Icebreaker activities provide clients with a non-threatening way to begin developing a therapeutic relationship with a therapist. According to the "Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology" article "Measuring the Therapist's Impact on the Patient's Therapeutic Progress," a positive relationship between a therapist and client leads to more positive treatment outcomes in therapy. Icebreakers provide an opportunity for therapists to offer simple and safe activities to help clients feel more comfortable.
Purpose of Icebreakers
Clients sometimes experience difficulty getting started with talking to a therapist. Sharing personal problems and intimate details with a stranger creates anxiety for most people. Many people seeking therapy experience anxiety disorders or mood disorders, which makes talk therapy feel overwhelming. For people with a trauma history, sharing details that were kept secret for years feels quite intimidating. Icebreaker activities help people begin to build a trusting relationship with a therapist.
Icebreakers with Children
Crafts and artwork provide a great icebreaker for children. Coloring, drawing or creating simple crafts give children an opportunity to have fun while building rapport. Some children benefit from non-directive art, while others require some encouragement and request ideas from the therapist. Physical activity provides an opportunity to boost a depressed child's mood and energy level. Simply physical activities, such as hitting a balloon back and forth, helps many children become more talkative.
Icebreakers with Adolescents
Adolescents are slow to warm up to a therapist, especially if attending therapy was not their idea. Play a non-therapy related game, such as a card game, to engage an adolescent and provide an opportunity to help her relax. Another activity that helps build trust includes asking the client questions about their likes and dislikes. Ask non-threatening questions about the client's favorite food or television show. Then the client asks the therapist to answer the same questions.
Icebreakers with Adults
Light conversation topics, such as pets, activities the client enjoys participating in or the weather, provide an icebreaker for many adult clients. Other clients benefit from more structured icebreakers. Complete a genogram, or family tree, to provide an opportunity for a client to begin opening up about his life in a structured way. Create a time line of the client's significant events to provide an opportunity to share facts about his history.