What are Some Good Therapy Games for Kids, Adults, Groups and Telehealth?

Updated: May 9

Games can help you build rapport and teach important concepts in therapy.


Therapy games like feelings Jenga can be helpful for kids, families, and adults.

Therapy games may seem like an easy way to fill up a session, but they can be much more than that.


Games help make therapy less intimidating, more enjoyable, and even more effective. Studies show that people, including adults, learn better through play (Yenigen, 2014).


Play is often encouraged as a way to treat concepts in treatments like trauma-focused CBT (Allen et al., 2017).


Games (like this one for teaching CBT) are great for getting to know your clients, and for teaching important concepts like coping skills and understanding emotions. They can work with kids, teens, families, groups, and adults–in person and during telehealth.


(Ready to play now? Check out this 75-prompt CBT Bingo-Like game and download it today.)


Here are some fun and effective games that may leave a lasting memory for you and your clients.


Highlights

Feelings Pictionary/Charades

CBT Lingo (Bingo) Printable Game

Cube or Dice Prompts

Therapy Jenga

Make Your Own Card Game

Play Around

Games and Worksheets


Therapy Jenga


Great for: Kids, teens, adults, families, groups

Works with: Groups, in-person

Goals: Learning or practicing coping skills, understanding emotions, teaching concepts, building rapport


These colorful Jenga blocks can be used as a color-coded therapy game for teaching feelings or other concepts.

Jenga is a popular game among therapists–especially those who work with kids. It’s a particularly easy one to set up. You can write a prompt on each Jenga block, or add a color using markers or stickers.


If you want to get fancy, you can also print out prompts on label sheets and stick them to the blocks.


When someone successfully pulls a Jenga block out, they must also answer a question or follow a prompt to earn the point. It's often used to teach emotions.


For example, a blue block might correspond to happy feelings. A player might then discuss a time recently that made them feel happy, or what it was like to feel that way.


Some of the generic Jenga-style blocks actually come in various colors, making it easy to set up color-based categories for the game. This also works with other colorful games like pick-up sticks.


CBT Lingo (CBT Bingo)


Great for: Kids (11+), teens, college students, families, adults (adaptable for skill level/age)

Works with: Groups, in-person, telehealth

Goals: Learning or reviewing CBT concepts, psychoeducation, practicing coping skills, test review

This CBT Bingo game, or CBT Lingo, is a therapy game with prompts focused on cognitive behavioral therapy.

This is a game I developed to teach CBT theory and coping skills. It includes rule variations based on your goals, the group’s experience level, and age group. It’s based on, and playable, with a real Bingo set. I call it “CBT Lingo.”


Rather than just a novelty game like many therapy bingo pages, it actually includes 10 unique playing cards and 75 prompts relating to CBT. It’s great for groups, telehealth, and individual clients in-person or online.


Some of the prompts include:

  • What is an automatic thought?

  • Draw a feelings thermometer

  • Name a common cognitive distortion

  • What are the three parts of the CBT triangle?


You can download and print the CBT Lingo game here to start using it today. Use code “Newlingo” for 10% off!


Feelings Pictionary/Charades


Great for: Kids, teens, families, adventurous adults

Works with: Groups, in-person, and telehealth

Goals: Building rapport, psychoeducation, expressing emotions

Pictionary Man can be adapted to be a therapy game for adults, families, teens, kids and groups.

I picked up this Pictionary Man game (see image) at a local thrift store, and it’s been well-loved by my clients ever since. (Can you guess what he’s feeling now?)


This version is similar to the original Pictionary, except you can draw on a 3D human (see below), and you can add gestures and movement to the game, like in Charades.


Rather than using the prompts from the game, make up your own, such as:


  • Draw a feeling you’ve had today

  • Act out a coping skill

  • What’s your favorite thing to do after school?

  • How did it feel in your body when those kids were rude to you?

  • What’s the best way for your parents to help you when you’re upset?

  • How does your body feel when you’re having a panic attack?


It’s not necessary to keep score—just see how well you can guess the other person’s depiction. Then discuss it as much as you’d like.


If you’re providing sessions via telehealth/video, you can play the game with pen and paper, or with the platform’s whiteboard if you’re tech-savvy.


Cube or Dice Prompts


Great for: Kids, teens, adults, families, groups

Works with: Groups, in-person, telehealth

Goals: Learning or practicing coping skills, responding to prompts, building rapport


Use cube or dice therapy games to help make questions and prompts more fun. A great idea for reviewing coping skills or other mental health concepts.

You can play this game with dry erase blocks, real dice, or any empty square box. Or, make your own square block out of paper.


Assign your own prompts to each side of the box, or assign a corresponding question to each number on the dice. You can even use a dice app on your phone if you prefer, especially for telehealth.


This game is highly customizable, but here’s an example:


Let’s say you want to review DBT skills. Each side of the box would include a prompt such as “Name a skill to try when you feel angry.”


Someone throws the block across the ground, and then must respond to the prompt that lands face-up in order to get a point.


If you’re using real dice, then each number would represent a corresponding prompt you have written down. So if someone rolls a “2” they would answer the question you have prepared for #2.


This is great for clients who need to move around a lot, or for a group that’s getting bored.


Make Your Own Therapy Card-Game


Great for: Kids, teens, adults, families, groups

Works with: Groups, in-person, possibly telehealth

Goals: Reviewing coping skills, responding to prompts, building rapport


Any deck of cards can be used to create a variety of therapy games.

Using a set of blank cards, or standard playing cards, add your own prompts or activities to the cards. For example, each “set” earned in Go-Fish would require the player (or all players) to name a feeling word.


You can combine the prompts with a traditional game, or simply take turns drawing a card and following the prompt.


If your client is up for it, they could also create their own cards for therapy. They might list feeling words or coping skills, and act them out each time the card comes up. This version may work better for telehealth–your client can be in charge of the cards on their end.


In family therapy, you might play where each person who wins a game or scores a point gets to ask a question of another player that wouldn’t normally be well received.


For example, a parent might ask a teen why they always shut their bedroom door when they get home, or a child might ask why they never get to stay up late on weekends. The other player can earn their own point if they answer, or they can pass.


Your clients can help make up the rules of the game, as long as it involves responding to prompts at least part of the time.


Play Around!


Essentially any game can become therapeutic, at the very least promoting rapport with clients. Games can also be a great way for groups and family members to bond.


When I worked with kids and teens, I often used games as a way to make therapy less intimidating. We might play cards or Connect-4 while I ask them about how they’re getting along with friends.


Games might not seem like serious business, but with many clients they’re likely to get you further than traditional sitting and talking therapy sessions.


Want some easy games and activities to use with your clients? Check out CBT-Lingo and other activities and worksheets we offer.


This infographic includes CBT worksheets on anxiety and PTSD.


Sources


Allen, B., & Hoskowitz, N. A. (2017). Structured Trauma-Focused CBT and Unstructured Play/Experiential Techniques in the Treatment of Sexually Abused Children: A Field Study With Practicing Clinicians. Child maltreatment, 22(2), 112–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559516681866


Yenigen, S. Play Doesn’t End in Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess too. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too