Goals, Hopes, and Fears

I have officially found my new favorite activity!!!


Last year, I bought a CD from a conference that I was unable to attend. I wanted the information badly enough that I bought the audio CD – yes just audio! It was called Play Therapy and Beyond: Treatment Techniques and Strategies with Children and Pre-Adolescents by Paul White.

photo2I meant to listen to the CD over the summer and come back ready to use my new techniques. Instead I did a whole lot of vacationing and pushed these CDs back to the start of the school year. And I’m glad I did. Every week, I listen to about an hour of the CD and practically learn one new technique that I try to incorporate into my day.

photo3The latest and most influential one I shall call the “Goals, Hopes, and Fears” activity. Unfortunately, Paul White has not coined a name for this activity, but I LOVE it!

It’s best use is during that first session with a child. Sometimes children come to me as a referral from their teacher or parent. Most of these times, they have NO clue why they are coming to me and basically they don’t care because I have enough toys for it not to matter. If they aren’t sure why they are there, then how can we help them accomplish their teachers’ and parents’ goals? Well, this activity helps me see from where the child is coming. What do they see as the problem? What do they fear? For what do they hope?

Paul White talks about the power of 3. Children love numbers, they love things that come in a group. So this activity does just that. It brings everything to them in 3s. What a wonderful thing to think about. We can handle 3 things, it makes everything manageable. We are the BOSS.

Goals, Hopes, and Fears: An activity for individual student counseling

So here’s what it looks like:

I pick the kiddo up from their class and we have a darling conversation on the way to my room. Once we get there, there is usually a dropped jaw, in awe of my room and my toys. There is frequently the want to just run because my room is quite big without too much furniture in it.

photo7I ask the child to tell me his favorite color. I ask them if they see their favorite color in my construction paper. They ALWAYS say yes! We grab that color and move to another exciting aspect of my room . . .the colored table. I let them choose if they are going to use crayons or markers, and inevitably they will say they want to paint. In a more directive manner, I tell them that today they can pick from crayons or markers, next time they can paint. I bet you can guess which they pick . . . markers!

9We sit down with our paper and markers and get to work.

We begin by picking out his 3 favorite colored markers and writing the names of these colors on the paper. After that, we write his name. He writes it, I write it. Kids LOVE seeing their name, especially in their favorite color. And we can’t forget to write his 3 favorite things. So now, all his favorites are written down.

8I fold his paper in half. I tell him that all his favorites are in the inside, and now on one blank side we will draw 3 things that make him happy and on the other blank side, 3 things that make him scared, sad, mad, etc. depending on what I know he was referred for. I always ask them to choose which side they’d like to start on. More often than not they will use their favorite colors to draw these pictures.

4Once both sides are completed, I turn the paper so that the sad, mad, scared, etc side is facing up. I reflect back, “The green juice your mom makes in the morning, you sister taking money out of your wallet, and your sister not sharing her iPod with you all make you mad.”

6Then I have him pick one more color. I tell them that we are going to write a very powerful word near these things. I spell out, while they write B-O-S-S. We sound it out.

photo5We talk about what a boss is, what they do, and finally who is the boss of you being mad, sad, scared, etc. We go around in a few circles . . . my teacher? My mom? My sister? ME?

Yes, YOU! You are the boss of deciding if you will be mad or happy.

Me: “Tell me what it is like to be the boss of your life.”

Child: “I wouldn’t be mad and then I wouldn’t get in so much trouble. And I wouldn’t have to sit in my room. Then, I could have more time to play with my Lego jet that I just got.”

After the activity, we talk about confidentiality at a much younger level. I got this idea from Paul as well.

I take the child over to my filing cabinet and show them how it unlocks and locks. I tell them that everything in here is private and secret. I pull on a normal looking file folder and bring it back to the table (after, of course, locking it back up . . . because it is ALWAYS interesting!).

On the folder, we again write the child’s name. He writes it, I write it. Next, I tell the child that I am going to write 2 important words on this folder. TOP SECRET.

photoI tell them that top secret means that everything we talk about and everything that goes in the folder is top secret information between him and me. Then the child writes Top Secret and we agree that everything stays just between us.

Of course, I explain the times that I might have to tell someone and they normally agree that yes if someone is getting hurt they want a teacher, parent, principal to know.

We take the folder back to the filing cabinet and lock it safely inside.

Viola! It is by far the most amazing, effective activity I’ve done with individual students thus far.

In my current LPC course, I even tried the activity with an adult client, which ended up working better than ever! Versatile activity, check!

Try it out. Let the child be the boss of their life. Or better yet, just try it on yourself. And tell me how it works out. I’d have to say more times than not these days I tell myself, “STOP! You are the boss of this. There isn’t a reason to worry.”

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