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Key Takeaways:

  • Instead of conventional therapy, games serve as an alternative for patients to communicate how they feel.
  • Games for therapy groups may also be designed to teach coping skills and practice gratitude.
  • Feel free to try the games below in your therapy sessions or build your own game based on your patients’ goals.

Play is an effective way to help clients feel more comfortable during therapy sessions.

For people dealing with stress and mental health problems, therapeutic games can be used instead of traditional talk therapy. This is especially true with new clients who feel vulnerable in revealing their difficult life experiences.

One of the easiest therapy games for teens would be the “Feelings Candy Lane” where they pick a candy from a jar. If they pick a red-colored candy (and red represents anger), they’re encouraged to talk about a time when they felt angry.

Looking for more therapy games for kids, teens, and adults? You’ll find ideas below. Parents and teachers may also use any of the therapeutic exercises below to get them to open up and boost their confidence!

Best Therapy Games for Kids

1. The Feeling Dice

Group therapy games like “the feeling dice” allow children to express their positive and negative emotions. Make a giant dice using cardboard with different facial expressions and the names for these emotions on each side of the dice. Basic emotions that kids can recognize include happy, sad, angry, and afraid[*].

How to play:

  • In your group therapy, give each child an opportunity to roll the feeling dice.
  • Depending on which side the dice falls, ask the child to share an experience where they felt that emotion.
  • Ask the other kids to listen.

2. Puppet Play

A play therapy puppet helps kids feel safer while expressing themselves. Research shows that hand puppets can be very beneficial for those who are shy and don’t speak much. They serve as outlets for their emotions and used as a tool to discuss problems in school and with their peers[*].

How to play:

  • Use cartoon character puppets, and stuffed animals, or make your own using old stockings or paper bags. It’s a good idea to make different puppets that represent different emotions.
  • Ask the child to pick a puppet they like. Pick a puppet as well.
  • With the puppet in your hand, start the conversation by saying, “This is Chip and he is feeling shy because it’s his first time here.”

3. Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

This is a simple exercise that can be done in the classroom, at home or in a natural setting. Kids can stay seated or move around so they can identify as many things to be thankful for as possible! Gratitude creates positive feelings, increasing a child’s well-being and life satisfaction[*].

How to play:

  • Ask the child to pay attention to their environment.
  • On a sheet of paper, they’ll write down the things they’ve seen, heard, and smelled that they are grateful for.
  • As an alternative, give them this gratitude walk worksheet with important questions they can reflect on.

4. A Treasure Chest of Goodness

One of the things kids can do to feel good about themselves is to recall their strengths, positive qualities, and accomplishments. If you’re looking for creative games for group therapy, don’t skip the Treasure Chest of Goodness.

How to play:

  • Kids may use an empty cardboard box or a treasure chest box if they have one.
  • Make coin cutouts from colored paper. Each coin should be big enough to write on.
  • On each coin, let them write a strength, positive quality, or accomplishment that sparks happiness. They can make as many coins as they want!
  • Use this strengths worksheet to complement this activity.

5. How Are You Feeling Today?

For this activity, you will need this feelings and emotions chart or create your own chart with emojis representing different emotions. Kids who find it difficult to express themselves can simply point at the emoji that best describes how they feel.

How to play:

  • At the start of a therapy session or any time of the day, show the child the feelings and emotions chart.
  • Instruct them to point at the emoji that best reflects their current emotion.
  • Use this as a conversation starter.

Best Therapy Games for Teens

1. Guess Who?

This group therapy game is great for classrooms since participants are more familiar with each other. It’s great for improving a student’s self-esteem and confidence, especially with upcoming exams.

How to play:

  • Instruct the students to write their positive traits or unique ability on a small sheet of paper.
  • Put all their papers in a jar. Then pick a paper, read it out loud, and let them guess the person with that positive trait/ability!

2. Pass the Ball

Wondering how to get a teen to share how they’re feeling? Encourage communication by playing this simple game called Pass the Ball. Pick an object that you can toss around, like an inflatable ball or a stress ball. Play upbeat music in the background.

How to play:

  • Pass the ball around while the music is playing.
  • Once the music stops, the person holding the ball should share their current mood or the thought they’re having.

3. Finger Painting

Games for therapy groups that engage their sight, motor skills, and language include finger painting. The goal of this game is to help teens express themselves freely by dipping their fingers in paint and coloring a canvas. It can be a form of catharsis to depict their feelings, which may include anger, fear, confusion, happiness, and hopefulness.

How to play:

  • Gather the materials needed: a canvas, poster, or acrylic paint (as many colors as possible), and an apron.
  • Let them paint what they like.
  • At the end of the activity, each teenager is encouraged to share their painting and talk about what it means.

4. Coping Skills Bingo

The Coping Skills Bingo is an educational game where teens learn to get to explore different ways to cope with life’s challenges. It helps teens change their perspective about a negative situation and learn to seek help.

How to play:

  • Make custom Bingo cards with a coping skill written in each square. Coping skills can include “Take deep belly breaths” and “Drink hot tea.”
  • Give a card to a teen.
  • Read out loud your own list of coping skills. The first teen to mark the entire card wins.
  • You can end the game by giving them this handout of 101 coping skills.

5. Music Selection

Most teenagers love listening to music because it connects with their identity. In addition, music helps them relax and be able to cope with different stressors, such as school, family expectations, extracurricular responsibilities, and social relationships.

How to play:

  • Instruct a teen to make a compilation of the top 5 songs that resonate with them the most.
  • Listen to their music together.
  • When the playlist ends, start a discussion about what these songs mean to them.

Best Therapy Games for Adults

1. Draw Your Feelings

Every feeling or emotion can come in a certain shape or color. It doesn’t matter whether participants have an art skill or not. In this game, they’re free to go with their intuition!

How to play:

  • Say this out loud: “I feel like a [person/object/animal] + [action] in a [place].” Here’s an example: “I feel like a flower dancing in the mud.”
  • Let them complete the sentence and then draw it on a sheet of paper.
  • Encourage them to get as detailed as possible.

2. Group Songwriting

Research shows that music serves as a medium for processing emotions and trauma. This is why we connect deeply with certain songs because of the lyrics that remind us of topics we care about and our memories[*]. This songwriting game is a fun and creative way for adults to talk about their experiences.

How to play:

  • Instruct all members of the group to write down one sentence that describes an important memory or a recent experience.
  • Next, let them collect all their papers and create a song out of the things they’ve written.
  • They can come up with a country song, pop song, or hip-hop and rap. There are no restrictions!

3. Beach Ball Affirmations

The Beach Ball Affirmations game is best played on the beach where people feel more relaxed! Use an inflatable beach ball with different affirmations written all over it. Examples of these affirmations are “I am resilient.” “My life has meaning and purpose.” “I can do anything I put my mind to.

If you need more ideas, get our daily affirmations handout or positive affirmation cards that can be cut and pasted on the beach ball.

How to play:

  • Arrange the group in a large circle.
  • Toss the beach ball. The person who catches the ball should read out loud the positive affirmation that their right index finger touched.
  • After reading the positive affirmation, they’ll toss the ball to another person who’ll read the next affirmation.
  • Repeat the process.

4. Real-Life Scenarios

This activity uses simulation so that adults can prepare themselves for situations that may trigger anger, anxiety, and negative feelings[*]. It’s also useful for those who have survived a traumatic event and are sometimes triggered by trauma reminders. The steps below are relevant for group therapy. But if you’re working with an individual, you can use this worksheet instead.

How to play:

  • Ask each person from the group: “Imagine you are about to [triggering situation]. What would you do or say to yourself?”
  • Let the person respond.
  • Repeat the process until everyone has given their answers.

5. Inner Child

What would you say to your inner child? This is one of the best mental health group games for adults that help overcome anxiousness and self-criticism. All you need is a sheet of paper and colored markers.

How to play:

  • Ask the group to draw themselves as a child on the sheet of paper.
  • Next, let them write down phrases that they would tell their inner child to show love and support, and what they would have their inner child do to practice self-care.
  • While it’s completely optional, you may use this 101 self-care activities handout as a source of inspiration.

Have Fun With These Therapy Games Today!

A lot of these therapeutic activities can be incorporated into classrooms or any setting that allows you to do group therapy or individual counseling. They’re great for addressing stress, negative thinking, addictions, and other mental health issues.

Therapy gets easier with time. But for now, take advantage of these therapy games to reduce tension and establish trust with clients. You can also create your own games if you like and download our resources as part of your activity.