Therapist develops game to help kids deal with stressWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Local therapist Jennifer Dubow has been a longtime fan of therapy games, which help children cope with various issues. Recently, she made the jump from fan to game creator when she released “Stress Quest,” a game that helps teach children ways to deal with anxieties.
“I’ve been buying therapy games for the whole time I’ve been a therapist, for the past 24 years. So it’s definitely something I enjoy buying for my practice because kids enjoy playing them. They don’t really enjoy sitting on the couch talking. That’s really boring to them so if you can do something fun with them and they’re learning at the same time, that’s great,” Dubow said.
Dubow developed “Stress Quest,” which was officially released in November, while she was a school counselor at the David S. Stone Hebrew Academy. Every year, she’d work on developing a simple cardboard game, based on topics like anger or divorce, with students. “Stress Quest” was a particularly big hit among students, but Dubow said she wanted to see if the game was popular with those who didn’t help develop it. She began taking it to agencies and to her practice.
“Other children seemed to like it, too,” Dubow said. She began the process of turning her “scrappy” cardboard game into the real deal and was able to release her game two years later.
Dubow said it was important to her to use local services like Litpac in Taylor, Mich., for printing and artist Paula Ashley from Next Year’s News in Toledo for the game’s artwork. After trademarking and copyrighting her game, Dubow took it out to schools and mental health agencies to show them how it works. She said she has already sold copies to some schools and agencies.
The game, which comes in a bag to make transportation easier for therapists, features several prompts. In an attempt to get to the end of the board, players may draw a yoga card, which asks them to do different poses or meditation exercises.
“Even if you don’t know yoga and you’ve never done it before, [the poses are] pretty simple and you don’t have to do it perfectly,” Dubow said. Stress Quest also has a relaxation deck with ideas on how to relax and questions for problem solving.
There are also prompts for children to discuss what goals they may have and there are also opportunities for kids to learn the difference between good and bad secrets. Then there’s the danger deck, which “challenges kids to think about situations that might be a little risky, like if someone asks them to steal,” Dubow said.
The game also gives children a chance to use their anxiety-relieving techniques.
“Actually the game causes a little anxiety because at times, you might get sent back to timeout,” Dubow said.
There are chances throughout the game that a player might have their progress set back if he or she gets sent to the “timeout chair,” which is based on a tiny green Adirondack chair in Dubow’s office.
Pointing to a spot near the end of the board, Dubow said, “If a child’s way over here and they do not want to lose and they get upset about that, then maybe as a therapist, you can help them utilize the skills that they’ve learned along the way through the game.”
Children can face many stressors and may present with anger or irritability instead of obvious anxiety, Dubow said.
“As you talk with the child, you really find out they’re worried about something else. They’re really anxious about taking a test; they’re really worried about having to move or there’s someone at school that’s bothering them,” said Dubow, who also works with adults.
“Stress Quest” is for sale for $55 and available at buychildtherapygames.com.