Teletherapy and Kids, Volume 6: Scattegories

Before checking out today’s post, please go to my resources page to see other telehealth interventions for kids!

When I think of Scattegories, I think of my first job at a dry cleaner. On slow days, one of my co-workers would get it out of her car, and we would play to pass the time. This is a game that I actually didn’t use in my pre-COVID-19, in-person therapy practice, but it is one that I’ve found interesting uses for in the past several months.

(There were no pictures of Scattegories but Scrabble felt similar enough to include here) Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I first transitioned to all telehealth, some clients and I did the Alphabet Game, where you choose one category and try to think of something for every letter of the alphabet. We would alternate between something “fun” (like animals or desserts) and something “therapeutic” (like emotions or coping skills). This is a spin on that activity.

In Scattegories, you are given a list of topics and a letter, and you have to think of something in each category that starts with that letter. This website lets you create a game using a private link. You choose the number of categories and time limit (or you can opt for no time limit), and send the link to your client. You can pick specific categories or add your own, or the game can choose at random.

In therapy, this activity can be used to work on executive functioning (having to think creatively, focus, and use the allotted time appropriately), bring up topics related to treatment goals (by making those topics the categories listed), and improve cognitive flexibility (by having to find creative ways to fill each category).

Why do I love Scattegories for telehealth?

  1. As with some of the other games, you can use a time limit to work on anxiety with timed tasks, or you can have no time limit at all.
  2. You can input custom categories based on the client’s treatment goals as talking points for your session.
  3. You can also choose from available categories to save time if you don’t want to come up with your own.

As with everything, there are also drawbacks:

  1. I really recommend manually choosing categories rather than hitting “random” because the online version has some choices that are less kid-friendly, like “name an alcoholic drink.”
  2. You can’t choose what letters you want to use for the categories because it is randomly generated (although you could play this game without the website above and choose the letters yourself).
  3. As with Pictionary, you are supposed to type your answers, which is challenging for some kids.

Scattegories is a game that I didn’t think of as therapeutic before I started using it with telehealth, but it has some definite advantages. Kids seem to have a lot of fun with it, and it helps us indirectly incorporate their treatment goals into a fun activity.

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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