The following are BRIEF directions of the activities covered in a video conference call that mental health practitioners can use to virtually introduce adventure-based interventions, to augment specific activities, or to enhance the processing in a clinical setting. Of course, this is AFTER all of the legal, ethical, and organizational protocols have been followed.
Note: I am immensely grateful to the vast amount of mentors and teachers that have shared variations of these activities with me. Although some direct sources may have become lost over time, there is a reference list at the end of places where I likely learned them and adapted them for my work purposes.
You can find the recorded version of the training here: https://youtu.be/Vd8LJ-QiB9U
Check Ins/Openings (Gatherings)
Weather Report: (Supplies – none) Invite your client to check in with his/her weather report – how it looked yesterday, right at the moment, and prediction for future. Invite your client to share the meaning behind the metaphor. Audience: Any (Especially adolescents and adults). Potential Purpose: Past/Present/Future: How is it helpful to think about the past>present>future when you share your feelings about the right now? How do you feel about your forecast for the weather right now? What would you like it to be? What is influencing your weather?
Car Parts: (Supplies- none) Invite each family member to share what car part best represents their role in today’s session. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: Sharing thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
Picture Processing: (Supplies – pictures) Pick out a postcards or pictures and invite your client to share how that picture represents them right now. (Variation) Select a picture (photo or google image) based on a question. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: Sharing thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
PlayDoh Processing: (Supplies – PlayDoh) Create a sculpture that represents them right now. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: Sharing thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
Pipe Cleaner Processing: (Supplies – pipe cleaners) Create a sculpture that represents them right now. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: Sharing thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
Song Processing: (Supplies: music) Select a song that represents them right now (play the song). Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: Sharing thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
Sensory Buckets: (Supplies – 3-4 small containers, 3-4 different textures): Use four little bowls and fill with four different textures. Notice how they feel, how your body responds, what thoughts (or memories) show up with the different textures. Audience: Any (Messy play is especially important for young children). Potential Purpose: Somatic awareness, communicating thoughts and feelings, creative thinking.
Tea Tasting: (Supplies- 3-4 different teas, mugs, water). Taste test each one and talk about the somatic components, memories, feelings, responses, etc. Variation: Re-name the flavors based on what they are reminded of when they taste it. (Can be done with coffee or just four different drinks). Audience: Any (Especially adolescents and adults). Potential Purpose: Somatic awareness, communicating thoughts and feelings, shared experience.
Virtual Dance Party: (Supplies – None) Play some music and dance together! Show off signature dance moves. Select which dance move is helpful for different moves. Audience: Any (Especially children). Potential Purpose: Somatic awareness, communicating thoughts and feelings, shared experience, vulnerability, playfulness.
Chewing Gum: (Supplies – 3-8 sticks of gum) Invite the client to share something that they are worried about (or angry about), then put a piece of gum in their mouth to represent that. Still chewing, share something else, add a piece of gum. Continue until it is hard to chew. Ask if they are ready to spit it out (and let it go). Audience: Any (Especially children). Potential Purpose: Somatic awareness, communicating thoughts and feelings, letting go, vulnerability, playfulness.
Balloon Launch: (Supplies – 1 balloon) Invite the client to share something that they are worried about (or angry about), then blow into the balloon, without letting the air out, share something else, add more air to the balloon, keep going until the balloon is full. Take a deep breath. Ask if they are ready to let it go. And, let go of the balloon. (Variation: fill the balloon for your client.) Audience: Any (Especially children). Potential Purpose: Somatic awareness, communicating thoughts and feelings, letting go, vulnerability, playfulness.
Perspective Circle: (Supplies – none) Invite participants to “draw” a circle with their finger above their heads in a clockwise direction. Keeping this circle moving the same direction, lower it to about belly-button perspective. Now notice what direction the circle is moving (should be counter-clockwise). It is all a matter of perspective. Talk about where people are coming from, looking at things differently, changing perspectives, etc. Audience: Any (Especially adolescents and adults). Potential Purpose: Perspectives.
Cross Arms: (Supplies – none) Invite client to cross their arms. Note which one is on top. Now switch. Note the discomfort or awkwardness. (Variation: hold hands and notice which thumb is on top, switch the thumb on top). Audience: Any (Especially adolescents and adults). Potential Purpose: Discomfort with change.
Paper Expanse: (Supplies – two pieces of paper and scissors) Ask the client to cut a hole in the piece of paper while keeping the edges intake. Cut a second paper by folding in half (hot dog style) and cut zigzag (one side then the other side) from one end to the next end. Open this paper and trim the middle links (NOT the first or last one). Then open the paper to reveal a much larger space. Audience: Any (Especially adolescents and adults). Potential Purpose: Even with limited resources, the possibilities can be huge.
Balloon Resiliency: (Supplies – balloons, paper, scissors, pen): Cut 3-5 tiny slips of paper. Invite client to write a characteristic or skill (or previous experience) that contributes to their resiliency. When they are finished, share their skills/characteristics, then roll up the paper and put it inside a deflated balloon (all of the papers go inside the balloon). Blow up the balloon to normal size and tie it off. Notice that all of those little pieces are still i inside the balloon, but the balloon represents the person as a whole. (Follow up with Moonball!). Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: self-reflection, whole and parts.
Squiggle Drawing: (Supplies – blank paper and markers/crayons): Invite your client to just scribble on a piece of paper for a short time (e.g., 30 seconds). Then exchange papers. With the “newly acquired” scribble, try to create a picture. This is the beginning of cooperative play and sharing. Themes can emerge that allow you to learn things about your client. Also, very little art skills are required. Audience: Any (Especially children). Potential Purpose: Making sense of nonsense, connecting things to make something, playfulness, holding both mess and a vision.
Change Three Things: (Supplies – none) Invite participants in dyads to (back to back) change three things about his/her appearance. Second round, keeping those three things, add five more changes. Third round, keeping those eight changes, add ten more changes. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: change process, resources, strategies.
Paper Crumple: (Supplies – a piece of paper) Invite your client to take a piece of paper, look at it, and describe it (i.e., smooth, etc.) Now invite them to crumple the paper, stomp on it, everything except rip it. Then have them unfold the paper, smooth it out and try to get the paper back to its original state. After letting them try to “fix” their paper, ask them to describe the paper now (i.e., dirty, wrinkled). (Change Variation): Discuss how big things might be happening, out of our control, AND, they will impact us, AND we can still draw a picture or write a letter about how to navigate this. BOTH are sure. (Hurt Feelings Variation): Ask them to apologize to the sheet of paper, sharing all the things they did to it and say sorry to it. Talk about how even though they had apologized and did everything they could to return the paper to its original state, there is still evidence of their behavior on the paper. Explain how this is what happens when we call each other names or bully each other. Finish by writing an apology letter on the paper or drawing a picture. Audience: Any (especially children). Potential Purpose: change process, hurt feelings, healing.
Building Frustration Tolerance
Moonball: (supplies – balloon): Now, give the challenge to keep the ball in the air and count through the alphabet with each bounce of the balloon. Add the challenge of spinning around or clapping three times (or let them make up a challenge). Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: playfulness, frustration tolerance, problem-solving, how do we adapt.
Giant Cooperative Rock, Paper, Scissors: (Supplies – none): Remember Rock, Paper, Scissors? Turn off the video or stand up back-to-back. Then, on the count of three, turn around in a giant positions of a rock (demonstrate arms out like a wrestler), paper (demonstrate arms out floating), or scissors (demonstrate arms in front like a giant pair of scissors). The goal is to MATCH the other person. No strategizing ahead of time! Can you match all three? Are there any questions? (Variation: Play competitively). Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: competition, strategies, cooperation, making mistakes.
Juggling: (Supplies – 3 tossable objects): Use a video or in a series of steps, teach how to juggle. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: strategies, practice, making mistakes, regulation, frustration tolerance.
Origami: Paper Cup: (Supplies – piece of paper): Take a piece of paper and teach how to fold a paper cup. Using the little slips of paper, write things that fill their cup and share what was written. (Variation) decorate the cup with words or pictures of “what positively fills their cup” on the cup. (Variation) An additional option is to have them put water in their cup and share how they keep their cup from overflowing. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: change process, resources, frustration tolerance.
Six Count: (Supplies – none) Invite your client to count to six with you, of course with a few extra arm movements at the same time! Make sure you have plenty of room around you and face your client. Start with your arms down at your side sides and practice counting to “6” together. First, using right arm, they will count and add some movement. Practice a few times. Now practice the left arm movement. Now try both arms together. Start out slow and build up speed! Guide toward problem solving (i.e., face the same direction instead of mirror direction). Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: learning new things, strategizing, frustration tolerance.
- Right Arm
- On 1 – straight left arm ↑ (out to the side and stops straight up in the air)
- On 2 – back ↓ the same way (to the side)
- On 3 – back ↑ the same way
- On 4 – back ↓
- On 5 – back ↑
- On 6 – back ↓
- Left Arm
- On 1 straight ↑ (as in left arm move)
- On 2 – move down stopping out to the side → (parallel to the ground)
- On 3 – back ↓
- On 4 – back ↑
- On 5 – to the right → (parallel to ground)
- On 6 – back ↓
The Beast: (Supplies – 3-8 LEGO pieces – same pieces for each person!) Both the client and therapist have a little pile of identical objects (LEGOs or other building materials). One of the pair is asked to build a picture or sculpture (without the other seeing). The object of this activity is for the creator of the sculpture to verbally describe the structure to their partner in an effort to create an identical image on the opposite of the barrier. Audience: Any. Potential Purpose: frustration tolerance, problem-solving, communication.
Turning Over a New Leaf: (Supplies – hand towel or wash cloth) As your client to stand on a towel or washcloth and try to flip it over without touching the ground. Audience: Any (especially adolescents). Potential Purpose: frustration tolerance, problem-solving.
I Beg to Differ: (Supplies – any object) Using any object (identifiable or not) explain to what the object is. Offer the group the option to “beg to differ” should someone have a better idea. Audience: Any (especially children, adolescents). Potential Purpose: creativity, problem-solving.
S’mores: (Supplies – toothpick, mini marshmallow, mini candle, graham cracker and chocolate) Chat while toasting your marshmallow. Audience: Any (Especially children and adolescents). Potential Purpose: communicating thoughts and feelings, shared experience.
Flash Paper: (Supplies – flash paper, match stick): Write something they are ready to let go of right now. Holding the paper by the corner, light it with a match and let go quickly. Flash paper is available at magic stores. Audience: Any (Especially children and adolescents). Potential Purpose: communicating thoughts and feelings, shared experience.
Safe Starts (probably familiar activities that people who already work/learn online)
- Scavenger Hunts
- Online Tours of museums or parks together (share the screen)
- Videos (YouTube) together (share the screen)
- Google Doc share (genogram or cooperative drawing)
- Apps (i.e., Calm, Shine, Headspace)
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