A Group Therapy Exercise for Teen Girls

By Jaime Budzienski
"The Magic Key" is a group therapy exercise designed to help teens identify their deepest feelings.

Group therapy exercises can be beneficial to teen girls struggling with depression, anxiety or simply the everyday challenges of being a teenager. The PsychCentral website notes that these types of activities can help teens to change their thought and behavior patterns, as they receive the support and validation of others with similar struggles. One exercise effective with teen girls is called "The Magic Key," created by child psychologist David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D. Try it with your teen and a few of her friends or female siblings.


"The Magic Key" exercise is designed with a few different goals in mind. One is to be able to verbally identify important issues -- especially denied or suppressed feelings regarding prior losses. Another is to increase awareness of these losses, particularly grief that has yet to be acknowledged. Finally, this activity aims to expand dialogue about issues that truly matter to a teenage girl.


For this exercise, each teen will need paper, markers, colored pencils and crayons. Remind your teen and the group that the focus should not be on who creates the best drawing and that they shouldn't worry about being "artistic" enough. It's best to encourage them to put their energies into creating a drawing that truly represents them and their deepest feelings.


Before beginning, read the following script aloud to the group: “Imagine that you have been given a magic key that opens one room in a huge castle. There are four floors in the castle and since the castle is huge there are many rooms on each floor, but your magic key only opens one of the many, many rooms in the castle. Pretend you go from room to room, and from floor to floor, trying your magic key in each door until you finally come to the door that your key opens. You turn the key and the lock opens. Because you have been given a magic key that only opens this door, what you see is the one thing that money can’t buy that you always thought would make you happy. Pretend that you are looking into the room. What is it that you see? What is that one thing that has been missing that you think would make you happy? When you have a clear picture, please draw it as best you can.”


After the teens have created their drawings, encourage them to share their work and explain what they've drawn. If the girls are comfortable, they may choose to share their feelings about the "missing piece" in their lives. By adding the caveat "that money can't buy" to the script, teen girls tend to focus on emotional needs that haven't been met or important losses suffered, rather than material things. If successful, "The Magic Key" serves as a springboard for expression of your teen's most important wishes, fears, dreams and hopes -- and shines a light on her inner world for the rest of the group, you and herself.

About the Author

Jaime Budzienski has contributed essays and articles to the "Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," "Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine" and the "Boston Parents Paper." She holds a B.F.A. in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and a master's degree in education from UMASS Boston.