Activity Type: Craft
Stage of Counselling: Middle or End
Supplies Needed: Jar (plastic is best), box, bag, or envelope
Craft supplies (glitter, scissors, construction paper, stickers, markers, glue)
Slips of paper for strategies
I’ll start out this first resource post with one of my favourite counselling crafts. This activity can be adapted for use with kids as small as 4 or 5 all the way up into adolescence. The best part: it takes virtually no prep time – Just grab your supplies and go. As far as supplies go, basically if you’ve got a box, a jar, a bag, or an envelope, you can do this. I’ve used gift bags, cracker boxes, plastic jars, and even plain old paper lunch bags. Add in some craft supplies including markers, glue, scissors, glitter, and stickers and you have an activity that can either take the entire session or finish off your time with your client.
You’ve probably come across this type of activity in different places. I’ve seen it called comfort kit, coping kits, feel better bags and any number of other titles. It’s just a collection of the client’s thoughts, strategies, or feelings that he/she can pull out whenever needed.
What I love is that this kind of activity is so versatile. I have used this strategy with youth struggling with self-harm, where they just need somewhere to keep their coping thoughts, strategies, and things to help them in a crisis.
But I’ve also used this strategy with kids who are struggling with anger or anxiety. They can make a kit of all their favourite anger or anxiety management strategies, for example some bubbles, a stress ball, games or activities to distract themselves, and a list of some other ideas. In some sessions, we’ve actually traced the toy tools in the playroom and made a literal “toolkit”. On each tool the child writes a different “tool” (i.e., strategy).
Kids struggling with emotional expression can make a “Feelings Jar”. Whenever they are upset, they simply draw or write down a picture of what it bugging them. Not only are they practicing the coping strategy of drawing or writing out their feelings, but each day or week, they can bring their jar and discuss what has bothered them with their parents and the counsellor if you want. To use this activity to encourage emotional expression at home, however, you do need some buy-in from parents. Unprompted, kids are unlikely to remember to sit down and draw out their feelings.
I love this activity for ending counselling with a client – it makes a great review. But it can also be a great way to encourage kids to practice their skills as soon as they have attended counselling long enough to have a few strategies in their repertoire.
1) Pick whatever focus you want your activity to have (i.e., coping strategies to combat the urge to self-harm, anxiety management strategies, things to help client feel better when sad or depressed, affirmations, positive self-talk, anger management tools,
2) Have client make/decorate box, jar, or bag and name it. Take as much or as little time here as you want.
3) If you are putting strategies of some kind in the jar, explain to the client that he can take ideas or items out of the jar whenever he needs to. If you are using the jar to collect clients’ feelings, explain to her when she should add to it.
4) For a strategies toolkit, spend time brainstorming or reviewing the specific strategies (e.g., deep breathing, thought stopping, etc.)
Remember to encourage your client to be using her toolkit over the course of counselling so that she remembers to practice the skills she has learned. Over time she’ll remember how to handle that situation and need to look in the toolkit less and less.