Tag Archives: psychology

Card Decks for Therapy Sessions

Using Card Decks in Therapy Sessions

Ester Leutenbergby Ester Leutenberg

Liven up your groups and teach by doing: use cards decks with open-ended questions. Integrating knowledge while playing a card game! WPA’s cards correspond with our teen or adult mental health books.

These unique cards can be used in a variety of ways with groups exploring one or all of the corresponding books’ topics or on their own. Specific cards can be used in conjunction with identified pages, groups of cards can be used to address the theme of a section in the book or all the cards can be used to explore the overall concept of the topic. Individual cards can be selected to begin a specific session or used as an activity during a predetermined intervention.  The group facilitator may wish to pre-select cards on a specific subject choosing those that are most appropriate for the members within that particular group session.  The facilitator can also encourage participants to select the topic of discussion and then select the appropriate cards.

Group Arrangement – Group members can be seated in a circle with group facilitator holding the cards or around a table with cards placed in the middle of table.  If group members have a difficult time with verbal communication offer options like writing answers on paper prior to sharing.  You can be creative in establishing a safe environment for sharing.

Number of Participants – Recommended group size is 4-14 to allow all members the opportunity to share and interact with each other.  If there is a larger group you may consider breaking into smaller groups for sharing.  Upon returning to the larger group ask each small group to share what they learned from their small group discussion.

Format of the Cards – The cards are written to address each of the sections of the corresponding book.  While some cards could be used to address a specific concept on a given page, the majority are written to initiate conversation around thMental Health and Life Skills Card Deckse concept of the section.  Numbers on the bottom right corner of the cards correspond to the corresponding section of the book.

Activity Suggestions – The use of the cards is limited only by the creativity of the group leader.  The unique quality of the corresponding cards is you may use a section of cards to discuss a specific topic or all of the cards to discuss the topic of each book  as a larger concept. The follow is the most traditional manner using cards for group facilitation.  Group interaction and personal disclosure can be enhanced by using cards to begin a group session, tackle a difficult subject in the core of group process or to create a thoughtful closure.

Prior to using the cards set the group framework. To maintain a safe atmosphere highly encourage participants to share but to not force them to respond.  Options may be to ask the participant if they would like to select another card or tell them you will give them more time to think and you will come back to them later.

  1. Introduce the subject of the group, (example: “Relationships”) and discuss the predetermined goals for the group session.
  2. Pass the deck of cards to your left or right and ask the group participant to select a card from the pile, read the card silently, and think about their answer.  Then ask participant to read the card out loud and share their answer with the group.
  3. Continue passing the deck, repeating the process until all members have had a chance to respond to a card.
  4. Some of the cards might lend themselves to being passed around with everyone responding or reading it out loud and asking for volunteers.
  5. It is often beneficial for the facilitator to be part of the group and also select a card.  It may be helpful if they select first to set the example and expectation that everyone can share or just be intermingled within the group sharing.

Process – The magic of card decks is that processing happens through the answering of the questions so a formal processing session after using the cards is often unnecessary.  However, if ensuring that the group intent is being communicated asking a few general questions to the group may be beneficial.

  1. What is one thing you learned about_____(the topic identified -example: Stress)
  2. What is one thing you learned from another group member about…(coping with Stress)?
  3. What is something you learned about yourself?
  4. What is a topic you would like to explore?
  5. What is a goal you could set for yourself that reflects something discussed in this session?


  • While the cards are most often used for group facilitation keep in mind they can also be extremely helpful in individual sessions when establishing a therapeutic relationship or initiating conversation.
  • The cards can be used as great journal questions or a Theme-for-the-Day.

Cards encourage thinking, getting in touch with feelings and communications.

To be happy consider strengths

Live, appreciate your strong suits
By Jacquelyn Ferguson, MSJacquelyn Ferguson

Dr. Martin Seligman, University of PA author of “Authentic Happiness” and a Positive Psychology pioneer, says happiness is strongly enhanced by three factors:
* Feeling better about your past;
* Thinking more optimistically about your future;
* Experiencing more contentment in the present.

To be happier in the moment Seligman advises you to avoid shortcuts to happiness: sensory experiences accompanied by strong emotions (ecstasy, orgasm, thrills, delight,) like eating hot fudge sundaes, having sex, or watching spectator sports. These pleasures give you upticks in happiness but fade quickly.

It’s much better to seek gratifications, which are activities you do for the sake of doing them. They involve thinking and require stretching your skills to improve.

Gratifications will bring you greater ongoing happiness when they are an expression of your signature strengths. (Take Seligman’s VIA Strengths Survey @ www.authentichappiness.org to discover your own.) All of these strengths are very positive. Living your life expressing your top five or so makes you much happier – so much so that you can stop focusing on fixing what’s supposedly wrong with you. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? These strengths include:

Wisdom and Knowledge: Courage:

Curiosity Valor
Love of learning Perseverance
Judgment Integrity
Social intelligence

Humanity and Love: Justice:

Kindness Citizenship
Loving Fairness

Temperance: Transcendence:

Self-control Appreciation of beauty
Prudence Gratitude
Humility Hope

For example, my top five strengths identified by taking his assessment two years ago and again recently, are:
* Integrity;
* Curiosity;
* Zest;
* Loving;
* Gratitude;

These strengths have strongly influenced my choices, thereby my happiness.

  • Integrity: Hopefully those who know me well would say that I have integrity. Just a small example is that lying is virtually impossible for me. I also deliver what I promise, etc.
  • Curiosity: I love my work and have great curiosity in all the workshop and speech topics I present (not to mention this column.) In fact, I won’t present topics that don’t interest me.
    * Zest: Researching areas that fascinate me gives me great zest or energy and passion for presenting information to others.
  • Loving: I’m fortunate to have a wonderful husband and great friends and family. Throughout my entire life I’ve had abundant loving relationships.
  • Gratitude: All of my life I’ve been a very grateful person, which is an effective buffer against depression, according to Seligman.
  • I truly have a great life; and not because of money or possessions nor quick pleasures – although I do love watching MN Vikings’ games. My happiness and contentment come from living what is to me an interesting life; one of my own choosing and designing, therefore authentic.

Identify your own signature strengths by taking Seligman’s assessment, then figure out how you already live these and consciously appreciate that. Seek even greater happiness by looking for additional ways to express your strengths. If authentic happiness is your goal, living your strengths is your strategy.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.

How to become more optimistic about future

Can I learn to be Optimistic?
By Jacquelyn Ferguson MS

Would more money, a nicer house or better health make you more content? Are these the same things that satisfy happier people, too? If not, what can we learn from them to become happier ourselves?

The Positive Psychology movement finds that you’ll get the most bang for your happiness buck by changing how you:
* Feel about your past
* Think about your future
* Experience your present

So let’s look to your future.

Future-oriented positive emotions include:
* Optimism
* Faith
* Hope
* Trust

You must be fairly optimistic for these emotions to augment your happiness. Optimism is hope about your prospects. In these tough times it’s more difficult to remain hopeful, yet many do.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the University of PA pioneer of Positive Psychology, author of “Learned Optimism” and “Authentic Happiness,” and world renown optimism/pessimism researcher, has shown through extensive research that optimists and pessimists interpret events very differently. Pessimists are more realistic but optimists are more resilient, healthier and may live longer, and are better at work and in sports.

Seligman has narrowed down becoming more optimistic to changing how you explain why good and bad things happen to you through two dimensions of your “Explanatory Style:”
* Permanence versus temporary: for how long do you give up?
* Pervasiveness – universal versus specific: how much of your life is affected by events?

Permanence vs. temporary: Pessimists see causes of bad events as permanent, such as not getting a job interviewed for – “I’m all washed up.”

Optimists use temporary terminology to explain “I wasn’t on for that interview.”

Whose stress lasts longer? Who’s going to give up more easily? Being washed up sounds very permanent.

Pessimists also use expansive and exaggerated words like “always” and “never” such as “I’ll never get a job.”

Optimists use “sometimes” and “lately” such as “I’ve had some bad interviews lately.”

Opposite terminology is used when something good happens.

Pessimists use temporary terminology to explain why something good happened – “I’m lucky to get this job.”

Optimist use permanent causes for good events – “I’m the best candidate for this job.”

The second dimension of your Explanatory Style is Pervasive: how much of your life is affected by an event?

For bad events pessimists explain with universal terms and may feel helpless in multiple areas of their lives, like not getting the job:
* “I’m such a loser.”

Optimists use specific explanations and limit any helplessness to the bad event – “I wasn’t feeling well that day.”
Who is more resilient for the next interview?

Pessimists use specific reasons to explain why something good happened – “I got the job because I’m good at math.”

Optimists use universal reasons – “I got the job because I’m smart.”

So, to become more optimistic and happier about your future explain bad events with temporary and specific causes and good events with permanent and universal ones.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.LetYourBodyWin.gif