Helping Adults with a Disability in Counseling

Creative Counseling Activity for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

by Shana Fromkin (Park Ridge, IL)

I work with adults with Down Syndrome. It can be challenging because my clients have different levels of functioning and some of them are not able to express very much verbally.

I recently started using the feelings bottles as part of work on feelings identification. After doing a few sessions about feelings identification, I introduce the feelings bottle.

I have picture cards of people expressing different feelings that I use for a variety of activities. I lay the cards out and have clients pick beads, sequins or small objects that remind them of that feeling and put them on the card.

Clients usually choose particular colors of beads or sequins to represent the feeling. Then we make the bottle. When it's done, I explain that the client is like this bottle and has all of these different feelings inside. Sometimes the feelings get very shaken up and this is when it is time to do something to calm down.

We practice shaking the bottle and letting it be calm again. I have found that this activity works very well with clients of different skill levels. They all really enjoy making the bottle and taking something home to remind them of our session.

I have also found it useful with clients who are difficult to engage. The activity also provides the set up for talking about self calming techniques at the next session. I would highly recommend the "feelings bottle" activity to other practitioners who work with adults with intellectual disabilities.

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