Right after I graduated from grad school, I went back to take a CBT class. Besides being a phenomenal course (with a stellar instructor), the textbook I got for it was actually worthwhile. Cognitive Therapy Techniques for Children and Adolescents: Tools for Enhancing Practice (affiliate link) had some actually tangible strategies for doing this kind of work with a population this is still developing metacognition. My favorite idea from it was essentially CBT baseball. It’s been over 6 years since I read the book, so I’m guessing my version is probably an adaptation of what was described in the book. The first time I used it was in a therapy position with a client that struggled with anxiety. In my role as a school counselor, I use it more often for negative thinkers and anger.
***I use this intervention after I’ve already established CBT groundwork; after I’ve worked with the student on the concept that our thoughts influence our feelings and behavior, when they understand the difference between thoughts/feelings/actions, and when they can distinguish between helpful and unhelpful thoughts. For some students, this activity is enough. For others, I do activities where we sort thoughts/feelings/actions and where we sort (or match) helpful/unhelpful thoughts.***
First, I make sure the kiddo understands the basics of baseball (or kickball!). Then, we set out the bases and review which each of them means. I usually go through one example where they are the “pitcher” and I am the “batter” before switching roles.
I use either pre-written scenarios or write them on the spot, crumple them into “baseballs”, and “pitch” them to the student. At the home plate, they catch the ball, read it, and then run (or jump – my office is small!) to 1st base and say what thought would pop into their brain. Then they run to 2nd base and identify what emotion(s) and what intensity they would have. They head to 3rd and name what actions or behaviors would follow. I often scaffold with a “So if you’re thinking _____ and feeling ____ level ____, what do you think you would do?”. This first go around the bases with each scenario is usually negative, and I switch to the umpire and tell them “you’re out!” after they say something like “I would push them back” or “I would pout and put my head down”.
Here are some scenarios “balls” uncrumpled that I used for a specific kiddo:
The student heads back to home and we do the same thing again, with the same scenario, only this time they state a more helpful thought on 1st base and use that. After 3rd base, they run home and we cheer that they hit a “home run”.
It’s a great way to incorporate movement into individual sessions and help what is actually difficult work mentally feel more fun. If we have time, I also have them fill out a “baseball field” worksheet:
- Student comes up with the scenarios themselves.
- Have a stack of pre-written thought cards at 1st base that the student picks up and reads and uses for 2nd and 3rd base instead of basing it off of a given scenario.
- Provide action/behavior options in a visual chart/list at 3rd base.
I loved having this game to use with students, but I did encounter a few who didn’t want to physically move from base to base; they were hesitant to engage at that level. What they would do though, is play the game as more of a board game, so I made one of those, too:
This is something you could absolutely make for yourself, but if you want the components (and scenarios) ready made for you, I have the full size and folder versions of CBT Baseball in my shop.