Help to manage stress

Calm yourself in times of stress

How to create a coping skills toolkit to help soothe your clients.

This tip was featured in a New Harbinger Newsletter on 5/14/19 for Clinicians copied and pasted here.

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The Benefits of Coping Skills Toolkits

As a therapist, I have always been a big fan of offering my clients “hands-on” practical strategies that can help them self-soothe immediately in times of anger and emotional distress. I refer to these self-soothing boxes or kits by names such as a “Calming Box” or a “Coping Skills Toolkit.” The name of the box can be adapted to the issues your client is working on. For example, if your client is having trouble managing anger, you can call it an “Anger Management Toolbox.” If your client is depressed, you can call it a “Happiness Toolkit.”

A “Coping Skills Toolkit” can be made out of a box, bowl, or any other container that can contain self-soothing, tangible items—items that can either serve as a metaphor for an important life lesson, or items that actually soothe. An example of a metaphorical item is a polished gemstone, which can be purchased in a craft store. This can be a reminder that we are all precious and worthy. Other items to soothe and distract can be photos of family or friends, or a deck of cards or crossword book, which can offer an alternative activity during times of heightened anxiety. Items such as a journal, coping cards with affirmations, and self-help worksheets are other ideas of practical items to help clients feel more grounded.

It is one thing to think about something, but another to provide an alternative activity or tangible, soothing touchstones.

Encourage your clients to assemble their own individual boxes of what is meaningful to them. Most items can be inexpensively found at the supermarket, dollar store, or around the house.

Self-soothing boxes are especially fun to make in a group setting, as group participants can get ideas from fellow group members on what works for them to, for example, control their anger or refrain from substance abuse. If you are leading a therapeutic or educational group, have a variety of objects on a table, and go over with the group how these items can help soothe them. This can be a fun brainstorming activity, as there are no right or wrong answers and it stimulates creative thinking.

Use coping skills toolkits for children as well as adults. They are fun to assemble and are invaluable to clients in times of distress.