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Counseling Get to Know You Activities
School has just started, which means you’re probably focusing on getting to know all of your wonderful students! It is important to have at least 2-3 counseling get to know you activities in your counseling toolbox. You can easily use the same activity over and over again, but I encourage you to try something new. Remember to avoid that counselor burn out you’ve got to try new counseling activities!
It doesn’t matter which get to know you activities you select, as long as you always focus on the goal of these activities. The goal of these activities is to build a positive relationship with the student, create a sense of trust/safety, and find common “themes” in the student’s responses. For example, you might notice they refused to mention their dad in their answers or they talked a lot about their sick sibling. Themes and important topics will naturally come up once the student is ready to talk; some students will be ready to talk in that first session.
Today I’m sharing my top get to know you activities. Hopefully, you’ll find a few to add to your counseling toolbox!
Remember it’s all about simple activities that lead to powerful conversations.
Honestly, Therapy Jenga is my “go to” get to know you activity. It’s easy, fun, and helps set the tone for the counseling relationship. To learn more about how I use this tool, check out my post on Therapy Jenga.
Apples to Apples
I just open up my box of Apples to Apples and tell the student to find 3 cards that describe themselves. Sometimes I change it by asking them to find:
- 1 card to describe themselves
- 1 card to describe their day
- 1 card to describe their family
- 1 card to describe their best friend
You can add the Apples to Apples game to your Amazon wish list, check for the game at your local thrift store, or reach out to your PTA for donations.
Rory Story Cubes
Ask the student to roll the dice and explain how 2-3 of the images relate their life. Depending on the student, you might want to demonstrate this activity for them first. You can find Rory Story Cubes on Amazon for a good price.
Who doesn’t love a good game of yahtzee? Counseling Essentials has a great get to know you yahtzee game that you can easily use in your counseling practice. The only downside to this activity is sometimes yahtzee can take a long time (just depending on the student).
Sand Tray can be a great way to break the ice with students. I recommend giving them a list of prompts to choose from so they don’t feel forced to talk about a certain topic. I keep a laminated list of prompts available at my sand tray station, so it’s ready whenever I need it.
Here are a few very basic “get to know you” prompts for your sand tray:
- your family
- a typical day at school
- your 3 favorite things
- your life
- your best friends
- the happiest day you can remember
- the saddest day you can remember
- a memory from your past
If you’re just getting started with sand tray or maybe you’re considering adding it to your list of counseling tools, then be sure to check out my post on Sand Tray Therapy in Schools.
I started using timelines when I was interning in college and it’s still one of my favorite activities. I ask the student to draw their life as a timeline and to include all of the major events in their life. Sometimes I tell them to show me the ups and downs, not just a straight line with labels. Sometimes I even give them a pipe cleaner for them to build their timeline. I find so many interesting themes in this activity and we have great discussion about the highs/lows of life:
- Do you notice any themes in your timeline? Anything your lows had in common or anything your highs had in common?
- Tell me one good thing about the lowest point in your timeline? Even in tough times, there’s still a little good that can be found.
- How did you get through the lowest point in your timeline?
- Do you tend to focus on the positive/highs in your timeline or do you focus on the lows? If you focus on the lows, how would your life be different if you focused on the highs?
- What moment defines your timeline? Should it be a defining moment (is it really that powerful of a moment) or should you leave it in the past?
- Notice the timeline continues, where’s your future going?
I love the Ungame conversation starters! I frequently “stack the deck” in a certain order so that we just “happen” to come across a topic I wanted to discuss with the student. You can’t make it too obvious, you’ve got to stack it so the topic you want to discuss is like card 4-5. So then the student in your office will be like “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this question is asking me about drugs. Last night my mom actually got arrested for drugs.”
Chit, Chat, Challenge
Another great get to know you activity is the Chit, Chat, Challenge card game. The Chit, Chat, Challenge cards are similar to the Ungame cards, but they feel more relevant to students in today’s society. There are several questions about social media, which I love! Social media is a huge part of our student’s life and it can’t be ignored.