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Welcome counsellors, psychologists and therapists

Card sets are very useful tools for inviting reflection, conversation and hopeful possibilities to emerge. They are a way of building colour, creativity and variety into your practice—something that can inspire and energise you as well as your clients.

Counsellors, psychologists and therapists are confronted by a huge range of difficult situations. Issues of grief and loss, mental health, trauma, and navigating the ups and downs of emotions and relationships are seldom easy. Resources published by Innovative Resources can help play a part in approaching these issues with a view to generating hope and positive change.

Our card sets can be used to explore:

  • what is happening in a client’s life
  • the strengths and resources they can bring to the situation
  • what works
  • what they want to do more of
  • their stories, feelings and relationships
  • keys to building their own resilience
  • their best hopes for the future
  • their goals and next steps
  • their progress and steps along the way.

Many practitioners have a collection of Innovative Resources’ card sets from which they can select a resource they think will work best for a specific client or situation. Another approach is to place a number of Innovative Resources card packs on a table, counter or shelf—anywhere a client may notice them. For example, cards can be pinned to a noticeboard or stuck on a door or wall where they may attract the client’s attention. This could be called ‘bump-into therapy’—allowing a client’s own spontaneous curiosity about a particular card set to lead the way.

For children and adults alike, the colour and gentle humour in many of our card sets help people find images, metaphors and words to describe what is happening in their lives. Sometimes pointing at a picture allows a communication to happen about how they are feeling, even when they cannot find any words at all to describe where they are at.

Cards or physical ‘artefacts’ seem to readily evoke memories, reflection and storytelling. With their strengths-based messages, our cards can be used to help clients move away from a focus on the problem by encouraging them to talk about their hopes and dreams for the future.

In addition, when a client and a practitioner sit alongside each other and look at a set of cards together, something interesting takes place: it shifts the dynamic created by two people sitting opposite each other. Even placing cards on the floor or on a table, and walking around the cards together, is a great way to introduce movement. This changes the dynamic as well—sometimes in profound ways. Experiment and see what happens, not only for your client, but for you the practitioner as well.

Strengths-based, Solution-focussed Resources

The card sets, books and resources produced by Innovative Resources arise out of solution-focussed and strengths-based practice and principles. Our focus on strengths and ‘seriously optimistic’ hopes for the future is a core thread that flows through all our resources.

A ‘strengths approach’ to practice is a way of being and working with others that highly values the inherent strengths that exist within every person, as well as those strengths that can be developed along the way. It focuses on what is working well, rather than on problems and deficits. The strengths approach holds the view that it is from our strengths that we can grow and learn most effectively; and that it is to our own strengths and the strengths of others that we should look in times of trouble and challenge.

The time-honoured and iconic resources for working with strengths are:

Strengths Cards
Strength Cards for Kids

Nature of StrengthsAnd for a newbie in our strengths repertoire have a look at The Nature of Strengths. This is a set of 28 cards with exquisite original watercolour paintings in the style of an 18th century naturalist’s notebook. Each card describes a characteristic of a plant, animal or insect such as: Choosing Wisely, Changing Direction, Having Heart, Letting Go, Tuning In, Standing Solid. Use these cards to help clients build these strengths or skills in their own lives. Have a look at this one—you can ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ over the exquisite illustrations of artist, Robyn Spicer—but more than that, this is a fantastic tool for anyone to learn from the genius of the natural world while building their own life skills and resilience.

The strengths focus is directly named in the title of many more of our resources. All of the following can be used as doorways out of a focus on problems and into hopeful possibilities. Have a look at:

Talking Up Our Strengths (photomontage card set with an Indigenous focus)
The Nature of Strengths
Angels: the strengths of everyday kindness
Baby Strengths (a tool for expectant or new parents)
Choosing Strengths (great for teens and adults)
Our Scrapbook of Strengths (family and community strengths)
Strengths in Teams (for building relationships and teams)
Doing Change (classic, very readable book by psychologist Robert McNeilly with a myriad of solution-focussed brief therapy conversational techniques and practice stories)

Incorporating Different Learning Styles

Using tactile and visual resources such as card sets is a great way to build different learning styles into your practice. While much counselling and therapy is ‘talk-based’, it is extraordinary how images open up conversation and insights in ways that words alone may not. This may be particularly so with people who are predominantly visual learners.

Simple hands-on tools can create quiet interludes of reflection and pondering—an important aspect of reflective learning.

Shuffling and dealing cards and creating games with strengths-based cards are also powerful ways to engage kinaesthetic learners—those who learn best when ‘doing something’. Whether a person is primarily a kinaesthetic learner or not, a different part of the brain is engaged when movement is introduced into the session, and sometimes surprising ‘inner movement’ happens for the client as a result. With this in mind, cards can be placed around the room—or on a table that the client circles around when making their selections.

You don’t need to use a complete set of cards—you can preselect from the deck if you wish. And remember to consider using some random selection methods. Placing all the cards face down and asking the client to select cards randomly is not only fun but can generate surprisingly powerful insights.

Resources for Talking About Emotions

We live our whole lives in the company of our emotions and yet it can be very difficult to name and share our feelings with others. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed by our emotions and body signals that we don’t even know where to start in trying to express them! And often we humans are experiencing more than one emotion at a time—sometimes seemingly contradictory ones. We can be sad and happy at the same time, we can be bereaved and relieved, scared and excited, nervous and courageous. It can be very confusing—especially when we are under pressure and doing it tough for any reason.

Emotions are often at the centre of counselling conversations. The ability to recognise, articulate and manage feelings—and to take into account the feelings of others—are fundamental to emotional intelligence. They are also core features of a nurturing and compassionate family, community or society. Developing our emotional intelligence is a life-long ‘work in progress’ for most of us.

One of the primary publishing arenas of Innovative Resources is emotions and feelings. Any of our emotions cards will find a natural home in the tool kits of psychologists, counsellors and therapists.

These include:

  • The Bears: the absolute classic for talking about emotions, and still the best selling of our resources. Can be used with adults and children alike, and has no words so very versatile with non-English speakers or even very young children.
  • Funky Fish Feeling: all the colour of the sea with a bunch of ocean creatures letting their feelings out
  • My Feelings: small format cards with emotions and body signals for boys and girls)
  • Stones …have feelings too!:Cartoon ‘stone’ characters showing emotions with possible words for naming those emotions on the back)
  • Ups and Downs: A little pink character adrift on a sea of emotions in a bathtub. Life is full of Ups and Downs. Use these to help develop the navigation skills.
  • The Kangas and The Koalas: mini-sized packs of 20 cards all depicting primary emotions)
  • Girltopia: especially for girls around puberty, and woman of any age—feelings, relationships, body image, healthy choices. This is a brilliant (and very beautiful) resource written by Jane Bennett, internationally-acclaimed author, counsellor and educator specialising in working with girls at puberty. This is an area of work set to take off big time.
  • Car R Us: Derived from Choice Theory these cards provide many ways for working with children and adults to build emotional literacy and their capacity to make good choices in their lives. If you are looking to engage boys, this is a good one to try as the car metaphor can sometimes capture their imaginations and interest more readily than other metaphors may do.

Harnessing the Power of Questions

The right question at the right time is very powerful. In many ways questions can be more interesting than answers. Answers can be fluid—they may change with time. And some questions—perhaps we can call them ‘living questions’—do not seem to have answers as such; perhaps ‘responses’ is a more appropriate word? Take for example, the hoary old chestnut: ‘Who am I?’ Pondering this question over time and discovering what our response may be at different stages in our lives, generates insight and self-knowledge. Whether existential or extremely practical (such as ‘What’s for dinner?’), questions can be very welcome doorways into possibility when things are getting tough and hope seems to be in short supply.

Optimism_BoostersOptimism Boosters is a simple pocket-sized set of cards that is very effective at bringing some fresh air into any situation. Authored by consulting psychologist and clinical nutritionist, Selena Byrne, these cards feature a simple question to awaken possibilities, goals and strategies for moving forward. While just so simple, these little cards can pack a big positive punch. A client can pick a card that will be their ‘question for the day’ or ‘question for the week’. They can select a question that really intrigues them or feels like a way forward for them … or perhaps a question that surprises them. You can use Optimism Boosters near the end of a session. Invite the client to pick a question to take away and ponder or journal about, and bring their thoughts and responses to the next session.

Deep SpeakDeep Speak is another fantastic questions-based resource. This one works well for many young people both visually and in how it lends itself to many playful activities. Made up of a single question on each card—some meaningful, some surprising, some puzzling, and some just plain hilarious—these cards are tailor-made for storytelling and laughter. Deal them out and play card games … or ask a client to select a few at random (or deliberately) and use this as a way to get to know the client or group a little better. You can also pre-select some cards from the array if you wish to narrow the focus and style of the questions.

Life Tweaking is a boxed set of 50 cards plus booklet that belongs in the ‘tool kit’ of anyone who works with others to bring about change. For this reason it is tailor-made for counsellors, therapists, psychologists, life coaches and mentors. Through questions, conversation, storytelling and reflection, Life Tweaking provides opportunities for people to identify their key strengths, values, priorities and next steps. Each card features: a key topic (such as Goals, Happiness, Health, Risks, Teamwork, Balance and Money) and two carefully-chosen, gently-challenging questions that go to the core of counselling and life coaching conversations.

Other resources that feature questions include:

Note To Self—a beauty from the practice wisdom of Choice Theory. Use for goal-setting, self-care and strengthening the capacity to make choices.

Cars R Us—includes 52 cartoon-style car characters with a set of 10 Thinking Bubbles featuring questions drawn from Choice Theory.

Grief and Loss

Jelly Bean’s Secret is illustrated junior fiction that tells a story about the life, the hospitalisation, the death and the funeral of a nine year-old’s grandmother. It is a frank and poignant account of death that never becomes patronising. This book presents opportunities for counsellors and parents to have reflective, honest and sensitive conversations with children about death and grieving. The Learner’s Guide in the back of the book is full of suggested activities. This book was featured on the ABC’s radio program, ‘Life Matters’.

Words and Symbols—two cards sets that arose out of grief and loss gestalt therapy.

Bereaved Mother’s Heart—a picture book featuring one woman’s journey through grief and loss told through paintings and words.

Angels: the strengths of everyday kindness—a card set with fabulously playful and soulful angels in water colour. Forget the sickly sweet—these are everyday angels you can invite into your own life or ‘gift’ to others.

The Bears, Ups and Downs, Kangas and Koalas, My Feelings, Funky Fishthe list goes on! These and any other card sets from our ‘feelings range’ are suitable for working with clients of any age around feelings. (Please see earlier article ‘Resources for Talking about Emotions’.)

ShadowsShadows and Deeper Shadows is a card set that grew out of the work of a practicing psychologist who was looking for a set of images clients could use to share something of their pain and difficulty. It is based on the understanding that sometimes difficulty and loss need to be heard before hope can emerge and pathways to resolution found. This card set consists of forty-eight evocative watercolour images depicting key challenges people sometimes face. Some practitioners like to team these with Optimism Boosters, Strength Cards (or any other strengths-based cards set from Innovative Resources) so the conversation can turn to strengths and possibilities.

Mental Health

Scaling is a wonderful way of tracking and evaluating anything—whether it is the practitioner who is making the evaluation, or the client who is engaged in their own assessment of how they are doing mentally, physically, emotionally and with goals and relationships. The Scaling Kit DVD has 10 different digitally-interactive scaling templates including a thermometer, a balance, a water tank and a pathway. These can be used with individual people or groups to measure change and progress including how someone is tracking with anxiety or depression, their levels of energy, enthusiasm, fear, anger, happiness (or any emotion), progress with a project or even fund-raising activities.

Growing_Well_CardsGrowing Well uses illustrations of a seed growing into a tree to measure how someone feels they are tracking in various aspects of their lives such health, relationships, ability to be organised, feel satisfied, and so on. This tool has arisen directly out of university mental health research and social work programs. Growing Well comes as cards and as a set of tear-off sheets that clients can use for their tracking their own journey with key indicators of health and wellbeing between sessions.

Picture books are powerful learning tools for adults and children alike. I See You is a small format picture book for teens and adults that provides a window into depression. The Wrong Stone is for anyone who may feel different or isolated, and wonder where they fit in the scheme of things. The Wrong Stone is a picture book that is both humorous and soulful. It is a delightful re-telling of a time-honoured metaphor—the stone the builders rejected—and its message is that everyone has a rightful place in this world.

Separation and Divorce

When a couple separates, one world becomes two. When that couple has children, they too face the challenges of navigating their way through the two new worlds of their parents. These challenges, both practically and emotionally, can be daunting for adults and children alike.

Two_Worlds croppedWhen relationships end, the pain of separation is often raw and difficult for everyone. At these times, it can be especially challenging for children to express their feelings and have their voices heard by the adults around them.

Two Worlds is a set of 48 cards with gentle water-colour illustrations to help provide a voice for anyone, of any age, touched by separation, or experiencing significant transitions and life changes. Designed by experienced separation counsellors and child and family therapists, Two Worlds is a unique resource for building healing conversations with anyone experiencing ‘seismic shifts’ arising out of such things as career changes, moving house, loss of a loved one, and the dislocation experienced by refugees and migrants.

Goal-Setting with Teens and Adults

For many young people, making long-term plans such as choosing a career can be daunting. Day-to-day busyness, advice coming from all quarters and pressure from family and friends, while well-meant, can actually contribute to a young person’s confusion about their goals in life.

Many resources made for adolescents miss the mark because the graphic style simply does not appeal to this age group. Reflexions is a set of cards that seems to have captured the right visual edge for adolescents. It is a set of 32 cards or stickers using street and techno style photographic montage for encouraging adolescents to explore their lives. What do I think? What do I feel? What is important to me? Where am I heading? Each card features a key word and a layer of photographs to illustrate it. By encouraging conversations about the hard stuff, the good stuff and how we get to where we want to be, this is a powerful tool for building identity, self-esteem and goals in adolescents.

Views from the Verandah can be used with youth and with adults in any setting where important decisions are being made. Using light-hearted, cartoon illustrations with a key word, this set of 54 cards helps identify the things that we aspire to in choosing in our priorities, careers and lifestyles.

While any of our tools can be used for goal-setting, depending on the contexting questions asked by the practitioner, have a special look at:

Life Tweaking
Cars ‘R’ Us
The Nature of Strengths

Making Good Choices

Strengthening the muscle to make conscious choices: this has gotta be at the heart of all our workouts at the ‘inner gym’! Several of our resources have been inspired by Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. These card sets provide many ways for working with children and adults to build their capacity to make good choices in their lives. This magnificent capacity is high on the wish list for most of us—whether client or practitioner.

Cars_R_UsCars ‘R’ Us uses the metaphor of a car for talking about our lives: our goals, feelings and actions. Who is in the driver’s seat of your car? Are you applying too much brake or too much accelerator? Is your tank running on empty? Who is in the passenger seat? While the colourful, raucous car characters appeal to children and adults alike, if you are looking to engage boys in particular, this is a good one to try as the car metaphor can sometimes capture their imaginations and interest more readily than other metaphors may do.

Note to Self is powerfully reflective tool. It invites us to look at where we are heading and how we can be in charge of the direction we take, the decisions we make, and the life we lead. Terrific self-care resource for practitioners as well.

Choosing Strengths combines exquisite illustration, photography and design with strengths that we can choose. Each card starts with ‘I Can Choose to be …’ Young people and adults alike respond to this stunning resource.

Resources for Supervision and Ethical Dilemmas

  • How is ‘supervision’ done in your practice, organisation, hospital or university?
  • Does it create dynamic learning for both the supervisor and the person being supervised?
  • Or is it somehow falling flat?
  • Does the mere word ‘supervision’ have you running for the hills or does it excite you with possibilities for professional growth and learning?
  • And what might strengths-based, solution-focussed supervision look like?

Vision_For_Supervision 298pxHave a look at A Vision for Supervisionand consider using this resource to plan and invigorate your supervision sessions. This card set arises out of the work of Roger Lowe (registered psychologist formerly teaching at Queensland University of Technology) and can be used to plan and conduct dynamic strengths-based, solution-focused supervision in any human service field. It can also be used by educators and trainers to teach about the purpose and skills of supervision.

Also watch out for Walking the Boundaries—a set of cards for conversation and reflection about the ethical and other issues and dilemmas that arise in practice.

Also watch out for Walking the Boundaries—a set of cards for conversation and reflection about ethical and other dilemmas that arise in practice. Each of the cards asks a question starting with ‘Would you ever …?’ and provides opportunities for vigorous conversations about thorny but very practical issues that social workers face. Due for release in May 2015

Life Tweaking or the Grand Plan?

When it comes to creating change in our lives, sometimes a Grand Plan is a very useful thing. But sometimes, thinking about grand plans and wholesale change can seem overwhelming and daunting. Whether we are in grand plan mode or considering a ‘doona day’, sometimes it is the tiny tweaks to a situation that make all the difference in the end!

As Leonard Cohen sings in his famous song, Anthem:

Lifetweaking_W‘Ring the bells that still can ring,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.’

A small crack in our lives can reveal a tweak or a very simple next step we can take. A little tweak can feel graspable, manageable, doable and even inviting. And a series of tiny tweaks can join forces to create big, life-changing patterns.

Life Tweaking is a set of 50 cards and booklet. Each card features a key word or ‘value’ (such as Confidence, Finances, Purpose, Risks, Trust) and two questions to prompt the conversation or reflection. Author, life coach and trainer, Donna McGrory, says: ‘Values and beliefs play a major role in coaching. Once a client has identified their core values as well as their resourceful and limiting beliefs, they have their own unique map to create meaningful and lasting change in their lives.’