Games to Play With Mental Illness Patients
According to leaders in the area of cognitive remediation, some of the most debilitating side effects of mental illness include cognitive decline in areas of memory, attention, problem-solving skills and motor speed. Mentally ill individuals also have difficulty with social interaction, which has been shown to be essential to overall well-being. Games are not only a fun way to engage patients, but when carefully selected they can add substantially to their functional abilities. As with any treatment plan, it is important to challenge the patient without adding to their level of frustration.
Social Interaction Games
Social interaction games and activities incorporate important features of socialization, such as maintaining eye contact, give and take in dialogue, appropriate body distance, listening skills and appropriate salutations and departing remarks. Games that can be used to incorporate this include role-playing short scenarios, enacting short plays or stories, group charades where two or more people must interact with each other to act out an everyday scene or a title of a TV show or movie, or board games incorporating these themes.
Memory and Attention Games
Many board games and card games can be used to aid in developing memory and attention skills. The game Memory is a particularly good one, as is Go Fish. Uno incorporates memory and attention skills, and Eye-Spy requires attention. Playing the alphabet game using items in the room is a good way to reinforce how memory is benefited by repetition. This game requires a group of people to go in order with the first person finding something in the room that starts with the letter "A." The second person repeats the "A" word and adds a "B" word. The game continues around the circle, each person repeating the objects for every letter before adding an object corresponding to their current letter. It is important to pick objects in the room so that individuals can jog their memory by looking around.
Problem Solving Games and Activities
Many computer games offer excellent ways to practice problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, some patient settings do not have access to computers or sufficient supervision for all patients to use the computer. Completing puzzles in a group setting is another way of improving both problem solving and motor skills. Other activities, such as going over recipes and discussing how to measure ingredients for a different number of guests, or the steps to planning a birthday party are helpful. A lot of problem-solving activities can be generated by the patients themselves. Group leaders should be sure to ask the members what daily activities they have trouble with, then solutions can be generated and practiced through role-playing.
Dr. Elizabeth Halper obtained her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Gallaudet University. Areas of interest include the deaf community, research, and psychological assessment. Dr. Halper has publications in the "Behavior Analyst Today," "The Gallaudet Chronicle of Psychology," and at LIVESTRONG.