A popular therapy game is Battleship. It takes focus, it takes planning, it’s a combination of strategy and luck, and it’s a fun way to build rapport. I’ve also used Battleship with kids who are working on memory by keeping my ships in the same place a few games in a row so that they can try and remember where they were.

Photo by Marc Coenen on (There were no free stock photos of the game, but I think this communicates the same message)

I have heard of therapists using the original Battleship board game if both the client and therapist have access to it – similarly to how you would play in person, each person sets up their ships and guesses locations while sitting in front of the camera. This, of course, is dependent on whether your client has their own Battleship game. I’ve also heard of using a template on Excel or just with grid paper to play this way, but that can get confusing and complicated with younger kids.

This website lets you create a private Battleship game with a client. You can choose between two versions: “Classic” and “Russian,” with classic most closely mimicking the board game we all grew up with. As with all games, there are some differences between Battleship for telemental health and Battleship in a traditional session.

The pros of online Battleship, in my experience, include:

  1. Since there are two different versions, your client can choose how many ships they want on the board.
  2. There is a “randomize” option, so you can choose not to spend time placing your ships and spend more time on the game.
  3. If you are working on honesty and playing fair, the online game doesn’t allow the client to “cheat” by peeking at your ships.
  4. Since ships can’t touch each other, “hits” narrow down the remaining options quickly, so the game can go by fast.
  5. You click instead of stating your guesses, which makes for easier flow of conversation if you are talking while you play.
  6. You won’t constantly find those tiny pegs around your office.

The cons are:

  1. Whoever creates the game always goes first – I haven’t found a way to let my client take the first move unless they know how to set up the game. EDIT: I figured it out! It’s not whoever creates the game that goes first – it’s whoever clicks PLAY first. So just have the client tell you when they click PLAY and they can go first.
  2. You can’t place ships touching each other, which some kids like to do.
  3. As with most online games, the rules can’t be changed based on your or your client’s preference.

If you or your client is using wifi that blocks game sites, you can also play Battleship via telehealth using this free Google spreadsheet. It includes detailed play instructions and is super easy to use!

Is Battleship a game you use in your practice? How does it compare online versus in person for you?

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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