More than a Collection: Using Seashells in Counselling

Finding items to re-purpose is one creative and cost-effective way to come up with new therapy activities, so I’m always on the lookout for something that I can take and put to new use. During some spring (or maybe last fall) cleaning, I came across a small seashell collection from my childhood that I had been storing in my basement for years. Rather than tossing the shells, or tucking them away in storage for a few more years, instead I turned them into an office centrepiece that could also serve as a therapy activity for older children and teens.

You will need:

  • Seashells of different shapes and sizes
  • A list of positive affirmations
  • Tape
  • A bowl or container to hold the shell collection


  • Find and cut out your affirmations so there is one affirmation per slip of paper. Depending on the size of your shells, they will likely need to have a font size no bigger than 14 or 16. If you don’t have time to generate your own affirmations, here is a great list from that I used to start my own affirmations list.

  • Fold the affirmations and slip one inside each of your shells like a fortune-cookie. Use tape if the paper slips will not stay inside the shells on their own.


Using these Shells in the Counselling Session

This exercise can be used in an unstructured manner or as part of a planned intervention. Like my therapy rocks (see blog post here), I leave my shells out all the time as part of my office décor. Kids and teens will at times spontaneously pick up a shell, pull out the paper, and read the affirmations. Some clients will pick out several shells over the course of one session. Others will grab a different shell each time they come in and look at the affirmation inside. If appropriate, I can invite the child to share with me what his affirmation says and his thoughts and feelings on how that thought applies to himself. This unstructured use of the seashells can lead into a more structured conversation about self-esteem, thought processes, and the impact that thoughts have on one’s emotions.

For a more structured approach, you could use this resource along with a cognitive behavioural therapy treatment plan where you provide psychoeducation on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. You could then start or end each session with an affirmation. You could also have your client choose several affirmations in one session and then pick 2 or 3 favourites to use through the week to practice his positive thinking.

If you have a lot of shells or easy access to shells, you could also have your client come up with their own positive self-statements and put them in shells that they could take home to keep. This could be an excellent way to end therapy and prepare a client to continue their progress on their own. Check out this resource if you or your client needs some help coming up with some personal affirmations.

Join the discussion? Let us know in the comments box:

How could you use this activity with your clients?
Have you re-purposed any of your own treasures for use with your clients?

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Carey EmmersonMore than a Collection: Using Seashells in Counselling

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  1. Pingback: 10 Places to Find Affordable Therapy Toys | Alcove Child and Youth Resources

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