Utilizing Therapy Games in Clinical Practice

Posted By: Jimmy R Leverette Clinical Practice,

a red, a blue, and a yellow pawn next to two red dice

Early therapy interventions are crucial in helping to reduce the likelihood that a kid will continue to struggle with various disorders as they develop into their teen and adult years. One way to effectively work with children involves knowledge of therapy games and their utilization in the clinical setting. Many kids already engage in games, whether through gaming systems (Xbox, Ps5, etc.), online games, or games on their phones, so the foundation is essentially set for kids to be willing to engage in therapy games. But first, what distinguishes a ‘therapy game’ from ‘play?’

The focus of ‘play’ is geared toward improving the skills that majorly impact the development of kids across various stages, such as encouraging the development of gross and fine motor skills. Regular games, like rolling a ball or dressing in a costume, teach kids firsthand about problem-solving, cause and effect, creative thinking, communication, and proprioception (awareness of the body in space) (Harris, 2019). Throughout life, children will participate in many different types of play, which is crucial to their growth. 

Therapy games are formal and have more restrictive rules for how the game is played, whereas play tends to have an unrestricted, unstructured quality. Mental health professionals use therapy games with kids to not only have fun, but also to establish a strong therapeutic relationship between them by helping kids relax and become more open and less inhibited in therapy (Hill, 2016).

Furthermore, through therapy games, kids may learn to win and lose gracefully, build on social skills, become better at reading social cues, practice self-control and self-expression, communicate, and improve cognitive skills, such as planning, organizing information, and developing working memory (Hill, 2016). The use of board games in treatment can also help kids learn appropriate ways to manage frustration, thereby developing coping and strategic skills. Instead of thinking of playing a game as being an adjunct to therapy or a method just to establish a relationship, playing well-selected games with patients can also help to facilitate therapeutic interventions. 

To learn more about the most effective ways to implement games into your therapy practice, check out the webinar, Roll for Initiative: Using Games in Therapy.


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Who says therapy can't be fun and games? Oklahoma and Texas therapists love to learn as much as they love to play! Go to CounselingInstitute.com to find more articles, resources, and trainings!

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