Mr. Helpful vs. Mr. Unhelpful / Ms. Helpful vs. Ms. Unhelpful

Another great idea from one of our readers…

Objective
Help children recognize that their thoughts affect their feelings and behaviors in both negative and positive ways. Participants will be empowered to take control of their thinking and replace (-) cognitions with (+) cognitions; suitable for individual and group therapy.

Procedure
Begin by explaining we all have thoughts. Sometimes we have good (positive) thoughts that help us feel good, and sometimes we have bad (negative) thoughts that make us feel bad. Explain that when we feel good it is easier to make good choices, but when we feel bad, it is more difficult to make good choices.

Ask group members to create two characters, Mr. Helpful and Mr. Unhelpful (or Ms. Helpful and Ms. Unhelpful).  Provide a variety of craft materials for this part of the activity (e.g., markers, crayons, paper, scissors, poster board, paper bags, etc.). Editor’s note: childtherapytoys.com has a variety of craft materials, including craft sticks shaped like children, large paper kids, & chipboard kids.

Explain that both of these characters, Mr. Helpful and Mr. Unhelpful, are “inside our minds” and battle for control of our feelings and behaviors.

Work with participants to create a list of statements Mr. Unhelpful might say to create negative feelings and interfere with making good choices in school, at home, and with friends (“I can’t do it”, “I’m dumb”, “this is stupid”, “I never do anything right”, “Nobody likes me”, “this isn’t fair”). Discuss the feelings, behaviors, and consequences that may result from these negative statements (not finishing work, getting in trouble, not making friends, bullying, not listening to adults).

Work with participants to identify statements Mr. Helpful might say to create positive feelings and facilitate making good choices (“I can do it”, “I’m a good person/student/friend”, “I’ve done difficult things before”, “It’s ok to make mistakes”, “Once I get this done, I can do something I like”). Process feelings, behaviors, and consequences that result from these types of thoughts (finishing work, earning privileges, making friends, staying out of trouble).

Additional activities
1) Have group members pair up and role-play scenarios in which Mr. Helpful is “in charge” or Mr. Unhelpful is “in charge”.  2) Have group members pair up and role-play a “battle” or argument between Mr. Unhelpful and Mr. Helpful.

Challenge group members to “defeat” Mr. Unhelpful by recognizing (-) thoughts and replacing with Mr. Helpful’s (+) thoughts.

Help participants internalize concepts by asking if Mr. Helpful or Mr. Unhelpful is in charge when they talk about choices they’ve made, or behaviors they’ve engaged in. 

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