Therapists, Counsellors and Psychologists know that effective interactions with children and adolescents can only occur when they are relaxed and comfortable. That’s difficult to achieve until you have built a relationship with them. They are likely nervous, embarrassed, shy or afraid of the consequences of talking about problems. In some cases they may not have the vocabulary to explain, or are unable to trust strange adults, or feel they are being punished for bad behaviour.
Kids love games, partly because games are an evolutionary mechanism that facilitates learning and growth; we are hardwired to want to play. Monica Carpendale, an Art Therapist and founder of the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute (KATI), designed the Auxilium Horizons games during sessions with her clients in the 1980s and 1990s to facilitate communication through Art and Play.
Our games address the following issues:
Anger management and
Having games as an ice-breaker in your sessions is an aid to efficient and effective therapy; we’ve improved on the rigid nature of the printed board game to allow the games to be used as customizable Tools, where the professional can edit the emotions and feelings used in the game so as to ‘stack the deck’ in favour of the particular issues that are appropriate for each clients age and presentations.
We call the Suite of games ‘Tools’, because they can help you structure (or perhaps un-structure!) your counselling and therapy sessions very specifically to the needs of the child or adolescent. The tools are designed with therapy and customization in mind, rather than simple enjoyment; they truly are therapeutic tools.
In this respect our games are also a great aid for teaching the subjects of Therapy and Counselling. The direct nature of the game communication attribute means it’s easy to see how the process of therapy and counselling ‘plays out’ along with the game; it’s a small, very natural abstraction.
All feelings and experiences are to be accepted as expressed. There are no “wrong” answers. It is more important to encourage a child to speak and offer their experiences and feelings than to worry or correct their use of language.
No “put-downs”, shock, or critical response. If for example, when a child lands on the “mean” square and they actually tell about a really mean thing that they did. They should be acknowledged for their courage in sharing this kind of behaviour.
The structure of the game, and exchange of turns and movement through a whole spectrum of feelings, prevents an intense focus on a problem, feeling or situation, but allows for the problems a child feels and experiences to be expressed within a rainbow of other feelings and positive experiences.
In the Hopscotch and Play it safe games, situations are presented on the cards for which the player must identify the feeling and offer possible solutions. All solutions are to be accepted without criticism. In fact, the therapist has an opportunity to model acceptance of feeling like perhaps being violent or aggressive in response and self-reflect on more positive solutions, or even express the difficulties of a situation and not knowing how to respond and asking the child for suggestions. The goal here is to learn to brainstorm different responses to problems and to respect and believe in the child’s ability to develop more and more healthy and appropriate responses in their life by becoming more creative and able to see the possibility of alternative responses.
The natural limits of game structure and how rules are applied or adapted by children offers a safe place to explore issues of power and control and help a child to decide on the limitations they will play by.