Teletherapy and Kids, Volume 3: Connect Four

If you haven’t already, check out the first two parts in this series on telemental health interventions for kids!

I. LOVE. Connect Four. It’s similar to chess in that you have to plan ahead and focus on two things at once (where I’m moving and where you’re moving), but it’s much less complicated and so can be used with younger clients.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com (There are surprisingly limited options for stock photos of board games)

If you want to play Connect Four with your clients, this website will let you create a private game. It lets you choose a nickname, which has had the fun unintended consequence of a few kids telling me, “Dr. Amy, you shouldn’t use your real name online,” and we ended up talking about internet safety. Although you can leave the name blank, I do recommend putting something in, even if it’s not your real name. If both people leave their name blank, you are both called “Opponent,” which can be confusing.

Another challenge I’ve had with this game is that it generates a link that, for some reason, doesn’t become a hyperlink when you paste it into the Zoom chat box. This is pretty easy to fix by typing https://www. before pasting the link.

So what makes Connect Four a great telehealth intervention?

  1. The game tells you when you’ve won, so if you are like me and sometimes don’t realize someone got four in a row, this isn’t something you have to think about anymore.
  2. The pieces don’t fall when you are in the middle of a game because you didn’t put the slider in just right!
  3. There is a timed feature, so you can work on executive functioning or anxiety about timed tasks without having to impose this limit yourself. If the client does not take their turn, the game goes for them and usually doesn’t pick a very good spot (natural consequences, anyone?).
  4. The game changes who goes first, so it’s not always you or always the client.

There are some drawbacks also:

  1. You can’t turn off the timer, so you have to play with a time limit whether you want to or not.
  2. The game changes which color each person plays as between games, which can be confusing.
  3. As with most of these games, you can’t let the client tweak the rules based on their preferences.

Connect Four online is pretty different from traditional Connect Four as a therapy intervention, but I think this game balances pros and cons. There are things you can work on using the online game that aren’t as feasible in person, but there are also some components of the in-person game that do not translate well to the online game.

Published by Amy Marschall, Psy.D.

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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