Therapy activities are used by private practice counselors to engage clients as an essential component of a successful treatment outcome. To engage clients in therapy, clinicians must work to build a deep connection and a therapeutic alliance with their clients. When clients feel more engaged in therapy they will more likely bond with the therapist, collaborate on treatment goals, and participate in treatment. They will also be more likely to remain in treatment and have greater treatment satisfaction. Clinicians can work on engaging with their clients outside of the therapy session as well as during the session. Using interactive therapy activities is one way mental health private practice clinicians can engage with clients during sessions.
Playing games in sessions
Playing games in sessions can offer many benefits and opportunities to engage with clients in a fun and interactive way.
Games in therapy sessions can help to:
- Build the rapport between clients and therapists in a less intimidating way
- Encourage conversation among the game players
- Remove some of the inhibition clients may feel about therapy
- Foster a connection between the game players
- Give the space for the therapeutic relationship to develop and grow
- Teach skills relevant to the treatment plan (ex: coping skills, CBT skills, social skills, communication skills).
There are different options for selecting games to use in a session. Mental health private practice therapists may choose to use games specifically designed for therapy, create a unique game, or use store-bought games.
An existing game can be modified to fit a therapeutic purpose. Modifications can be made to many aspects of a game such as rules, game playing pieces, game cards, or the game board.
If a mental health private practice therapist chooses to modify an existing game or create a unique game, several important factors should be considered:
- The therapeutic purpose of the game (ex: teach a skill, identify triggers, identify feelings, build rapport)
- Incorporating this treatment purpose into the game
- Is it developmentally appropriate for the target clients who will play the game?
Using guided meditations during session
Using guided meditations during the therapy session helps the client feel more connected to the therapist. It creates an opportunity for a mindful interaction between the therapist and client. They can discuss how the client feels before and after the mediation. The mental health private practice therapist can answer any questions the client may have regarding the mediation experience or process.
If a client feels intimidated about meditation, incorporating meditation into the session may make it a more comfortable experience for the client. With the support and guidance of the therapist in session, the client may feel more confident and comfortable with meditation. They may be more likely to follow through with meditation outside of the therapy session.
To guide the meditation, the mental health private practice therapist can use a recording of a meditation. Or, if the therapist has the appropriate training, the therapist can guide the meditation.
Mindfulness exercises in session
There are many mindfulness-based exercises that mental health private practice therapists can use to mindfully interact with clients during a therapy session. Clinicians can use the time in a session to teach, guide, and model mindfulness as part of their mental health private practice. The mental health private practice therapist can observe the client’s response to the exercises, provide feedback, and assign relevant homework based on the direct experience in the session. It also allows the opportunity for questions and discussion on the client’s emotional response to the exercises.
Some mindfulness exercises to include in a session are:
- Mindful eating such as the Raisin Exercise
- Mindful breathing exercises
- Mindful seeing
- Mindful walking
- 5 Senses
Watch this video on how to engage your clients in teletherapy.
Playing music during a therapy session can create opportunities to develop a more cohesive relationship and connection between the therapist and client as well as stimulate progress on treatment goals. Music helps to create the space for thoughts and feelings to flow more freely.
Therapists may use music in session to:
- Teach therapeutic skills relevant to the treatment plan
- Encourage clients to slow down and just listen
- Generate conversations about the meanings of lyrics and how the client relates to the lyrics
- Create conversations about thoughts and feelings evoked from the music
- Casual conversations about the music to build rapport
- Therapeutic discussions about memories the music may trigger
Using art in session
Art in therapy is a creative outlet that can help clients to access and process their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Through art, people can learn more about their inner selves and improve their well-being using creative expressions. Art can help people to find relief from emotions, pain, and crises and can be conducted as part of an in-office session or in teletherapy.
Therapists can use the art that clients create to improve their therapeutic connections and stimulate relevant conversations surrounding the artwork. When therapists introduce art into a therapy session, clients can experience a greater sense of self-awareness and self-esteem. It can help clients to process strong emotions, decrease anxiety, and lower stress levels with the support of the therapist in the session.
Research has identified many benefits of using art in therapy in a mental health private practice. Some of the benefits are:
- Decreased pain
- Decreased stress levels
- Improved quality of life
- Development of new coping skills
- Improved coping skills
- Improved mood stability
- Improved mental functions
Therapists can incorporate art in a variety of ways during the session. Some ways to incorporate art are:
- Ask the client to complete it as a homework assignment and then bring it into the next session for a discussion on thoughts and emotions evoked while creating the piece
- Create the art during the session using a preferred format (drawing, painting, coloring, clay, collage, etc.) and then discuss the client’s thoughts and feelings while creating the art
- Combine art and music in a session
- Provide verbal prompts to the client to create specific art consistent with treatment goals (ex: paint with colors that reflect your present mood, draw your thoughts regarding the fight last night)
Another interactive option for a mental health private practice therapist is video clips. Video clips provide an interactive and relevant way to engage clients in therapeutic discussions. Videos can decrease anxiety about discussing the topic in the video, provide another expert voice to support the therapist’s discussions, and engage the client in the session.
Therapists can play video clips during in-office or teletherapy sessions to teach concepts, guide discussions, or demonstrate certain skills to clients.
Some suggested ideas for using video clips include:
- Teaching about a concept for therapy (ex.: mindfulness, CBT concepts, information related to a diagnosis)
- Stimulate discussion on a therapeutic topic related to the treatment plan (ex: grief reaction, anxiety, divorce)
- Demonstrate certain skills (ex: anger management techniques, communication techniques, fair fighting)
Video clips may come from:
- Clips from movies or television programs
- Accessible and appropriate videos available on the internet (ex: YouTube, Ted Talks)
- Downloads available for purchase
Interactive activities can remove anxiety and inhibition surrounding the therapy session and help people feel more comfortable with participating and attending sessions. Using interactive activities in therapy can offer an opportunity to engage clients and improve treatment outcomes.
Mental health private practice clinicians looking to incorporate teletherapy games have extensive options with TheraPlatform, which provides an exclusive suite of interactive opportunities including screen sharing, videos, printable resources, built-in apps and games, a whiteboard and document camera. Theraplatform can save you time and money with their integrated EHR, practice management and teletherapy in one software. They also offer a risk-free, 30-day trial with no credit card required. Cancel anytime.
Hill, M. “Using Popular Games Therapeutically.” Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, 2016. Accessed August 19, 2022.
Thompson, S., Bender, K., Lantry, J., and Flynn, P. “Treatment Engagement: Building Therapeutic Alliance in Home-Based Treatment with Adolescents and their Families.” Contemporary Family Therapy, June 29, 2007. Accessed August 19, 2022.
Tiret, Holly. “The Benefits Art Therapy Can Have on Mental and Physical Health.” Michigan State University Extension.May 25, 2017. Accessed August 22, 2022.