Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tic Tac Toe (TTT) Basketball

Amy Boettcher sent me this activity... doesn't it look fun?!?

Basketball half court
Basketball hoop
Tic Tac Toe grid drawn out on the ground (use chalk, duct tape, etc.)
Team pennies (or some way to distinguish the teams from each other

Divide the group into two teams: X's and O's

Flip a coin, draw a number, etc. to see which team goes first.

When it's each team member's turn, they much choose a box from the TTT grid.  If they miss, they have to answer a question from whatever topic you choose the game to be centered around.  For example, if the theme is coping skills, you might as them what coping skill they use for managing a stressful situation.  Other examples include what triggers their temper? Isolation? Depression? Etc.

When they make a basket, they remain in the box they shot from, and the next team gets to choose which box they want to shoot from.  And repeat the process above.  The grid will fill up with team members.  The object is to get three X's (or O's) in a row.

During the game, ask for others to offer their answers to the questions you ask as well.  Go over the group's topic or theme at the end of the game.

This game is geared towards adults, with a specific topic in mind to apply to the game's questions.  Amy has used it in the past to with adolescents as well, to work on frustration (missing the basket from a chosen spot, experiencing others progressing/winning and you losing/falling behind, teamwork, strategy, etc.).

Thanks again Amy!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emotion Charades

This game is always a hit at my facility!!  Hope you enjoy it!

Emotions Charades pictures (I usually just cut up one of the charts for this)
Emotion faces chart for participants.  There are lots online, here is one sample:

Begin the group by introducing the daily theme- recognizing and expressing emotion. Begin playing Charades. Each person draws a face, and then has to get the group to guess the emotion they are feeling. NO WORDS! If they are having a hard time, they can ask one person in the group to help them.

After playing for a while (make sure everyone has at least 1 turn), pass out the emotion faces chart. You can keep playing, and it will be easier to guess the emotion because of the chart. Or you can go straight into the processing.

Talk about the game. What was difficult about it? What made it difficult? Talk about the idea that the way one person expresses an emotion may be different than how someone else expresses that same emotion. Also talk about how one emotion may be interpreted as another emotion. Share experiences of when that may have happened. Talk about the importance of clearly recognizing and expressing emotion to those around us so that we can get the help we need.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A - Z Scavenger Hunt

This is a good art therapy project for a variety of groups...

Construction Paper

Have patients find a picture that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  Glue this picture onto the construction paper.  This may be done individually, with a partner, or in a group.

After the collages are made, share them with the group.  Discuss what pictures each person found and why they chose that particular picture.  Discuss what letters were difficult.  Encourage patients to stick up for themselves and their choices.  Talk about ways to share our opinions in an assertive, respectable manner.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Paper Bag Princess

Idea submitted by Shuri Bunting, CTRS.

Read the book with the patients.  Discuss the themes of the book together.  Questions to consider include:
   -Why is the prince attracted to the princess in the first place?
   -What qualities the princess possess that are genuine and authentic, and are reasons why the prince should want to be in a relationship with her?

Relate the book the the patients' lives.  Ask:
   -What are some superficial reasons others are drawn to be in a relationship with you?
   -What are the real reasons someone should want to be in a relationship with you?

Have each patient create their own "paper bag princess" using a brown lunch sack.  Use markers to decorate the outside of the bag.  Write superficial qualities on the outside of the bag of why people are in relationships with you (i.e. pretty, fun at parties, give them money or drugs, etc.).  On the inside of the bag, write the real qualities you possess that should attract someone to you (i.e. caring, loyal, patient, good listener).  Have patients share their puppets and reflect on the positive and negative relationships they may currently be in.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In the Manner of the Adverb

Here's another fun game!  This can be used as an activity itself, or as a filler if you have a little extra time.

Choose one person to leave the room.  This player will be the guesser.

Everyone else stays in the room and quietly chooses an adverb (i.e. clumsily, loudly, flirtatiously).  After agreeing on the adverb, invite the guesser back into the room.  The guesser chooses someone in the room and then asks them to do an action "in the manner of the adverb."  For example, say "Player A, will you brush your teeth in the manner of the adverb?"  Player A then proceeds to brush his teeth (pretending) in the manner of the adverb.  The guesser continues to ask various players to do various actions until he is able to guess what the adverb is.

After successfully guessing the adverb, another player steps out of the room and a new adverb is chosen.

Examples of actions might include:
-Brush your teeth
-Do a pushup
-Walk to the door
-Drink a glass of water
-Write your name
-Shake someone's hand
-Do a jumping jack

Examples of adverbs include:

Afterwards, process this activity.  You could relate it to communication and how nonverbal communication affects how we pass information from person to person.  You could also talk about different emotions and how we express these emotions to others around us.  It could also be used to discuss how we cope with anxiety, as some participants might be nervous about having to play the game.  Be creative and see how your group does; adapt the processing to meet their needs.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Luck of the Draw

Here's a fun card game for talking about how to cope with Anxiety!

For this group, everyone sits in a circle.  You will need at least one deck of playing cards, perhaps more if the group is really large.  Each person takes turns drawing a card.  Depending on what card they draw, they must do the following activity:

2:  Name every person in the room.
3:  Tell us a goal you have for yourself.
4:  Pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.
5:  Describe yourself using 5 adjectives.
6:  Tell us about a time you felt sad.
7:  Name your favorite movie and explain why.
8:  Give 3 people a compliment.
9:  Stand on one foot for as long as you can.
10:  Name 3 things you are grateful for.
Jack:  Share a favorite memory with the group.
Queen:  Tell us about a time when you felt happy.
King:  Try to make your tongue touch your nose.
Ace:  Pass!  You don't have to do anything this time around.

Afterwards, process how each person felt during the game.  Did they feel any anxiety not knowing what they were going to have to do on their turn?  How can we calm or manage our anxiety in these kinds of situations?  Talk about different coping skills.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alternatives for Self Harm

I found this handout on Pinterest.  It's not something to use for every group, but when working with clients that struggle with self-harm tendencies, I've found this is a great resource.  It also serves as a springboard for a discussion of appropriate coping skills. 


Alternatives for self harm

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Opposite Hand Activity

Have patients do an activity withe their opposite (non-dominant) hand.  For example, they could write a paragraph about themselves, draw a picture of their family, color a picture, etc.

After everyone has finished, process this activity with the patients.  What made it so difficult?  Explain that research says that this is an ideal way to force your brain to adapt and build new neural pathways.

Talk about how if we want to change, we must do things differently.  Ask patients to identify specific things they need to do in their lives after discharge.  How will they do this?  Help patients establish goals and plans to be successful after discharge.

Do the activity again (or even several more times), with the non-dominant hand.  Talk about how with time, even things that are very difficult at first become easier.  Ask patients to share examples of this from their own lives.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jeopardy games

Today I thought I'd share one of my favorite resources.  We love to do play Jeopardy games at our facility, especially on holidays.  It is sometimes hard to come up with enough questions for the game, so one day in my searching I came across this amazing website,  It's so helpful!!  You can search different themes and categories and it will show you tons of jeopardy questions.  Sometimes it takes some picking and choosing, sifting through the questions to find the ones appropriate for your facility, but it's so much easier!

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Many Colored Days

Here's another one of my favorite groups because it's so easy to adapt for whatever functioning level of the group.  Plus, it's a Dr. Seuss book, so how can it not be awesome? ;-)

Talk about how colors represent various emotions, and how emotions are expressed through colors. For example,
   I’m feeling blue
   Rage represented by red
   Gray being a “blah” color
   Green with envy

Then read the book “My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss with the patients.

Discuss the book with patients. How well did Dr. Seuss express emotions through colors? Do you agree with the emotion he gave each color? Why or why not? What would you change? What emotions would you add?

Ask patients what kind of day they are having? A blue day? A purple day?

How do you know what color of day you are having.

Give patients colored paper and markers. Have them create some kind of artwork using the colors to express the emotions they are feeling. Share and discuss the artwork with the group.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Things That Make Me Anxious

This is a simple activity, but I've found it can be very powerful because of its simplicity.  It worked great with our geri-psych unit because it was basic enough for them to understand, but still something that incorporated art and activity.  Enjoy!!


Have patients draw or write on a blank piece of paper all the things that make them anxious or that they worry about.  Have patients share at least one thing from their paper.

On the back, have patients draw as many ways as they can think of to deal with anxiety in their lives.  Share these ways to cope with anxiety.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Have patients share their lists. What are the most important activities on the list? The least important? Why?
Have patients make a list of the various things they do during the day. This can be things they do alone, with others, when they go to work or school, who they interact with, what time they eat, etc.

Read the book “Maxie” by Mildred Kantrowitz with the patients.

Discuss what happened to Maxie. Explain the impact her seemingly insignificant actions had on countless individuals.

Have the patients look at their lists again. This time, have them write next to each activity how someone else is influenced by them completing (or not completing) that task. Also look at how someone else doing something prior to that affects their ability to complete the task.

Talk about how our behavior affects us and those around us, both in positive and negative ways. Talk about how being in treatment is affecting the patients’ family, job, etc.

Set one goal to more positively influence other people.

Idea submitted by Adrianna Markley, CTRS.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Expand an Image Art Project

Here's another idea, taken from this website.
"Expand an image" start off a child's drawing with a small magazine or photo image... and let them take off!

Various pictures cut out of magazines
Art Supplies (Pencils, crayons, colored pencils and/or markers)

Give each participant a picture that you have previously cut out of a magazine.  These pictures should just be part of an image--not the whole image.  For example, in the picture above, just the head of the giraffe is cut out.  Begin by gluing the magazine picture onto the larger art paper.  Each participant must then "finish" the drawing, based on the image.  In the example above, the student finished drawing a giraffe.  The idea is to be creative and use your imagination as you complete the drawing.

After everyone has finished, have each person share their drawing.  Talk about perspective and how each person sees things differently.  It might be fun to cut one of the magazine images in half (i.e. the giraffe head and the giraffe body), and give each half to different participants.  Compare the two drawings and what makes each unique.

Monday, January 14, 2013

50 Ways to Take a Break

I use this handout all the time at work!  My current facility is a short term, acute psych hospital and we get new patients daily.  No two groups ever consist of the same people!  While it prevents consistency, it's really nice because if I find a real gem like this, I can use it often.

image via
I found this handout on Pinterest.  It is so simple, yet so applicable to so many of our patients.  I will print this out and give it to patients when we talk about anxiety, coping skills, dealing with depression, or a number of other topics.

I usually ask patients to point out which activities they have already tried, and which ones work best for them.  Each patient then chooses a new activity to try and we share these goals.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tag Team Drawings

Don't forget to check out this post to see if you're the winner of the giveaway!!

I found this idea on Pinterest, and it's a great activity to process through because it is different every time you run the activity.  The original idea was found here.

Tag-Team Drawings
Paper for each person
Art supplies (Markers, crayons, or colored pencils)

Each person gets one piece of paper and one writing utensil.  Set the timer for 30 seconds.  Each player gets to start a drawing (i.e. of a tree, a face, a house, etc.).  At the end of the 30 seconds, each player must put their marker down and pass their paper to the person to their left, and rotates the paper 90 degrees to the left.  This person has 30 seconds to continue the drawing the first person started.  After 30 seconds, the paper is again passed to the left and rotated again.  Drawing continues as such until the papers have all been passed around and everyone has the paper they started with.

 Discuss the activity with the group.  What happened?  What went well and what didn't work?
Talk about how this activity relates to our lives.  How does our behavior affect those around us?  Do our actions impact what others are capable of doing?  Is this a positive or negative thing?  How come?  Discuss areas where we could positively impact others.  Talk about ways to handle situations when other people's actions negatively affect our own behavior or possible actions.  You could also relate this activity to healthy relationships and the negative effects of codependency.  How does this activity highlight codependent relationships and what can we learn from it?  The possibilities for processing are endless!!  See how and what your group does, and just go with it!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Human Foosball

One of my students came up with this idea while I was working at a residential treatment center for teenage boys.  In the spring, I would pick a few students to plan the RT group for the week.  One boy came up with this idea, got all the necessary materials, and led the game.  It was a great experience for the whole group!!

PVC pipe
Soccer ball
Soccer field

This is like a life size version of the game Foosball.  Players split into two teams.  Players on each team are then divided into a front, middle and back row (or a few middle rows depending on how many participants you have).  Each row is given a long PVC that each player must always hold onto.
Players line up so they face the other team, for example:
   Goalie Team A
   Team A Back row
   Team B Front row
   Team A Middle row
   Team B Middle row
   Team A Front row
   Team B Back row
   Goalie Team B
The object of the game is to score goals like in soccer.  However, players may only move left to right along their PVC pipe, never forward or backward.  It takes a a lot of cooperation and communication to succeed in this game, which makes it perfect for a rec therapy group!

Be sure to process this activity afterwards!  That's when the real value comes out.  Talk about group dynamics during the game.  Who were the leaders?  Who was more passive?  Does that also happen in other areas of our lives?  What was difficult abut having to stay in line and stay connected with other players?  How does that relate to our current relationships?  Talk about codependency and healthy relationships.  Talk about teamwork.  The possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Sorry to be posting this so late... I was visiting my grandparents and spent more of the day there than I had planned!

And so, without further ado, the winner of the $15 Amazon gift card is.....

Abby Elizabeth Brown

Congrats!!  Email me at and I will let you know how to redeem your prize.

Thanks to all those who entered and are sharing the blog!  This can be a great resource for all of us, and I look forward to receiving more of your ideas!

If I Only Had A Green Nose

Don't forget to check back later today when to see the winner of the giveaway!!

We just got this book for our facility and I am already in love with it!  This particular activity focuses on the idea of codependency and peer pressure, but there are many other applications of the book as well.

Book "If I Only Had A Green Nose" by Max Lucado
Colored pencils/markers/crayons

Give patients a blank piece of paper. On one side, have them draw or write about a situation when they gave in to peer pressure and followed the crowd. On the other side of the paper, have them draw or write about a time when they stood up for themselves and didn’t give in to what others wanted them to do.

Ask patients to share their pictures. Discuss the two instances as a group. What emotions accompanied each experience?

Read the book “If I Only Had a Green Nose” by Max Lucado with the patients. Discuss with them the message of the book.

Afterwards, relate the idea to co-dependency.

Co-dependency: of or pertaining to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way. 

Discuss how fads are a type of co-dependency.

Discuss how the Wemmicks in the book displayed the characteristics of dependency.

Consider the following questions:
-What kind of person is Willy Withit?
-What stood out to you about Punchinello? About Lucia?
-Why do you think Punchinello kept changing?
-Who gave Willy Withit power to decide what is “in”?

Relate the activity to our present lives.
-How does this relate to a situation you currently find yourself in? Explain.
-Have you ever acted as the “Willy Withit” in your group of friends? The Punchinello? The Lucia?

Talk about the importance of standing tall and not giving in to peer pressure or allowing ourselves to be overly dependent on others.

Idea submitted by Andrea Call, CTRS.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sensory Snowmen

This idea was submitted by Rachel Munoz, CTRS in San Diego, CA.  She found it on Pinterest and it was originally posted here.  According to Rachel, this would be a great sensory activity, especially with kids who have never seen snow or older adults to reminisce about snow.  Really, it would be perfect for an art therapy group anytime during the winter!

Shaving cream
Elmer's glue
Cardstock (blue, black, brown, orange)
Ribbon (for the scarf)

Mix equal parts shaving cream and Elmer's glue.  The mixture dries puffy as seen in the picture.  Have patients "paint" or spread the mixture with their fingers to create their own snowman on blue cardstock.  Before the mixture dries, add cardstock piece that have previously been cut out to form the eyes, nose, mouth, hat and arms.  Add the ribbon for the scarf.

 Thanks again, Rachel!  What a fun idea!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Feelings Jenga

Here is another Jenga game.  If you haven't seen the Communication Jenga or the Social Skills Jenga, be sure to check them out as well.  Jenga has endless possibilities for rec therapists!!

Feelings Jenga: a feeling word on each block. Draw a block and describe a time you've experienced this emotion.

I saw this picture on Pinterest and immediately thought it would be perfect for my facility.  The geriatric unit especially loves telling stories, and this would be a good way to keep them involved and on topic.

Basically, you write an emotion on each Jenga piece.  Examples of different emotions might include:

Play Jenga as normal.  When a player pulls out a Jenga block, he/she must read the emotion listed on the block and then share a time when he/she felt that emotion.

You could also write the same emotion on several different Jenga blocks, so that more than one person will draw that block and share that emotion.

Afterwards, process with the group.  Which emotions were easy to talk about?  Which were more difficult?  Which emotion do you feel the most?  The least?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Skittles Bowling

Don't forget about the giveaway!  Have you entered yet??

Here's another popular activity, especially if your patients/residents are able to go off-campus for group activities.  The teenage boys at the residential facility I used to work at loved this activity!
The game is very simple.  Prior to bowling each frame, the player will randomly pick a Skittle out of the bag.  Depending on the color of the skittle, the player must bowl the ball a certain way.  Ahead of time, have the group decide what each color will represent.

Examples might include:
-Granny style
-Normal bowling
-Bowl with the non-dominant hand
-Spin three times prior to bowling normally
-Around the back
-Bowl sitting down

Afterwards, process with the group.  Talk about the experience and what each player learned.  Consider the following questions:
-What was good about this version of bowling and what was difficult?
-What made it difficult?
-What was it like to not have control over what you were doing?
-Do you like being told how to do things, or having to do things a certain way?
-How does this relate to our lives currently?
-What are examples of how other people control you?
-How do you control others?
-How can we handle situations when we are being controlled like that?
-Did you feel anxious not knowing what you would have to do?
-Was that good anxiety or bad anxiety?  How do you know?

Let the players eat the rest of the Skittles afterwards!  (This is usually their favorite part!!)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A-Z Coping Skills

Don't forget about the giveaway!  There are just a few more days left to earn entries.  Click here to find out how you could win the Amazon giftcard!!

Here's another A-Z Activity, like the A-Z leisure education game or the A-Z emotions.

Discuss with patients the importance of coping skills.  Talk about the difference between positive and negative coping skills.  Ask the group for some ideas of how they can postively cope with stress, anxiety, depression or relapse in their lives.

Give each participant a piece of paper.  Have them write the letters A through Z along the left hand side of the paper.  (Or you could have this done ahead of time if you'd like).  Then instruct the participants to come up with a positive coping skill that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  Remember to emphasize that we want to identify positive and not negative coping skills!  Be as specific as possible!!

For example:

A - Ask my friend Jane for a hug
B - Bake chocolate chip cookies
C - Call my sibling Joe
D - Deep breathing relaxation exercise
E - Exercise for 10 minutes

Continue for all the letters.  Have patients share some of their favorite or most creative coping skills.  Put the lists up somewhere that is easily visible in moments of stress, and practice trying new activities to find what coping skills work best for each individual.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Q-Tip Paintings

This is another idea I found on Pinterest and can't wait to try it out in my art therapy groups!

Q-Tip paintings -- how cute is that?!

I think it will work really well with the geriatric psych patients who have trouble with fine motor skills needed to do most art activities.  I'm sure it won't look quite like the original image posted here, but I know they will still be great!!

Construction Paper

Have patients "paint" using the Q-tips as brushes.  Pour various colors of paint onto a surface (i.e. plate).  Dip the Q-tip in the desired color, and then stamp the Q-Tip to the colored paper.  Continue until the design has been created.  If patients are having a hard time coming up with ideas to paint, it might be helpful to have pictures from magazines or old calendars available as examples.

Don't worry about making the pictures as pretty as this example!  The key is to have the patients try something knew and complete a difficult or unusual task.  It's not about the final product--it's about the process!!

Don't forget about the giveaway... have you entered yet?!?!  :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Time for a GIVEAWAY!!!

Happy New Year!!!  Let's get the year started off right, shall we??

image via

How would you like to win a 
$15 Amazon Gift Card???

We want to spread the word about this blog and what an amazing resource it can be if we all work together and share our ideas.  So, here's how it's going to work:

*The giveaway will be open from Jan. 1 - Jan. 7.

*Entries can be earned by:
     - Become a follower of this blog
     - Post about the blog or giveaway on Facebook
     - Pin an activity to Pinterest
     - Join our Facebook group
     - Submit an activity idea
Each entry can only be earned ONCE, with the exception of an activity submission.  You can submit ONE activity EACH DAY during the giveaway

*Winner will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Questions??  Email