Feelings Cards for Therapy

A colleague just emailed me asking about feelings cards, so I took out the ones I made years ago. I started with just a few, and while using them with clients got input from clients, both children and adults. It’s interesting to hear people describe feelings, especially those that aren’t obvious, such as Angry, Happy, Sad, Frustrated. You can group feelings into subsets of similar feelings and nuances of such feelings. My favorite addition was from a 10 year old who thought of “Pensive”.

I’m including the scans of all my cards. The colors were random and then I tried to draw faces with expressions that match the words. I just went through them to see how many groups I put them in. First theres, Happy, Sad, Angry, Scared. So with Happy, the other ones in this group are Amused, Joyful, Hopeful, Excited, Confident, Loving, Silly. I could add one I don’t have: “Exhuberant/Enthusiastic”, which is actually one of my favorite versions of Happy… The Angry group includes Angry, Resentful, Disgusted and Frustrated, although Disgusted may not quite go with the others. Sad goes with Tearful, Lonely, Hopeless. In the Scared group, I included other states that are similar: Hyper/Full of Energy, Agitated, Confused, Anxious/Nervous.

The rest are in smaller groups: Calm/Relaxed with Peaceful and Patient. Guilty, Ashamed and Embarrassed. Exhausted/Tired and Overwhelmed. Bored and Indifferent, also favorites of mine as the kind that one sometimes overlooks. Relieved and Hungry. Probably I could now add new ones to go with those: Uncomfortable, Nauseous, Dizzy, Full/Overstuffed with food. Then there are four that kind of are on their own: Shy, Surpised, Pensive and Impatient.

If you have any suggestions, please put them in the comments, and when I have time, I will make more!

So what do you do with all these Feelings Cards in therapy sessions? So many interventions! I have used them as a beginning check in. I ask my client to pick out feelings that match their state at the moment. At the end of the session we can look at the cards and see if they have changed and the client can pick out different ones. Doing this is really useful in an important way in that we as children and adults forget that we can have many feelings that seem contradictory at the same time, like sad and angry and hopeful, or impatient, happy, ashamed, frustrated or any number of combinations. Also we may have feelings we are not aware of until we look at the cards; sometimes the faces remind us of our feelings more than the words.

Another use of the cards is to have the client pick a few cards and tell stories of when they last felt that way and what was going on, what they were thinking, and if they didn’t like how they felt, how they were able to work through the feelings. They can pick out cards as prompts for collages. Pick a few feelings and then look through magazines and photos and pick images that match those feelings to make a collage with. For a “Vision Board”, you can give them cards like: Hopeful, Excited, Joyful, Calm, even Hungry and Confident and have them pick images that match those types of feelings or they can pick feelings they have good associations with and make the Vision Board inspired by those. You can use the cards to go over anything that happened between sessions that they want to process and have them use the cards as a way to process it. With DBT you can talk about the cards that relate to Emotional Mind, then what they were thinking or judgments they had in “Rational Mind” around these feelings and end with what their “Wise Mind” is saying now that they have some distance from it.

Another use of the cards is to have your client or clients in a group make their own Feelings Cards to take home. They can use it at the end of the day to validate their feelings that they had during the day or use them in other ways described above or carry them with them and use them during a break from work or their day to check in with themselves.

These cards can also be used with Affirmation and DBT cards which I described and gave examples of in the Affirmations section of this blog website.

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