Although family therapy is beneficial in numerous ways, the therapy room isn’t the only place to improve the mental health and emotional dynamics of your family.
Family therapy exercises can also improve your relationships overall, especially if you’re looking to improve trust between one another, ease tension, or just feel like you could all benefit from spending some time together.
Although some work better with a therapist’s guidance, others are simple and practical enough to do right in your living room.
Are you contemplating starting family therapy or want to continue what you learned in counseling?
Here are 5 family therapy exercises to tighten your family bonds without leaving your house.
1. “The Miracle Question.”
This exercise is meant to explore each family member’s dreams and desires. It can help with understanding what each family member needs to be happy in their relationships.
Here’s the Miracle Question: “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”
A few follow up questions to consider:
“What will you notice that’s different in your life?”
“What will you see?”
“What will you hear?”
“How would you feel?”
After answering the questions, you can discuss, draw, or write about the miracle. Overall, it should provide some insight, as it permits you to think about an unlimited range of possibilities for change.
2. Emotional Ball.
This exercise intends to discuss emotions with your family and practice listening to one another and expressing your feelings.
It’s commonly used with children and teenagers, as it takes the pressure off of talking about emotions if they’re uncomfortable.
All that’s needed is a beach ball and a marker. Write down emotions such as happy, lonely, sad, silly, embarrassed, or worried in different places of the ball. Sit or stand in a circle and start tossing the ball to one another.
When someone catches the ball, ask them to describe the last time they felt that emotion.
3. “The Family Gift.”
This exercise can help in understanding one another by provoking a reflective discussion.
To try this exercise, collect a variation of art supplies and a gift bag. You’ll be making a gift for the whole family, which can be useful for the family and that everyone will decide on.
Take about 30 minutes or so to decide on what the gift will be and create it. Once the gift is created, place it into the gift bag.
This exercise allows you to look at your family’s dynamics, ability to make decisions, and problem-solving abilities.
Use these questions and prompts to guide the discussion:
Describe your gift.
How did you feel while creating it?
Who decided what the gift should be?
Does this person typically make the decisions?
Was everyone in your family able to work well together?
Were there any challenges? How were they handled?
How can the gift be helpful to your family?
Is there anything else you can think of that can help?
4. Mirroring Activity.
This exercise is beneficial for bringing people into attunement with one another. It asks each person to be fully attentive and engaged, and it can be enjoyable for children.
The instructions can be explained to your family as follows: Have two people stand in front of one another. One person will be the “leader” and the other will copy everything the leader does.
Try to go slow enough so the other person can get attuned to the other and mimic their movements with them. Remember to take turns leading!
5. Colored Candy-Go-Round Exercise
This is a simple and fun way to get everyone connected. It promotes open communication and provides a greater understanding of your family dynamics.
To start, pass out any candy that has multiple colors, like skittles or M&Ms. Give everyone seven pieces. Then, sort the candy by color.
Each of the colors indicates the following:
Green: Words to describe your family.
Purple: How your family has fun together.
Orange: Things you’d like to change.
Red: Things you worry about.
Yellow: Good things about your family.
After the first person shares their responses, they can pick the next person to share. That person should answer based on their own colors. Once everyone has shared their answers, they can eat the candy.
In the end, everyone can discuss what they learned, what surprised them, and how the family might make some positive changes.
Family therapy is a step in the right direction.
A perfect family may not exist. But you can work to enhance communication, improve empathy, and resolve conflicts with one another by utilizing these simple exercises.
By uniting on the path toward healing, you’ll be sending the world a powerful message about the strength and resilience of your family.
Dr. Leda Kaveh is a licensed clinical psychologist and the owner/director of Washington Psychological Wellness. If you want to learn more about family therapy, contact them today!
This article was originally published at Washington Psychological Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.