, or have a patient say "banana" in between each word, or even tie two patients together.  Each of these modifications highlight a symptom of codependency (people pleasing, poor boundaries, caretaking, etc.).

Process the activity with the patients.  Talk about the roles each patient took on during the activity, and how it translates into their lives.  Review the Symptoms of Codependency handout, and talk about how this activity helped them understand some of the different signs of a codependent relationship.

Brinda Green, CTRS, introduced this activity to our facility.  Thanks Brinda!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You Are Special

Read the book “You are Special”by Max Lucado with the group.

Afterwards discuss the book with the patients and talk about what they learned from the book regarding their worth. Then give each Patient a dot and a star, clipart from a google search or even Microsoft word. Go around the group and ask each person what their dot is (something negative someone has said to them/ when someone made them feel bad). Then instruct the patients to let the dot fall to the floor and forget about what those people said because it does not stick if it does not matter to us. Afterwards ask patients what their star is (something someone said that was kind, a compliment, praise, or something that makes them happy). Instruct the patients to keep their stars but to remember that although receiving stars can be good, they do not predicate our worth as human beings.

Another great idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Talent Extravaganza

This activity was submitted by Jackie West, LMHC, LADAC, CTRS.  She works in an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in a special hospital.  These activities can be done separately as individual sessions, or they can all be part of a combined Talent Show, with one session planning the show and the next session performing.

There are several different purposes that can filled with this activity.  A few examples include:
   -Risk taking/overcoming fears
   -Sober leisure skills
   -Developing and/or sharing talents
   -Building the group (unity)
   -Communication skills
   -Managing emotions
   -Sober holidays, etc.

The idea is that everyone participates in the activity.  Initially, people will probably react with complaining and excuses.  But broken down like this, it is easy to give everyone a specific task.

Specific ideas for various "acts" or roles in the talent show include:

*Top 10 List - This is a group effort to come up with a Top 10 list for the treatment center (or your facility). The Top 10 List can be "Life in Rehab" or "A Day in Rehab" or whatever you brainstorm at the moment.

*MC - This is a group effort where a spokesperson is selected to represent the product of the group.  The acts are identified.  The MC must announce the acts in the Talent Show, using puns, quips, funny associated jokes, etc. in a humorous and entertaining way.

*Rehab Rap - This is a group effort with one or more patients willing to perform the rap.  The rap can be about rehab or early recovery or any topic wanted to meet the thematic design.  This group can include several rappers, or one rapper with the others doing clapping, drumming, or sounds effects.

*Song "They say that in Rehab..." This is an oldies song.  You can find it the internet under "They say in the Army..."  And the group then create the song.   For example, "They say that in Rehab the food is mighty fine, Beans, rice, baloney.  Don't forget to stand in line... Fun, fun..."

*Rhythm Band (Release the Music Inside) - This is a group effort where all of the individuals use only their clapping hands or other natural sounds to create a rhythmic song to perform.  The 'natural' sounds can include such things as a paper bag filled with air that is tapped, whistles, mouth sounds, snapping, tapping on a wall, rubbing paper folders together, etc... whatever makes a sound can become the music!

*Poetry Reading - This is a group effort where the group creates a poem.  Take a large paper (i.e. butcher paper) and come up with a topic that goes along with the theme of the Talent Show.  Each member of the group things of a random poetic line regarding the topic.  This is private and no one is aware of what their peer has written.  Fold the paper into an accordion or start with the large paper.  The first person writes their poetic line, and then folds down the written section.  The next person does the same thing.  When all of the group participants have written their poetic lines, the paper is opened up and all can see the parts.  It is then the group task to rearrange and compile all of the lines to create a product that makes sense and is beautifully creative.  The group then negotiates how it will be presented at the Talent Show.

*Alcatones - This is a Rehab Choir that changes up the words to a children's song or a holiday son or another fun song, so it becomes a parody about addiction and recovery.  Coming up with a group name based in Recovery is half of the fun!!

*Motivational Prayer/Poem/Storytelling - Many have these memorized or can recall them pretty immediately or you can get it off the internet.  Examples include: Third Step Prayer, The Piano Story, The Velveteen Rabbit, etc.

*Acts - Besides all of the ideas above, there will always be individuals that have the courage to do an act, for example sing a song, play a musical instrument, do an expressive dance, make funny faces, wiggle their ears, teach the group a funny dance, tell jokes, do a magic or Yo-yo trick, etc.

*Behind the scenes - You may have a few participants that don't yet have a job or role.  They can help with setting up chairs, getting the room ready, serving refreshments, greeting guests, or even holding up signs to tell the audience when to cheer, gasps, laugh, etc.

Doesn't this sound fun?!?  Thanks again for sharing the idea Jackie!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Music Moods

Give the patients a large piece of white construction paper. Divide the paper into ten sections. Select ten different songs of varying genres. Allow the students to listen to parts of each song one at a time. After they listen to the song have them draw in one of the squares according to how the song made them feel.

After going through every song, discuss how each song made the group feel.  Then discuss emotions, the importance of recognizing emotions, and skills for managing emotions.

Discuss coping mechanisms and how music can be used to cope and how it can be detrimental.

Ideas submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Play-Doh Challenge

Cut the following words into little slips. Let the patients pick a slip and keep their choice a secret. Their goal is to create their selected challenge so that others can guess what it is.

The Geriatric unit loved this!

You can do a few rounds and pick the words according to the season or theme.

Football Player
Car Covered in snow
You're Choice!!
Ginger Bread Man/ Ginger bread house
Elves making Toys
Native American
You’re Choice!!
Santa Claus
Snow Man
Christmas Tree
Pumpkin Patch

Idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making Puzzles

Have patients color pictures (whether pictures from online or pictures they draw themselves).  Next, have the patients glue the colored pictures onto construction paper and then cut the pieces like puzzle pieces.

Let the patients keep the pieces in a bag so they can put it together again later.

You could also make them holiday themed.

Idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fabulous Flags

Idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.

Discuss the purpose of flags in the world today. Even give the patients a few examples of how flags
represent different places.

For example, in the American flag, blue is the symbol of vigilance, perseverance and justice. The star was to
represent the heavens, which men were to strive for and the stripes were symbolic of the rays of
the sun.

Instruct the Pts. to create their own flags to represent themselves through pictures, words, colors,
etc. Some ideas for the flag might be:

   What matters most to you in the whole world?
   What are your hobbies?
   What are your talents?
   What are you ambitions?
   Favorite food?
   Favorite place to be?
   Favorite quote?
   Significant events in your life?
   Important people in your life? Etc.

Afterwards have the patients present their flags. Discuss with them why it is important to know
ourselves. Why is it important to stand up for who we are?  What represents who we are?  How does the way we represent ourselves to others impact them and their perceptions of us?

Can be applied to various topics including being kind to yourself, pay it forward, codependence, etc.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Communication Pictionary

We played this today at work as we talked about communication skills.  It was a blast!

To encourage patients to understand and implement effective communication skills.

How to Play:
A patients picks a word out of a container from the AT.  The pt. must get the group to guess the word by explaining what the object is to another patient who must draw the object.  The patient who is drawing will not know the word.  The patient explaining the object can only use shape and size words to explain the object to the drawer.  The drawer may ask questions. 

For example, if the word is house, the person might say: draw a square and on top of the square draw a triangle.

Possible Words include:

Idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.

Friday, November 30, 2012


We played this game last week for Thanksgiving.  The patients loved it, and we were able to connect it to our daily theme.

The game is similar to musical chairs.  To play the game, have each person choose a Thanksgiving name, such as pumpkin pie, potatoes, gravy, whipped cream, cranberries, etc.  One person is "it" and stands in the middle of the circle.  Everyone else sits on a chair.

The person who is "it" calls out two names, for example cranberries and pumpkin pie.  Those two people then change places.  The person may call out names as fast as they want, repeatedly call the same name, or even call out three names at a time--all to make it more interesting and challenging for the players.  Play continues until the person who is "it" calls out "Cornucopia!"  At this time, everyone has to get up and change seats, the person who is "it" finds a chair, and the person who did not get a seat becomes the new "it."

We used this game to talk about boundaries.  After playing the game for a while, we had everyone move their chairs closer together.  We discussed how personal space varies from person to person and how the game forced people to get in each other's space.

Game found online here

Social Skills Jenga

Jenga is one of the most used games at our hospital!  We use this version on the day we talk about developing social skills.

I have a Jenga set with a colored dot on one end of each piece.  The dots are red, green, blue or purple.

Play Jenga as normal.  When a player pulls out a Jenga piece, look at the color of the dot.  Based on the dot color, the player has to do a specific thing.  Examples include:

Red = Name a social skill
Blue = Compliment the person to your left
Green = Recreation Therapist presents a social situation and player says how he would react in that situation
Purple = Set a goal to improve a social skill

Hand-print Circle

   Butcher Paper
   Construction Paper

   Have each patient trace both hands on a piece of construction paper.  On one hand, have them write down what they are in treatment to work on and problems they currently face.  On the other hand, have them write down specific goals they want to accomplish and their dreams for the future.

   Glue everyone's hands together in a circle on the butcher paper.  On the inside of the circle write down and discuss the things that will help them achieve their goals and be healthy (positive coping skills).  On the outside of the circle, write down and discuss things that will prevent them from changing their lives and being happy (negative coping skills).

   Compare the two lists.  If you want, you can cut up the outside and talk about how we need to eliminate these negative things in our lives in order to accomplish the good.  You could even display the hand-print circle in the group room for a few days to remind the patients what they are here to work on.

Adapted from an activity done by Jill Comarell, rec therapist at PCMC Child Residential and Day Treatment Program.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Purpose: to help individuals realize their positive traits and talents

   Butcher paper
   Art Supplies (markers)

   Each person will be traced on the butcher paper so there emerges a silhouette of their body.  After everyone has been traced, take turns writing in positive qualities about each person, and sharing what you what was written   For example, if a person is very caring, you might write that over where the heart is in the body.  If someone is smart, you could write that over the head.  Continue until everyone's silhouettes is full of compliments and positive traits.

   Talk about how it feels to hear other people tell you such positive things.  Talk about how even though things on the outside might be rough, inside we all have good qualities.  Discuss the compliments each person received.  As if it's hard to believe everything nice that was said?  How come?  How does knowing other people see these positive traits affect how you feel about yourself, and how you want to be?

Variations:  Do this as a family therapy activity.  Talk about how despite the difficulties a family may have had, the goodness still remains.  Talk about how remembering the good qualities in one another can help the family get through the struggles they are currently facing.

Idea from Karl Jensen, recreation therapist at Telos Residential Treatment Center.

A-Z Leisure Education

Purpose:  to help patients identify positive ways to spend free time and develop new leisure interests

   Magnets (or cards) lettered A-Z

Have each person pick as many letters as they want.  Starting with the letter A, have the person who drew that letter come up with one activity he can do when he has free time that is appropriate and positive.  After he identifies at least one activity, open it up for the group and see how many ideas they can come up with for each letter.

If you want, you can have the participants keep a list for future reference and the next time somone is bored have them pick an activity from the list to try.

Spider Web Activity

   Yarn or Rope
   Beach ball or balloons

For this activity, everyone stands (or sits) in a circle.  Person 1 says something nice about someone across the circle from them (Person 2) and throws them the yarn.  Person 2 then says something nice about someone else (Person 3) and throws the yarn.  Continue complimenting each other and passing the yarn until you have a nice, connected spider web.

Talk about what it was like to compliment other people.  Ask how it felt to hear the positive things others had to say about you.

Throw a balloon or beach ball onto the spider web net, and try bouncing the ball.  Notice how the ball won't fall through the spider web.  Talk about how positive relationships with people connect us to them and prevent us from falling or failing in life.    Demonstrate what happens when people let go of the yarn and the holes get bigger.

Have each person think of one individual they can work on developing a better relationship with and make a specific goal about how to accomplish that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Emotion Painting

Patients will gain an understanding of how much of a role emotion plays in artmaking. The connection between line, color, texture, shape etc. will be explored as patients create a painting which expresses a certain emotion or feeling.

What You Need:
  • a large sheet of heavy paper (or canvas)
  • acrylic paint (for older students)
  • tempera paint - or crayons (for younger students)
  • paintbrushes
  • water
  • containers
  • mixing trays (could be styrofoam trays or sheets of old cardboard)
  • paper towels
  • newspapers
  • old shirts or painting smocks
  • music (various styles)
  • scrap newsprint
  • pencils
What You Do:
  1. Talk about emotion. What does the word emotion mean? What kinds of emotions do we experience on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Talk about color. How do certain colors make us feel? Why?
  3. Talk about line. What kinds of lines are there? Straight, jagged, squiggly, zig-zag, etc.
  4. Warm up by having patients draw lines (using pencil on newsprint) based upon certain feelings. IE: draw happy lines, draw angry lines, etc.
  5. You can also encourage your patients to draw lines based on the music they are hearing (IE: jazz, classical, pop etc.)
  6. Once everyone is "warmed up" begin working with the paint. Make sure each patient has a paintbrush, water and access to at least the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue).
  7. Give a quick demonstration of how paints are used properly (always clean brushes before dipping into a new fresh color ... treat the brushes well by not squishing them down on the paper etc. Also, review color mixing (yellow + blue = green; red + yellow = orange; red + blue = violet)
  8. Everyone can then decide on an emotion or feeling which they will express using various paint colors, lines, textures and shapes.
  9. Allow your patients to take as long as they need to create the final work, encouraging them to stand back from time to time to have a really good look at what they are doing. Is it moving in the direction they want it to? Are the desired feelings starting to emerge?
  10. Remember too that this is a very intuitive and subjective exercise and as such the works should not be analyzed by the instructor, but rather by the kinderartists themselves.
  11. When the paintings are complete, hang them up and see how others interpret the work. Does everyone see similar emotions in the same works? Yes? No? Why? Refer

This idea was found via

How to Draw a Zentangle

Zentangle Art is a great way to promote relaxation and creativity for your patients. I found this great HOW TO from the website SO simple but can have a great impact on the patients! This project works great in art therapy sessions to help the patients learn a new skill and fill confident in their own and unique art piece. 

Begin small, work on a piece of paper approximately 3.5" x 3.5" (9cm x 9cm).

I am using a pen for the initial steps so it shows on the scan but you should use a pencil.
Draw a border around the square of paper, about a half inch (1cm) from the edge as shown. Do it freehand and let it be 'rough'.

Draw a 'String'
Again, with a pencil, draw a light random line within the border - it can be anything but keep it simple to begin with. Rick and Maria call these lines 'strings', which helps you to visualise the kind of lines that work. You are aiming to create areas in which to doodle. Experiment until you get something you are happy with.
Fill Your Zentangle

Switch to a black fine liner pen and begin to fill the shapes made by your string. Oh... and put some soft music on and allow your mind to wander. These simple patterns are called 'tangles'. You can see lots of them at
Are You Relaxed?

Keep going. Don't fret over what pattern to use, you will find as you do more, that the next pattern seems to suggest itself.
My example here is very rough and I seem to have misplaced the border while scanning, but I'm sure you get the idea.
As you can see, I have worked up to the border, making my Zentangle a square, however, you don't have to do that - leaving white space can work well too.
All Done

                                                                                                                        Here is my rather rough and ready example finished.
Erase all the pencil lines and use a little shading in order to make your drawing more three dimensional.

Childhood Memory Art Therapy

Give patients 10 minutes to think about a good childhood memory.
After have patients share their memory with the group. Have them specify how they felt especially their emotions (happy, excited, adventurous etc.)  After encourage patients to be creative and make a unique design.  Have them depict their memory in an art form such as watercolor, paints, color pencils, crayons, or write the memory out.

Relationships Art Therapy Project

I found this awesome activity from

Choose the people who matter most to you in life and create unique art for each.

Are you the type of person that feels stretched too thin? Do you try to please and accommodate everyone under the sun? Could you be spending more of your time on the people that matter most in your life? If so, this may be a good art therapy exercise for you.

There’s only so much time in a day, a week, a month, a year, and even a lifetime to do the things we want. There’s just never enough time. We live life one moment to the next and when it comes time to reflect on those moments, we want them to be well-spent, memorable, and hopefully un-regrettable.

Here’s a simple activity that you can do to help prioritize and focus your energy on the people that matter most to you. I’m talking about the people that help you maximize the moments of joy in your life. It’s easy to become misguided and distracted, and to focus on the bad energy that surrounds you. Therefore, sometimes it is helpful to focus on the people that make you smile, treat you right, and really have a positive influence in your life.

So, for this exercise, you can use as many, or as few, materials as you like. This is meant to be as open and unique as you want with regards to the art you will create. This activity may need to be spread out over some time, but it will be well worth it.
Okay, think of 5-15 people in your life that matter most to you. In other words, if you had to choose 5-15 people to go with you to a deserted island, who would they be? Write their names down, and try to limit who you take to 15.

Now, create a unique piece of art for each individual that reflects their relationship with you and why you chose them to go with you to the island. You can draw, paint, photograph, collage, craft, or sculpt anything you like. There are no limitations on the art materials you use or the art you create. It could be a poem or a painting or whatever you think fits best.

When you’re done creating your pieces of artwork, you should have some newfound positive energy in your life that you can then put forth with the people you named. Use that energy and motivation to call them up or do something fun, whatever it is that you want to do, as long as you’re spending time and energy with these people.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Emotion Word Art


   Colored pencils/crayons/markers
   Blank paper

Give each patient two pieces of paper.  Divide each paper into 4 squares.  Label the squares 1-8.

State one emotion word.  Have the patients draw this emotion (what it means to them, what image they get in their minds when they hear this word, a time when they felt this emotion, etc.)  Continue until each square is complete.  Try to include both positive and negative emotions words, such as:
Afterwards, go through and have each group member describe one or two of their pictures.  Talk about what each emotion means to each person individually and how they are different.  Talk about why it is important to understand what each emotion means to each person, so we know how to relate to them.

Submitted by Andrea Call

Tied Together

Purpose: To help patients understand the destructive nature of codependent relationships and encourage them to be more independent in their actions.

   Rope cut into 24" pieces.

Tie each of the participant's wrists to another patient.  Everyone should have both wrists tied (to two different people).  Give each person a container of Play-Doh.  Instruct them that they are to use the Play-Doh to make something (i.e. a snowman, a heart, etc.)  Time them to see how long it takes.

After they have completed the task--or given up--untie their wrists.  Ask them to make the same sculpture with the Play-Doh.  Compare the dime difference.

   Talk about what was different between the two experiences.  Explain what a codependent relationship is and how that was represented by having their wrists tied together.  Consider the following questions:
   - Which scenario was easier?  Explain.
   - Did you feel frustrated during the activity? How so?  What made it so frustrating?
   - How can having a codependent relationship impair your success?
   - How does this relate to your life, right now?  Explain.

Submitted by Andrea Call

52 Reasons

Purpose: To increase patients' self-esteem and help them identify their talents

52 Reasons book
   One full deck of cards for each participant
   Various art supplies (magazines, newspapers, construction paper, markers, glue etc.)
   Hole punch

Hole punch the corner of each card in the deck.  Have each patient create a list of 52 reasons they love themselves/positive qualities/talents.  Write one reason on each card in the deck.  Use the art supplies to decorate the cards.  To finish, use the ribbon to tie the cards together.

   Have patients share some of their favorite cards.  Talk about how important it is to recognzie our own self-value and self-worth.  Share how it feels to know there are at least 52 reasons why you are special.

Modified from by Andrea Call

Cookie Cutter Art

Purpose: To help patients create something that is uniquely theirs, and to understand their worth and identity.

   Canvas (or paper) for each person
   Cookie Cutters

Cover the area with newspapers.  Let each participant choose a cookie cutter and two colors of paint.  Paint one color the background.  Pour the other color paint  onto a flat surface (i.e. a Styrofoam plate).  Dip the cookie cutter into the paint, making sure it is completely covered, and then stamp it onto the canvas.  Repeat over and over (make sure to dip it in the paint each time).  Afterwards, if you want, you can choose a third color and fill in a final stamp.

Finished project
   Talk about how it felt to create something.  Talk about how we can use common "cookie cutter" experiences to create our own unique experience in life.  Talk about how sometimes the world doesn't recognize us for who we truly are, but those who know us and love us will see that.
   Ask each participant what made them choose the particular cookie cutter they did (i.e. what does that shape represent for them).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bead Jar

Purpose: To help patients understand the destructive nature of codependent relationships and encourage them to be more independent in their decision making.

   Bead Jar
   Paper and Pencil for each participant

Give each patient a pencil and a piece of paper.  Show them the jar of beads, letting them hold it and look at it if they wish.  Ask each patient to write down how many beads they think are in the jar.  them them they are to do this by themselves--there should be no discussion among the group.

Next, have the patients find a partner.  Give each partnership a few minutes to agree on the number of beads in the jar.  Have them write this agreed upon number underneath the first guess on their sheet of paper.

Have two partnerships join together to form a group of four, and repeat the guessing game.  Continue until all the patients are in the same, and they have one group guess of how many beads are in the jar.

For the last round, have each individual make a final individual guess, based on the discussion and previous guesses.

Talk about if/how the guesses changed as more people were included in the group.  Discuss why this might have happened.  Which guess was closest to the actual number of beads in the jar.  Consider the following questions:
   - In which group was it easiest to make your decision?  Explain.
   - How was it decided what the correct guess would be for each group?
   - What would you change about how the decision was made if we were to do this again?
   - Which of your individual guesses was closer to the actual number, the first or the last guess?
   - How can we relate this activity to the idea of codependence?
   - Are group decisions always the best decision for every person in the group?  Explain.
   - What does each person need to do when a group decision is being made?
   - What should you do if you don't agree with the decision the group is making?
   - How does this relate to your life, right now?  Explain.

   You can also use a jar filled with candy to do this activity, and then give the jar to the closest guesser, or share the treats among the group.

Modified from "M & M Madness" from Tom Jackson's More Activities That Teach.

A-Z Emotions

Purpose: To help patients become more aware of various emotions and how such emotions can be expressed.

   A-Z letter magnets or cards

Pass around the letters and have each patient take a few.  Starting with the letter A, the patient who holds that letter has to come up with an emotion word that starts with that letter.  For example, A could stand for anxious, angry, apprehensive, etc.  Ask others in the group if they have more ideas.  Continue through all the letters of the alphabet, coming up with as many emotion words as possible.

Process with the group about how there are lots of different emotions, and each emotion is valid.  Talk about times when the patients have felt different emotions and how each emotion can be expressed.

Submitted by: Andrea Call

Finger Print ID

   Help patients gain a better understanding of their personal identity in order to increase self-esteem

Finger print story
   Blow up each patients' fingerprint on a photo copier to make an 8.5" x 11" design

Have each patient trace lines over their fingerprint.  Along each of the lines, have them write words or phrases that uniquely describe them.

Process with the group.  Talk about how just like a fingerprint is unique, each person is an individual.  Talk about the importance of recognizing your strengths and developing self esteem.

   Have patients write their life story on their fingerprint, and talk about how life is a journey.
   Have patients write what they've learned in treatment on the fingerprints.

Activity modified from by Andrea Call