Mental Health Therapy Interventions

This is off the main topic of what I have posted so far, but I have been meaning to share these interventions for a while now. I don’t make my own interventions very often because I have lots of good intervention books that I draw from or modify them. I personally like the Liana Lowenstein books best.

But on with my 2 original interventions:

1) Truth or Dare Jenga (for therapy, not the kind that was first in stores in the 90s.)

This intervention was started for individual therapy for elementary aged children with oppositional Defiant Disorder or similar issues. It is to specifically encourage kids to take responsibility for their behaviors and to hold them accountable, practicing naming what they have done wrong rather than blaming others or lying. Some of the questions myself and kids made up were, “Have you ever made fun of your parents?”, “Have you ever laughed at someone?”, “Have you ever hit someone?” and similar questions. I chose to let the elementary kids on my caseload come up with questions so they would be even more excited about playing it (and it worked!)

In addition to the “truths” about defiance, I included questions about depressed mood or bereavement so more kids could relate to it (and the same kids with multiple symptoms could benefit from it in multiple ways and at the same time not feel they were being “grilled” with what they have done wrong the entire time.) You could include only “accountability” questions, however, as the “dares” level the playing field and make it equally playful and accountable. The kids made up most of the dares with the rule that it cannot be gross or mean.

I think some middle-schoolers could enjoy this too. Below is a picture of a few of the blocks.

Truth or Dare Jenga pieces-I had the kids on my caseload at the time help make some of them up and wrote with a skinny Sharpie on blank blocks

Truth or Dare Jenga pieces-I had the kids on my caseload at the time help make some of them up and wrote with a skinny Sharpie on blank blocks

2) Defend Your Castle

Shields and  popsicle sticks (or "swords" if you want to make them in the shape of swords or daggers). For the "defend Your Castle" game/exercise to learn defense mechanisms.

Shields and popscicle sticks (or “swords” if you want to make them in the shape of swords or daggers). For the “Defiend Your Castle” game/exercise to learn defense mechanisms.

Defend Your Castle-Kid game for reviewing defense mechanisms: This can be done as a race that two teams do with the same questions and the group has to match theirs before the other team. Match the sword to the shield; say what kind of shield it is: The sword is the description of the mechanisms: an example of how it is used in a scenario; put into two piles: metal or wood (to label which are the strong, long-term defenses vs. short-term)

Metal: Humor, assertiveness, undoing
Wooden: Acting Out, Denial, Zoning Out, Regression, rationalizing


1) You are embarrassed and angry at yourself about accidentally scoring for another team, so you make a joke that you have been a spy for the other team the entire time. (humor)

2)Someone makes fun of your art project, so you shove them into the wall in front of everyone then stomp away. Acting Out

3) You are upset about your dog dying, so you pretend he isn’t dead and fill up his food bowl. Denial

4)You are really worried that you have an “F” in math and can’t understand the work, but instead of telling your mom, you just play the DS all night. Zoning Out (AKA Disassociation)

5)You start wetting the bed when you move to a new town and new school . You also start sucking your thumb again.Regression

6)Your friend asks why you cheated on the test, and you tell him, “Well, I wouldn’t have needed to cheat if the teacher knew how to teach. In this case its okay I cheated.” Rationalizing

7)You shut your little sister out of the room and tell him he can’t play with you. Later, you feel guilty so you get her favorite dolls and ask if you can have a tea party with her. Undoing

8)A bully yells at you and grabs your backpack. You firmly tell him, “Stop. That backpack belongs to me; give it back!” Assertiveness

This can be done just as easily in family or individual therapy. I think it is good for kids to know some defense mechanisms so they are self-aware and know there ARE some more mature ways to defend ourselves. I hope this helps you, and feel free to share any ideas you have in the comment section!

(Natalie, LMSW.soon to be LCSW hopefully)


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