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Family Therapy Activity: Communication and Feelings Expression

Updated on July 5, 2017

What You Will Need:

  • I Statements worksheet (for each participant)
  • Active Listening worksheet (for each participant)
  • 1 Jar
  • Feelings cards with 7 to 10 feelings on each card (you can cut index cards in half and write different emotions if you'd like). You can write/draw feelings on each card.

Using 'I Statements'

'I Statements' help us express how we are feeling to one another without using blaming words. Instead of using "you," we take responsibility for using our feelings by saying "I." So, instead of saying "I don't like when you come home late. You are always ruining plans." You could use the following sentence structure: "I feel disappointed when you come home late because it disrupts our nightly routine." As the therapist, I usually have a worksheet explaining this. The worksheet would explain not only the statements, but let the client practice using them by providing a blaming statement, and then a correct "I Statement."

Using 'Active Listening'

Active Listening is simply repeating back what the person is saying to you but in different words. This tells the listener that you have heard them, but also that you are attempting to understand them. There is a sentence structure here as well. As you are repeating something back, you can use the following statements before repeating back:

  • "I hear you saying that..."
  • "It sounds like you're saying..."
  • "It sounds like you feel..."
  • "You're telling me that..."
  • "Okay, so you are saying..."

There are many other statements you can use as well, but these are just a few. Again, I typically have a worksheet that not only explains this, but let's the client practice the statements as well.

Feelings Jar

This is where the jar and feelings come in. As mentioned above, you can use index cards and cut them in half then list feelings on each card. Put these feelings in a jar. Each client will take a turn picking a feeling and using the I statement with the feeling. The person next to them the follows up using Active Listening. Here is an example of the conversation that would develop as a result of picking a feeling (angry) out of the jar:

  • Client #1 (after picking a feeling): "I feel angry when you don't pick up your toys because I step on them and get hurt."
  • Client #2 (following up with Active Listening): "I hear you saying that you are angry because I don't pick up my toys. I don't want you to get hurt, so I will try my best to pick them up after I'm done playing with them."

You can have the family take turns picking feelings and using the statements on each other.

Let me know how it worked for you in the comments below!

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