Although I am not certified as an Art Therapist, I have done continuing education in art therapy and lead a group for teenagers who want to explore how their creative side can help them cope with mental illness. There are a lot of great ways to use art in a session, and even over telehealth, clients can bring their art supplies and work on something creative while engaging with you. But today I want to talk about an interactive activity that you can do in a telemental health session.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

This website lets you play Pictionary in a private room with one or more clients at once, so it works with individuals or groups. You can specify the time limit and the number of rounds, and there is the option to add your own prompts. I have found that the prompts I input don’t show up unless I choose “Use custom words exclusively,” so if you want to go this route, I suggest creating a long list of choices.

One reason I like playing Pictionary with my clients is that it takes the emphasis off of making the image “perfect” and focuses more on the process of making the drawing. Some kids become frustrated quickly because their drawing doesn’t look how they picture it in their heads, but with Pictionary, the only goal is for me to be able to tell what they are trying to draw. This is great for emotion regulation, mindfulness, and learning to see art as a coping skill rather than a task that needs to be done a certain way.

There are some definite benefits to online Pictionary that don’t always apply in person:

  1. If you are trying to set a boundary with time limits, the game cuts you off when time is up, so you can use this intervention without having to be the “bad guy.”
  2. Auto-generated prompts are so handy!
  3. The website above gives you clues if time is running out, which can help with problem-solving skills.
  4. When using this activity in a group, the game automatically assigns an order – no arguments over whose turn it is or who gets to go first.

As with everything, there are also drawbacks:

  1. There isn’t an option to have no time limit.
  2. You have to choose words from options presented, and sometimes all three options are difficult to draw or are characters you or the child isn’t familiar with.
  3. It can be challenging to draw on a computer screen.
  4. On some devices, like tablets or smartphones, it can be hard to see the drawing tools, which can be frustrating.
  5. The words are presented in written format, and answers are given by typing them in, so this doesn’t work with children below a certain reading level. (For some kids who can read the words but have trouble typing, I have them just say their guess.)
  6. The game keeps score, and you cannot disable this option, so every game has a “winner” and “loser.”

Overall I really like Skribbl as a teletherapy option, but there are drawbacks to doing art on the device. You can get around the scoring, time limit, and written prompts issues if you use Zoom whiteboard or drawing on paper and holding it up to the camera instead of going through the website, but this takes away the option of automatically generated prompts.

Art is a hugely therapeutic tool, and I think we just have to determine for ourselves what form it can take in a telehealth session.

Photo by Marko Blazevic on Pexels.com

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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