A trainee counsellor asked why I created the Mood Cards

I was recently contacted by Emma, who is a trainee counsellor in Devon, to find out more about why I created The Mood Cards.  She found them online and has started using them with her first ever client, who has trouble expressing his feelings and emotions.  Emma thinks they are amazing and a great tool for professionals and wants to make a presentation to her class as part of her Level 4 diploma course.  She had some questions for me, and I thought I’d share them with you here.

the scruffy page that inspired me

Why I created The Mood Cards

How did I come up with the idea

I was looking for a decent set of images for my own therapy practice to use with clients who struggled to identity and express their emotions.  I had an old scruffy page of faces but wanted something better, clearer and more user friendly.  This was around 7 years ago, way before emoticons and emojis.  So I looked online but the only images available were more suitable for children.  The seed of creation began, and it is why I created the mood cards.

The Creation Process

I knew I wanted very simple faces without too much detail.  I advertised online to work with an artist and many came forward with beautiful design skills.  However they weren’t right.  Eventually at my local Athena women in business network meeting I met Stacey Siddons, a young, fun and incredibly talented South African digital artist.

Stacey Siddons

Stacey Siddons

We started to work together and Stacey completely got what I was after.  Each little face (and there are 42 of them) were clients to me.  However before they became my clients they were me.  In other words I had to go through each of the emotions to know what it felt like, where i felt it and what was needed.  In a way the cards are my personal journey over a period of 3 years.

The first card we created together was the hurt card.  I can’t tell you now why I was hurt but I must have been, its history now.  I felt hurt and I was choked up, I needed to speak but I couldn’t get the words out.  The pain I felt was in my throat.  I linked this to a blockage in the throat chakra, hence the colour blue.

The periods when I felt the emotions were the moments to create the images.  It was an intuitive process and came from a deep space within myself.  Initially Stacey and I played with the idea of mandalas on the reverse of the cards.  I was looking forward to having these cards in my therapy room, motivated and inspired which is why I created the Mood Cards in the first place.

What inspired you

I thought about what I could offer as a therapist to enhance the value of the cards.  Through this journey, I was inspired by the idea of creating something different, a clear and simple concept of therapy within each card, drawing on a number of psychological theories plus my own experiences as a psychotherapist and intuitive healer.

I already knew the value of mindfulness and acceptance of current state so I created the faces to reflect back, like a mirror to the user, giving validation.  You may be familiar with Winnicott’s work on child development and the role of the mother acting as mirror.  Its about self-reflection:

“What does the baby see when he or she looks at the mother’s face? I am suggesting that, ordinarily, what the baby sees is himself or herself, In other words the mother is looking at the baby and what she looks like is related to what she sees there”  D. W. Winnicott Tavistock Publications ©1971 

The top back of cards are based on CBT, cognitive therapy and comprise of 3 structured questions to help users define and identify, explore in more depth by looking at relevant and meaningful examples and then to look at ways forward towards positive change.

On the bottom back of each card are positive affirmations to embed positive thoughts and mindsets.  The affirmations also take an existential spiritual approach to life.  There are some things we can control and others we can’t.  Again, it is about acceptance and moving on.

The colours of the cards relate directly to the chakra wheel to strengthen where needed.  For more information on chakras please see my other blog on this website.

How do I use them myself

They sit in a little glass dish shaped like the sun, on my window ledge.  I use them with clients to help them gain insight and perspective on situations.  They are really popular with teenagers who often struggle getting started in conversation, and they are also a good ice breaker for deeper work.

Clients use them in all sorts of ways.  Some choose at random, others place them in colour codes, others choose 3 at a time.  There is no right or wrong way to use them.  The most important thing is to allow the client to choose the card – never choose the card for the client!

I usually ask the client to hold the card close to their heart and see what thoughts and feelings come up.  We then discuss.  Then we turn the card over and I ask the questions – the client answers.  I use the questions as guides to go deeper.  I don’t stop at the first answer, I ask them to tell me more, and more and so the client gains lots of insight, new thoughts and ideas about themselves and their lives.

We end with the affirmation which I invite them to read out.  If they like the affirmation I ask them to say it again but the next time with more depth, a stronger deeper voice, and again.  Affirmations repeated in this way have a powerful effect.

Do you have any hints or tips for newbie counsellors heading out into the big scary world of counselling

Every therapist brings their “self” to the work and eventually finds their own flow.  So be yourself, create rapport and warmth between you. Be open to what you are about to experience with the client.  Reflect back and enter their world with respect and integrity.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your clients where needed but do this in an unthreatening way.  Have strict and secure boundaries to help both you AND your clients feel safe.

Be self-reflective and get supervision for your work.  Care deeply about what you do, otherwise don’t do it.   Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or think you’ve made a mistake – we all make mistakes and this often helps our clients to understand that its ok to get things wrong. That’s why I created the Mood Cards.

Here is Emma’s finished dissertation and feedback which she presented to her class:

“I got some really positive feedback and the cards were a big hit with all who saw the presentation and got a chance to play with them (the presentation was about 15 minutes then I was able to give the other students about 10 minutes to try out the cards on each other in small groups), everyone could definitely see what a great addition to our ‘tool box’ they are”   Emma Jenkins

Emma’s presentation of The Mood Cards at her college in Barnstaple, Devon

Good luck Emma Jenkins in your future career as a counsellor!