Interview with counsellor, Louise Elliott, on building emotional literacy using cards

Posted: 07/02/2023

Recently, Louise Elliott from Off The Couch therapy in South Australia, shared a story about how she used the Body Signals cards to support a young person to understand the feelings and body signals he was experiencing in relation to going to school.

We invited her to share some ideas and tips about how to introduce different card sets into a conversation with children and young people. She also has some great suggestions on how to use different sets to support children build social and emotional literacy and navigate transitions.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do?

My name is Louise and I’m a ‘walk and talk’ counsellor in Adelaide with Off the Couch Therapy.

I see adults and children in my practice and together with my dog, Hiro, we support clients with issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, social interactions and friendships, transitions and emotional regulation.

Which Innovative Resources’ cards do you use in your work?

Before qualifying as a counsellor, I was a pastoral care worker in a primary school for many years and used the Strength Cards® and The Bears cards a lot in small groups as well as with individuals.

The Strength Cards® are still a firm favourite as well as Shadows and deeper shadows which I use with some of my older children.

You shared a story with us about using the Body Signals cards with a young person to help them understand how they were feeling at school. How did the young person respond?

My 7-year-old client told me he was feeling a bit nervous about starting school, so we took a look at the cards and together we chose a few to act out. We found several that he connected with such as feeling open when he saw his friends and biting his nails when he looked into his classroom.

All together he found around 10 cards that he could use to describe the various emotions and body sensations he felt on a typical school morning.

Have used the cards in other settings?

One client was unsure what several of the body signals meant (such as hypervigilant) so I was able to create a story when the character was feeling this way and what might be going on in his body, as well as brain storming ways in which we can soothe our bodies and nervous system when we might feel hypervigilant. The client gained new understanding and helped come up with strategies that could help him in the future.

What tips could you give people about when, and how, to introduce the cards into a conversation?

I call them games. I keep it very light and if the client doesn’t resonate with the set I put them away for another day.

Some children like to use the same sets every session and we use them in different ways, such as role play, charades, how others may be feeling, or how we perceive others e.g., my sister was angry because her face/body was like this.

If you could give three pieces of advice to people who are supporting someone using the cards, what would they be?

Keep it light, be flexible, and let the child lead and use their imagination and words as much as possible.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Write your name on these sets if you work in a school setting, as they often get borrowed! They’re too valuable to misplace..hehe

Thanks Louise for sharing your insights and wisdom with us.


If you have a story to share about how you use card sets with the people you walk alongside, we would love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *