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Monday, October 20, 2014

Tarp Maze

  • Tarp with a grid on it
    • Make the grid as big or small as your group will need it
  • Pen
  • Piece of paper
Place the tarp on a flat surface with the grid side facing up. Select one member of the group to be the guide. Draw a grid on the piece of paper the same as the one on the tarp. The guide then chooses a course through the maze using 8-15 steps, and draws the course on the piece of paper using numbers.

The rest of the team lines up on one side of the maze and tries to guess their way through the course without the map. As the first person steps into a square, the guide will tell them whether or not that square matches the #1 on the map. If they are wrong, the guide makes a buzzing sound, and they must go to the end of the line and let someone else try. If they guess correctly, they can keep moving until they make a mistake. The team must try to remember the pattern on the map to eventually make it through the maze.

*The guide can be the CTRS/leader of the activity or you can assign a group member to do this.

Time them secretly on the first try. After successfully completing the course, tell them their time and then have them try it again (with a different way through the maze), timing them again. Discuss the differences.

  • How many times did you make a mistake because you couldn’t see the map?
  • Do we live life by trial and error, or do we follow others advice/example?
  • Why was there such a difference between the two times? Discuss urgency.
  • Was this frustrating? How did you handle the frustration?
  • Did anyone step forward to be the leader? How did they lead? How would this have worked out if no one stepped up to be the leader?
  • Did everyone listen to each other? 
  • Could this have been solved if no one paid attention to their teammates going through? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Freeze-Tag Toss

  • Soft item/ball
How to Play
Have a team of taggers and a team of people to be frozen (about a 1:5 ratio). The team that can be frozen will have a soft item/ball. The taggers try to freeze everyone. The only way to be unfrozen is to receive a high-5 from someone who is holding the soft item/ball (cannot throw it at the frozen person). The team that can be frozen can pass the soft item/ball to people who are not frozen. If the person holding the soft ball/item is frozen, s/he must drop the soft item/ball, and another player will have to pick it up. The taggers can never touch or hold the soft item/ball. The round is complete when everyone is frozen except the taggers. Then select new taggers and start over until you run out of time!

Lessons Learned
Communication - How did you know who to pass the soft item/ball to?
Instant Gratification - Did you always get the soft item/ball when you wanted it?
Problem Solving - Did y'all have a strategy of who to throw the soft item/ball to? (ex. pass it to a person closest to a frozen player) Did your strategy always work out? How did you adapt it?
Sharing - Did anyone refuse to pass the item/ball?

How would you use this activity? Do you know other tag variations?

Other Variations on Playing Tag
Triangle Tag
Animal Tag
Spot Tag 
Coping Skills Freeze Tag

Photo Credit:,d.aWw&psig=AFQjCNH1uYIbzguxRbn9d5ydLMCqpccTPQ&ust=1412651446497669

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Traffic Jam

  • Something for each participant to stand on plus one extra - I've used foam squares, put X's on the floor with tape, etc.
    How To Play
     The participants stand in a semi-circle with one marker on the ground that each participant stands on. Put the extra marker in the middle (you do not need an equal number of participants). All participants should face in-wards toward the empty marker. The object of the game is to get the two sides to pass each other, ultimately switching sides by moving strategically from one marker to another.

    • Only one person can be on a marker at a time
    • Participants can only move to an empty marker
    • Participants can only move forward - if the group gets struck, everyone has to start over
    • Participants can skip one person going the opposite direction, but s/he cannot skip someone going the same direction (to walk around the other person, the participant can step off the marker and walk around the person to step on the empty marker)
    • When the group gets stuck and has to start over, have the participant at the front marker move to the last marker so there is a new person leading every time
    • Have the group do it without talking. Be strict about it, and when they start to get frustrated, allow them to talk. Process the differences after the activity
    • Once the group gets it the first time, have them do it while holding their breath. If someone breathes (exhales or inhales) in the middle, make them start over. This takes precise knowledge and planning. After, process the difference  between just doing what you are told and knowing your place/role.
    • Try the activity with two lines in a "plus sign" formation with one empty spot in the middle

    ·      This activity works even if you have odd numbers. First move a person forward into the empty space. Then the first person from team 2 goes around to the empty space, and the second person from team 2 steps forward. This pattern continues (team 1 moves one person, team 2 moves two people, team 1 moves three people, team 2 moves four people, etc.) until all people are moved. After all have moved, the pattern is reversed: five people move four, three, two, one.
    ·      Hint: There are three “unspoken rules” that if followed, will solve this puzzle. First, at every juncture, there are only two possible moves: one will get them stuck and the other will not. Second, participants from opposing team should always be alternating on the spaces. If one team has two in a row, they have created a traffic jam. Third, for the first half of the game, when they arrive at a juncture, always move the person that is positioned closer to the outward tails of the semi-circle, not the person closer to the center. After all participants have moved, the pattern is reversed.

    Lessons Learned
    Process with the group throughout - talk them thru their frustration, ask how their current solution is working, help them listen to each other if they are struggling to do so, etc.

    Problem Solving: At the beginning of the activity, participants often say this activity is impossible, but by the end, they feel great! When the group makes unanimous decisions, they usually make fewer mistakes. Some problems get solved much faster if you focus on the process or how you are interacting, rather than focusing on the problem.
    • How did it feel to accomplish an “impossible” task? 
    • Would you be given a task if there was not a way provided to accomplish it?
    • What steps were taken to get the activity done?
    ·      Communication:
    •       Whose ideas were important? (every suggestion)
    ·      Teamwork:
    •       How many people did it take to do this activity?
    •       How difficult would it be to accomplish this task if someone was not cooperating or doing their part?
    ·      Frustration

    •       What was more rewarding, the fact that everyone is standing in a different place or the process that brought you there? How does that relate to your life and other projects you are involved in?

    Picture Credit:
    First picture:
    Second picture:

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    No-Outs Dodgeball

    The rules are the same as dodgeball, but there are no outs!

    • 10-15 dodgeballs
    • 5-8 cones
    Set Up: Split the court in half and spread the balls on the half-court line evenly. Use the cones to create a line on both halves of the playing field. When a player is hit, they have to stand behind the line of cones on their side of the court and cannot cross it. They can still throw balls to hit the other team to get them out. If a player who can still cross the cones catches a ball, a player who was stuck behind the cones can become unstuck. If any player (including those who are stuck behind the cones) catches a ball, the person who threw the ball is now stuck behind the cones. The team left with players able to cross the cones wins.

    Here is a drawing of how the court looks when set-up:
    The triangles represent the cones and the circles are the dodgeballs.

    Lessons Learned
    Communication - did those who could cross the line give balls to those who could not?
    Keep trying - even if we get "hit with a dodgeball", we can still do our best and help others
    Work with our limitations

    Picture Credit:

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    NCTRC Study Tips

    The last post was about NCTRC Application Tips so I figured now would be a good time to share some study tips and resources.

    • Create a study group! 
    • Study a little each day
    • Most importantly, TAKE PRACTICE EXAMS! This is what will make you feel most prepared for the exam
      • Study the practice exams you took and look up any additional material that you have questions on
    • Answer the question based on which model they are asking about, not how you would respond

    Here is what I used to prepare for the exam:
    What study aids did you use? What tips can you share for those preparing for the exam?

    If you are confused about the application process, click here for some tips. Good luck!

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    NCTRC Application Tips

    The application process to take the NCTRC exam can be confusing. So here are the steps to apply. Hopefully this helps answer any questions you have!

    1. Fill out the Application
      • Fill out by paper copy to fax, email, or mail in:
        • Mailing Address: 7 Elmwood Drive, New City, New York 10956
        • Email Address:
        •  Fax Number: (845) 639-1471
      • Fill out online (you will need to create an account): 
        • Create an account:
        • If you already have an account, sign-in:
      • *If you are still completing your internship, do NOT fill out page 3
    2. Pay to take the test: $400 if you've completed your degree, $425 if you are still completing your degree (completing your internship)
    3. Send in your transcript. You can do this through email or mail (typically email is cheaper so that is what I did)
      • *Do NOT send to yourself first and then to them. They will not accept it. It must go straight from the University to the NCTRC
        • The NCTRC contact information is under step one
      • *If you are still completing your internship, send in your current transcript, and later you will send in the one after your degree has been awarded
    4. Wait to get your acceptance letter to take the exam and study in the meantime!
    5. The letter will have two important parts:
      • "Degree:" It will either say "Awarded" or "Degree not awarded"
      • "Field Placement:" It will either say "Not yet verified" or "Verified"
      • *You can still sit for the exam either way, but you will not be officially certified until they have proof of your degree and your field placement has been verified
    6. Once your internship is complete, fill-out page three and send it in!
    7. If your degree had not been awarded, but you have now finished your degree: Request for your university to send your transcript to the NCTRC
      • *Check with your university to find out when the final grades and such will be updated on your transcript - for my university, our transcripts were ready one week after graduation
    8.  If your field placement has not been verified, you will need to send in these two forms:
      • *Fill out the portion labeled "Section to be Completed by Applicant" and send in to the NCTRC. They will forward them to your supervisors to fill out their section labeled "Section to be completed by Field Placement Supervisor." If you choose to fill it out and then have your supervisors fill it out without sending it to the NCTRC between, you will have to get it notarized.
        • The NCTRC contact information is under step one
      • Academic Field Placement Verification Form: 

      • Agency Field Placement Verification Form:

    9. 30 days before you will sit for the exam, a letter will come in the mail for you to set up your exam date, time, and place.
      • *If you have moved since filling out the application, simply call the NCTRC at (845) 639-1439 and tell them your new address.
    10.  Study, study, study! You're gonna do great!!!
    If you have any tips you would like to pass on, please feel free to leave comments!

    If you are looking for some study tips as well, click here, and good luck!

    Monday, September 1, 2014

    Penny Rafts

    • 10 straws per 2 people
    • Masking tape
    • 100 pennies
    • 1 pan with an inch or two of water for every 8 participants
    • One pair of scissors for every 2 people (Optional - do not have to use if you do not feel safe with your clients having scissors)

    Pair the students up and give them 10 straws and some masking tape. Tell them they each have 10 minutes (or allow the activity to go as long as they are enjoying it) to build a boat that can float. When the time is up, bring the groups together and have them all put their boats in the pan of water. Then have each group add one penny into their boat at a time until their boat sinks. The total number of pennies in their boat before it sank is their official total.
    If you have time, allow them to build a second raft and repeat the process.
    *You can make this competitive against each other or have them compete against themselves (compare how many pennies the first raft could hold vs how many pennies the second raft could hold).

    Lessons Learned
    Teamwork: how their team worked together and what made them successful
    Communication: the different ways they communicated with each other
    Problem solving: what techniques they used
    If you have them compete against themselves, talk about how they may not be great at something the first time but they can get better through trying (talk about endurance, etc.)
    Talk about what the pennies can represent: things that they must juggle in life and what might be heavier than other things (especially drugs, alcohol, etc.); pennies could represent the different coping skills they need to use and how to effectively use each of them
    Forgiveness: talk about how forgiveness can take a few of those pennies out of their raft and make life better

    Photo credit

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Balloon Crab Walk

    • One balloon per person
    • One trashcan or something that can act as a goal per every two people
    Designate a start and finish line. (Explain the rules to the participants before giving them each a balloon.) They are to do the crab walk from the start to finish line while keeping the balloon off the ground. If the balloon touches the ground, the participant must start over at the start line. Once they get to the finish line, the participant has to get the balloon in the goal.

    Once everyone is done, have them partner up. Together, each partnership is to get one balloon from the start line into the goal. (Designate a place for the participants to put the balloon they are not using). The game finishes when everyone has gotten their balloon in their goal.

    Add a string at the start and finish line about one foot high. This creates a new obstacle for the participants.
    Make a rule that they can only say uplifting things to each other - I like to do this when participants finish before each other because sometimes they can say rude things. This way they know up front they need to be positive and uplifting.

    Lessons Learned
    Talk about how difficult it was to complete the task alone.
    Ask if it was easier alone or with a partner - talk about the importance of support networks and what their support network is in the facility and at home.
    Talk about problem solving - what methods did and did not work, how did they find out the methods that did work, did others help them to solve their problem (either by giving advice or watching a peer do it successfully).
    Give them a pen/pencil and a piece of paper. Tell them to think of a time that someone helped them and have the write about that time and how they can pass it forward.

    Have you led this game or one similar? How did you implement it? What are other ways you could process this group?

    Photo Credit:

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    What is that?

    This task requires a bit of prep work but is totally worth it! In this post, I have the work sheet and all of the images necessary so all you will need to do is print them.

    Before the participants come, number each image and tape them around the room (they do not need to be in numerical order). Give each participant a worksheet (a piece of paper with numbers 1-20). Tell them to walk around the room and write down what they think each image represents on the corresponding number on their worksheet. Tell them they get X amount of minutes to work on this task (you can decided based on your time frame - I usually have the participants work on it for 10-15 minutes).

    After the time is up, have everyone gather around and ask the participants if they were helping one another and talk about why or why not. After discussing it, tell them to try again. Give them so many minutes to work on it.

    After the time is up, call them together and tell them the correct answers. Talk about if they got more correct the first or second time and the lessons they learned.

    Life Lessons:
    Helping each other
    How to be successful

    The Worksheet:

    The Answers:
    1. Visa logo
    2. UPS logo
    3. IKEA logo
    4. NBC logo
    5. Motorola logo
    6. Pepsi logo (new and old)
    7. Olympics logo
    8. Highest freefall sponsored by red bull
    9. Royal wedding
    10. Napoleon Dynamite
    11. Karate Kid
    12. SALT
    13. Hunger Games
    14. Indiana Jones
    15. Alvin and the Chipmunks
    16. Fast and Furious
    17. Giants winning the World Series
    18. The Notebook
    19. Nike logo
    20. Sea Hawks winning the Super Bowl in 2014
    Please comment below on how you would use it with your population, thoughts on how it has worked for you, advice for others on how to implement it, and so on! We'd love to hear about it!

    The Images:

    (cut off the part that says "Hunger Games")

      Image Credits

      1. Visa logo:
      2. UPS logo:
      3. IKEA logo:
      4. NBC logo:
      5. Motorola logo:
      6. Pepsi logo (new and old):
      7. Olympics logo:
      8. Highest freefall sponsored by red bull:
      9. Royal wedding:
      10. Napoleon Dynamite:
      11. Karate Kid:
      12. SALT:
      13. Hunger Games:
      14. Indiana Jones:
      15. Alvin and the Chipmunks:
      16. Fast and Furious:
      17. Giants winning the World Series:
      18. The Notebook:
      19. Nike logo:
      20. Seahawks winning the Superbowl in 2014:

      Wednesday, June 4, 2014

      Coping Skills Jeopardy

      Split the group into two teams. The person leading the group picks one of the 100 point categories. Whichever team gets the question correct first will pick the next topic. Add the participants' points up as a team. They can talk about answers before they respond. Each correct question counts for as many points as the side says it does (100, 200, 300, 400, or 500). The game ends when the topics have all been used or you can set a point limit.
      Life Lessons:
      Talk about triggers-have participants name some of their personal triggers.
      Talk about the participants' successful coping skills and some they would like to try.
      Talk about humor and if/how that could help the participants.

      Please comment below on how you would use it with your population, thoughts on how it has worked for you, advice for others on how to implement it, what you would process and so on! We'd love to hear about it!

      Thursday, May 29, 2014

      Nitro Straws

      Tell this story (or a similar one): “You are scientists working in a laboratory with nitroglycerin in test tubes. Somebody was walking along with a tray full of tubes and tripped, making the tubes fly. You all rushed together and caught the tubes in your hands as you have them now. You had to catch them in this way because the sides are very fragile, and if you touched them they would likely break and cause a huge explosion. Such an extraordinary feat caught the attention of the press, and they would like a photo of you, but they need to see your faces. As a collective group you need to turn around so you end up facing outward. You need to do this without dropping the straws or touching the sides, otherwise everything blows up, and you must begin again.”
      Everyone stands in a circle facing inward. Each participant points both fingers (arms at their sides with elbows bent at a ninety degree angle). The right palm should be facing up, and the left palm should be facing down. Place a straw in between the boys’ fingers (one boy’s finger on top and another boy’s finger on bottom and so on around the circle). They must figure out how to turn around without touching the sides of the straws or dropping them. If they accidentally do, they must restart.  
      Blindfold a participant if they are getting it too quickly or one person is always the leader, and you want someone else to step up.

      Life Lessons:
      This game is very frustrating so talk about their frustration, what they did, what they could have done better, what worked, etc.

      Problem Solving

      Please Comment Below: Have you used this activity or one similar to it? What was your experience with it? I'd love to hear any ways that you have adapted it or processed it!

      Photo Credit:

      Tuesday, May 27, 2014

      Draw Your Own Island

      Depending on your group size, you can have the students do this individually or split the students into groups. Give the student or group the butcher paper. Tell the students they are stuck on an island for one year (you can tell a story about how they are on a plane or boat that crashes and help will not be there for a year). They have a box in the middle of the island that they can pull anything out of that they want. They are to draw the outline of their island and what will be on it. Then give them the markers and tell them to start. This activity can last about 30 minutes. Throughout, stop them to process what they are drawing and why and process the entire task at the end.

      ·      At least one marker per participant
      ·      Butcher Paper (one for every five or six participants)

      Life Lessons: 
      This is a value clarification activity so talk with the participants about what they value and how their drawings did or did not represent their values, how they show what they value each day, etc.

      Please Comment Below: How did this activity work with your clients? What other activities have you done for value clarification?

      Photo Credit: 

      Thursday, May 22, 2014


      Tell the participants the rules and have them figure out their order. Once they have that down, put the marble in the first pipe, and the participants will try to figure out how to continue moving it to the bowl. If the marble hits the floor, they must start over – give them a few moments to come up with a strategy. Ask what did and did not work to help them get going.


      ·       Alike pipes cannot touch

      ·       Cannot touch others’ pipes with your hands/feet/etc.

      ·       Cannot touch marble

      ·       Must stay in the same order throughout the whole activity

      ·       Marble must move through the pipe

      ·       Once the marble is in a pipe, that pipe cannot move towards the bowl

      Paradigm Shift


      ·       A PVC pipe for each participant (Half should be completely round and the other half should have the top cut off)

      ·       One marble

      ·       A bowl

       Life Lessons:
      Importance of working together-no one could have done this by themselves just as they cannot reach all of their goals by themselves
      Talk about how they approached this activity and how this compares to how they approach their treatment 
       Speed of the activity: was it easier when they went slow or fast? 

      Please Comment Below: Do you have any tips or words of advice for running this activity or one similar?

      Picture Credit: