Healing Hangman

Source: Petrie, Cherilyn Rowland (2008) “Healing Hangman.” In Lowenstein, Liana (Ed), Assessment
and Treatment Activities for Children, Adolescents, and Families: Practitioners Share Their Most
Effective Techniques
. Toronto, ON, Canada, Champion Press:

Hangman is a game that is familiar to many children. It can be played individually or in a group,
with each group member contributing a letter and proposing a solution to the sentence. In this
version sentences are created to encourage discussion and build rapport. When the therapist is
working one on one with a client, client and therapist can take turns writing out a question they
want answered. Here are some sample puzzles from Petrie (2008):

Sample Puzzles for Engagement and Rapport Building
• Tell me three important things about you.
• Share a memory of your favorite vacation.
• What do you like to do for fun?

Sample Puzzles for Addressing Feelings
• Share a time you felt angry.
• Talk about something that made you feel excited.
• What is something you do to feel better?

Sample Puzzles for Other Topics
• (Social Skills) What are three qualities you look for in a friend?
• (Trauma) Share your thoughts on why this happened to you.
• (Self-Esteem) Name three things you like about yourself.

How to play Hangman:

Start the game by choosing the phrase that you want the player(s) to guess.

Place one dash on the bottom of a piece of paper for each letter of the word or words chosen.
Leave a space between words.

Draw a “gallows” at the top of the paper – draw a horizontal line at the bottom, a vertical line
coming up out of its center, and then a short line off to the right or left at the top. Draw a short
vertical line off the end of the top line – this is your “noose.”

The players guess one letter at a time – or he or she can use a turn to guess the entire word or

Fill in the letter (everywhere it appears) on the appropriate dash (or dashes) each time the
person guesses correctly.

Add one body part to the drawing each time the letter chosen is not in the word. Begin by
drawing a head attached to the short vertical line (the “noose”). Add eyes, ears, nose, hair, body,
legs, and arms.

If the drawing of the person is completed before the word or words are guessed, the game is
over. If the players figure out the phrase then a discussion can begin.

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