It is SO easy to get stuck in sessions with teens. Especially when maayyybe being in therapy isn’t exactly their first choice of how to spend their time.
Sometimes it seems like you are exhausted and out of ideas of what to do next, which can leave your sessions a bit…flat. And all this isn’t helped when questions and prompts of what to talk about or focus on are often met with silence, shrugs, or “I don’t knows”.
So….I wanted to share with you three games that I use in my work with teens in Play Therapy!
Okay, no list would be complete without (in my opinion) the most versatile and dynamic game in the history of Play Therapy. Maayyybe that is a touch dramatic, but I talk about Uno all the time and it is one of my most trained on interventions because it is just that good!
It is a game that can be played both by younger kids and teens alike. AND despite what the box says with the rules everyone has their own take. Do you really have to draw until you can play? Do you draw just one card? Does the reverse also mean a skip?
This leads itself into great assertiveness, problem solving, and negotiation skills!
Next comes the colors. There are so many great opportunities to add your own secret blend of therapy questions, techniques and activities paired with a color or a switch in the flow of a game. You might need to say something you are proud of when you switch the color to yellow. Maybe you are using it for gratitude prompts or feeling identification - the sky is the limit!
Pro tip - I like to get the tin box game because my cardboard box always gets crumpled, ripped, and, well… basically destroyed. The tin has definitely stood the test of time (and play)!
This one is definitely a fan favorite of the teens in my office! There are a ton of rules of when you smash (slap the deck) and when you don’t. There is also one card where instead of smashing you tell GUACAMOLE!!! At the top of your lungs.
This one is one of my favorites for experiential regulation - AKA getting your nervous system titrating into a sympathetic fight/flight state so you can notice your warning signs and practice regulation.
And what teen couldn’t use a little more regulation?
Totem is a game that was initially designed to play with groups of people but can easily be shifted for individual work with teens and is a newer game to my playroom!
Totem cards help teens identify and understand their strengths, qualities they see in themselves, and strengths they would like to develop. It can be an amazing activity for self confidence and self awareness.
Bonus - you can also use it in family therapy work!
I also love that all three of these games are pretty small and don’t have the huge clunky boxes that can take up precious real estate in the Playroom!
What are your favorite games to use with teens? Comment below!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,