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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Games

Updated: Jan 1


Cognitive behavioral therapy games

This article highlights several cognitive behavioral (CBT) counseling games to use in play therapy. Cognitive behavioral counseling has been studied for decades and has been proven to be effective for most mental health issues, performing better than most other treatment modalities. However, it can be difficult to engage children to teach the skills. Games are a FANTASTIC way to teach skills and help children find ways to use them in their daily lives.


I've been using games in counseling for over a decade now and I have seen tremendous growth and recovery in my practice. I strongly believe that CBT is effective and can be used with children. The beauty of games is that they break the concepts down into small pieces to help kids understand them. An additional benefit is that kids can process emotions a little bit at a time from different angles with targeted prompts.


The following games are my favorites to use in my therapy room. All the games are under $20 with most under $10, and some are FREE! Some offer general CBT skills while others are more targeted at certain issues. Some offer a helpful theme to engage kids.


Angry Birds Truth Bomb FREE card game

by Pathways to Peace

Help kids learn how to rescript self-talk statements with this fun and engaging card game. The pigs represent negative self-talk statements and the angry birds represent truth bombs to blow up the negative self-talk. You can also use the same concept with the Angry Birds apps or store-bought games. Learn more about how to do it here.


The Battle In My Brain CBT Counseling Game

by Pathways to Peace

The Battle In My Brain was designed for tweens and teens who struggle with big emotions and temptations. As indicated in the picture above, it uses the old cartoon idea of having a demon on one shoulder and an angel on the other speaking into the child's mind. Kids will learn how to tune their minds to listen to the good, think through the validity of self-talk statements, and fight temptation. It addresses anger, depression, anxiety, impulse control, and many other relevant issues for kids this age. While the game is a little advanced for littles, I often pull out the picture to help younger children understand the same concepts. They seem to deeply identify with the picture and recognize the pull between temptation and following their conscience.


CBT Baseball Game

by The Responsive Counselor

This is a creative idea to help children understand how the progression from thoughts to feelings to behaviors. It is a simple little game that gives children a visual cue to help them remember CBT concepts.



Cognitive Distortions CBT counseling game for kids

by Pathways to Peace Counseling

Kids who struggle with cognitive distortions often struggle deeply emotionally and they can impact the child's relationships. This game helps children learn what different cognitive distortions are, how they can impact the way they think and emotionally respond to situations, and offers scenario cards to consider the impact they have. This game is rather wordy and is best used with kids in 5th grade and up.


The Horrible Thing that Happened: A TF-CBT game

by Pathways to Peace

This game uses concepts from TF-CBT to help children process trauma narratives. 12 cards with common trauma situations can open dialogue about trauma and help children process emotions. Be sure to read these cards and pull out any that may be inappropriate for the child you are working with. There are also prompts for kids to tell their trauma narrative, cards for coping skills, and some lighthearted, humorous cards to lighten the intensity because trauma work is hard!

 
Play Therapy Interventions fro Anger
 
I Can't Unsee It is a book and game to process trauma

by Pathways to Peace

I Can't Unsee It is about a little girl who saw something terrible happen. She struggles with focus at school, can't fall asleep at night, and has lost interest in things she used to enjoy. It discusses dissociation and suppression of memories as well as ways to process the traumatic event to feel better. The game allows an outlet for kids to process their trauma stories so they can feel free from the grip of the trauma.


Free Inside Out Train of Thought Printable Board Game

by Mrs. Kathy King

This is a super cute free printable. There are several ways you can use it for therapy. I colored the spaces different colors to match the "islands of personality." When the player lands on a space they will tell about aspects of their own personality and core values. You could also use it to talk about different emotions as they land on each space. The sky is the limit! Inside Out offers so many opportunities for therapy.


medieval Minds is a CBT game about the fight flight and freeze response

by Pathways to Peace

Body awareness and understanding are important to coping with anger and anxiety. This game teaches about the body's response to stress. Kids will also learn about how thoughts trigger emotions, which trigger body responses. Coping skills are introduced to help kids gain control over their bodies.

Turn the Game of Life into a counseling game with these cards.

by Pathways to Peace

Use these cards with the Game of Life to transform the game into a therapy intervention. The cards focus on goals, family dynamics, and relationships. Kids will get a small taste of the real world by considering what it is like to have a career, a family to care for, and dealing with unexpected expenses. Kids enjoy dreaming of what life will be like as an adult when considering the career they want, where they want to live, and what they want their family life to be like. It helps them to stay goal-focused and to identify ways to achieve their dreams.

Movie Reels of the Mind is a Book and Game for Visualization

by Pathways to Peace

This book and game help children learn how to use visualization in many ways to overcome big emotions, cope with grief or separation, and picture themselves overcoming challenges. Visualization can be used anywhere as a coping skill to feel grounded and in control even in very stressful situations. The game challenges kids to think of ways to use it in their own lives.


Nightmare Ninja is a CBT game to rescript nightmares.

by Pathways to Peace

Did you know that you can help stop nightmares by rescripting them? It really works! I have seen many kids stop nightmares in their tracks by using this game. The game will help them discuss triggering nightmares and come up with a new ending to their dreams. The child can choose a superhero to come and save them from the bad guy in the dream. It's pretty cool how it works.

 

Breathing Activities for Calming Emotions
 
Sloan the Thought Slayer: A Book and Game for Night Time Fears

by Pathways to Peace

This is a story about a little boy's journey to overcome fears of the dark, storms, and monsters. He learns to arm himself with coping skills, positive self-talk, and a plan of action to confront his fears and reassure himself that he is safe at night. The game helps children develop a plan of action and to identify false beliefs driving their fears.


Tend the Garden of Your Heart CBT counseling game

by Pathways to Peace

This is a versatile game with fantastic metaphor opportunities. You can address self-esteem and body image issues by considering that flowers come in different shapes, sizes, and colors but are all gorgeous in their own ways. You can also address heart issues by digging up the weeds (negative self-talk) and planting good seeds (positive self-talk). Be sure to grab the free eBook that goes with the game.


CBT Think-Feel-Do Card Game

by Whole-Hearted School Counseling

This is an UNO-like card game to help children understand CBT skills and differentiate between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Kids will learn how to determine if thoughts are helpful or hurtful, emotional identification, and more. A digital version is also available.


 
Infograph about CBT for children

 

Thought crashers cognitive behavioral therapy game

by Pathways to Peace

Little boys love this game! We use little toy cars and they zoom their cars around the board as we process highs and lows and identify self-talk statements. They learn about grounding techniques, how to use thought-stopping skills, and how to rescript thoughts. It is full of CBT basics that kids soak up often without realizing it!


Thoughts on Trial is a book and game about challenging self-talk

by Pathways to Peace

This courtroom-themed book and game help kids understand the process of challenging thoughts to overcome negative thought patterns. Kids will learn skills they can use to stop intrusive thoughts and rescript them. Once a belief is proven invalid, it loses its control over the mind. The book provides a visual example of what happens inside the mind to give kids a clear example of how to use CBT skills. The game is full of prompts to challenge kids to rescript thought patterns and to see situations from different perspectives.


Train Your Brain is a game to teach basic cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

by Pathways to Peace

This game is full of basic CBT skills to challenge kids to become aware of their thought patterns. They will learn skills to challenge irrational or negative thoughts to overcome destructive patterns of thought and behavior.


Wanted: Positive Self-Talk CBT Counseling Game for Self-Esteem

by Pathways to Peace

This is a really fun game with some extra challenges to keep kids on their toes. The game has some bully characters to challenge kids to consider how they would respond in certain scenarios. This will help them brainstorm ways to stand up to bullies and focus on positive self-talk statements. Their self-esteem will improve as they embrace positive self-talk statements. Ultimately, our negative self-talk is the biggest bully we face. Kids will become more aware of how they speak to themselves in their minds with this powerful game.


The Wishing Well is a Counseling game for goal setting and overcoming negative thoughts

by Pathways to Peace

This game asks the miracle question in several different ways to help kids identify how they want their lives to be. Once the goal is identified, steps can be made to achieve the goals and gain a sense of control over their destiny. Hope rises when children begin to understand what they want to change and feel empowered by making a plan.


Don't miss the other blog posts in this series:

Counseling Games for Trauma

 

Helpful Resources:



Affordable and Free Cognitive Behavioral CBT Counseling Games







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