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Self-Esteem Activities, Programs, and Protocols

Click here for forms, handouts, etc you can use for self-esteem sessions.

For quotes you can use stop by this page.

Brochure About ME
Debbie Cook, CTRS, CLP of New Hampshire Hospital on February 10, 1999

Size of Group: 4 min, 20 max

Equipment: Boxes of markers, one sheet (8.5 x 11)of paper and one paperclip per person

Objective: To increase participant's self-esteem, to facilitate participants sharing positive feedback with peers

Description: The paper you use should be brightly colored and folded in threes (like a tri- fold brochure). The first time I did this activity I used paper samples I had gotten from PaperDirect and they were "fancy"- they really jazzed up the project. Similar types of paper are sold at office supply stores. Have the participants decorate the front flap with their name in any manner they want. Then have them open the brochure and read out categories to them to list on the inside. Some examples are: my best feature, my proudest moment, my favorite activity, something I'm good at, etc. I usually have about 10. After they list them they should provide an answer and I tell them that no one else will be looking at these, so they can feel free to write anything, as long as it is positive. When everyone is done, participants fold up the brochure and paperclip it shut. Then everyone passes their brochure to the person on their right. When you receive a brochure from your neighbor you are to notice who it belongs to, turn it over (never opening it)and write a comment about them on the back.

I let people know that if they don't know the person well, it can be a simple thing like "I like your haircut" or it could be a very personal note to someone you know well. These can be anonymous, or people can sign their names. The brochures should be passed all around the circle until everyone has signed each of them and participants receive theirs back. At this point I have people spend 5 minutes quietly and silently reading what people said about them. Then we have a discussion about what it was like to read things others had written about them, if anyone was surprised about what was written, if anyone needs clarification about something they can't read or don't understand. We also discuss if it was easy or hard to compliment others, and if it was eady or had to receive compliments. At the end of the discussion I encourage everyone to keep their brochure and reread it when they are not feeling good about themselves.

Special Candy Game

Target population: any

Skills prerequisite: understand directions

Min/max # of participants: 5 min no more than 15

Total # of sessions: can be used as a warm up length of sessions up to 15 minutes

Staff requirements: recreation leader facility requirements - room/outdoor space

Supplies required: 10 pieces of small candy for each participant

Program objectives: to get group to get to know each other and to have each member of the group think about things that are special and unique about themselves - they also find out things that they might have in common with others in the group


  • l have participants sit in a circle
  • Give each person 10 pieces of candy
  • Go around the circle and have each person name one thing in their life that they think is special or some talent or ability that they possess
  • As each person says what they want to say, the other members of the group throw that person a piece of candy if that is not something that they have in common with that individual
Example: I say, "I can play the piano." If you can also play the piano you do nothing, but if you cannot play the piano you throw me a piece of candy
  • You should try to encourage the members of the group who are having a hard time thinking of something, as there should hopefully always be something to find in a persons life that is good
  • The game should hopefully end at a point where all members have the same amounts of candy again or at least where everyone has some so that no one feels left out - this up to the leader

Idea shared during an activity workshop at the 1995 WVTRA Conference.


submitted by Carolyn Leo, CTRS

Size: 2-10

Equipment: Magazines, Scissors, Glue, Construction paper, Markers, Pencils


  • To promote increased self-esteem
  • To identify positive personality traits

Description: Introduce the group to advertisements. Talk about their purpose and the method in which ads get the message across - visually and with words. Ads promote the positive aspects of a product, the finer qualities. Ads also persuade a person into buying the product. The individual's task in this project is to come up with and advertisement persuading some one to be their friend. Individuals should depict positive aspects of themselves through pictures, words, or a combination of the two.

If an individual has a difficult time thinking of reasons someone would want to be their friend, have them think of characteristics they look for in a friend. At the end of the session have participants share advertisements with one another. Let other participants confirm the positive qualities of the presenter.

Black Magic

Size of group: 6 to ?

Focus: Self-esteem development for two individuals involved in presenting the trick, stunts

Description: Two people are secretly in cahoots with each other. One leaves the room. The other invites the group to select one object that the person who left the room will attempt to guess. When the individual returns to the room, he will know what the object is.

How its done: When the individual returns to the room, his partner asks him a series of questions. "Is it the picture on the wall? Is it the rug? Is it her blouse? Is it the (black) notebook? Is it his shoes?" The "mind reader" knows its the notebook because it was the object immediately following an object that is BLACK in color.

Group Involvement: Invite the group to determine how the "mind reader" is doing the trick. Suggest to them that its obvious that their is some sort of communication between the partners. Encourage them to determine how the partners are communicating with each other.

Group Discussion: this activity can lead into discussion on leisure skills and its relationship to self-esteem or a discussion on communication, including non-verbal communication

The Self-esteem Gauntlet

Size of Group: 8 to 40

Focus: self-esteem, positive talk

Description: form two lines with participants facing each other. Have one person walk or skip in between the two lines and "run" the gauntlet. As the person walks through the line, others pat him on the back, give them "high 5" or a hug, share kind words, or smile at them. Encourage the person to go through the gauntlet slowly and to listen to the words and gestures given to him.

Expected Outcome: good feelings about self, feeling good at giving others compliments, increased self-esteem, group cohesion.

The Challenge Game

Size of Group: 6 to 12

Focus: self-esteem, fun

Quick Description: a player challenges another team to perform a stunt. If the opposing team does not perform the stunt correctly, the his team earns a point.

Discussion: discuss self-esteem and how competencies in leisure activities enhances self-esteem.

Complete Description: Following discussion, break the group into two teams. Separate and give each team 10 minutes to think of one challenge per person. When ready, the teams get back together and begin challenging each other.

Challenge Rules:

  • the challenger must clearly communicate how they want the challenge duplicated
  • the challenger must first demonstrate the challenge to be duplicated by the opposing team (unless it is a challenge in which everyone does together like running a race).
  • each member of the opposing team can attempt to duplicate the challenge (in fact, each team member should be encouraged to take a risk and try)
  • mathematical challenges is permitted as long as the numbers (and answers) haven't been pre-selected.
  • asking opponents to solve trick questions is not permitted.

Examples of Challenges:

  1. most baskets made with a wad of paper into a trash can wins
  2. loudest whistle
  3. most sit-ups
  4. fastest reader of a paragraph out of a book
  5. bend thumb back and have the same thumb touch the forearm

Expected Outcome: laughter, good feelings about self, knowledge that leisure skill development enhances + self-esteem

Just The Way You Are

Submitted by Gretchen Mahraun, RMT-BC of WBJ/ADATC

Group Size: 5-20

Equipment: recording of Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", cassette/CD player, paper, pencils

Objective: Patient/Client will receive a list of positive descriptions about themselves from their peers.


  1. Listen to "Just The Way You Are" while patients/clients follow along with printed lyric sheet.
  2. Discuss the lyrics.
  3. Have each patient/client write their name at the top of a piece of paper.
  4. Pass it to the person on their right.
  5. Have them write 2-3 positive comments, descriptors of the person whose paper they have.
  6. Continue to pass papers until each patient/client has their original paper back.
  7. Have the patients/clients read their paper aloud.
  8. Discuss.

Who Am I?

submitted by Anne G. Ecklar, Dettmer Adolescent Residential Center

Size of Group: Any

Equipment: Large roll paper, scissors, markers

Objective: Improved self esteem, Awareness of self and others, Socially appropriate feedback

Description: Residents lay down on piece of paper that is equal  to their body size.   They  are encouraged to lay in position in which they are most comfortable.  Their body is outlined by staff member, and resident then cuts out body.  If group is large, members are asked to identify the persons body. (They have not seen each other being outlined)...Residents are then asked to write their first name, and draw a picture or write a word that best describes what they feel is their most positive attribute.   Residents then "make rounds" around the room, writing something POSITIVE that they feel or know about that person.  Residents then have to write something positive that they like about themselves on their "body", and then hang the finished project on the outside of their door, to remind them of their positive qualities every time they enter their rooms!   Staff is also encouraged to add to the positive feedback!

(I) Am Special Stickers

Objective: To show clients they have to respect themselves before they can respect others.

Materials: Red stickers and blue stickers or name tags.

Description: This exercise may be divided into two exercises in one day or can be used for several days or weeks.

Part I: Give each client a red sticker and have them write their own name on the line over the two words "is special." Example: Janet writes "Janet is special." Each client makes a list of positive traits which make him or her special and wears their own sticker for at least one day. Each client stands up and gives one trait which makes him/her unique.

Part II: Write each client's name on a separate piece of paper and put each piece face down on a table. Have each client draw a name. If they draw their own name, put it back and draw again. Give each client a blue sticker and have them write the name they drew on the line above the words "is special." Example: Janet draws Marks's name. She writes "Mark" on the line on the blue sticker. Jane's sticker now says "Mark is special." Each client makes a list of why the person whose name they drew is special. Each client wears the sticker with their peer's name on it for at least one day. Each client stands up and gives one trait which makes the peer special.

Smile Contest

Begin the contest by eliciting smile categories from the participants. Write the smile categories on the board as the participants suggest them. A few possibilities include:

  • longest smile
  • friendliest smile
  • most teeth missing smile
  • widest smile
  • cutest smile
  • most often seen smile

When the participants have agreed on the categories for the contest, write each category on a separate piece of paper and display the papers throughout the room. Invite everyone to make nominations for each category by writing names on the papers.

On the day of the official voting, provide each client and staff with a ballot which you have made by making a stencil with a line for each smile category. The winners deserve special recognition. Make copies of the Smile Award below and fill in the blanks for each winner.

Official Smile Award

Presented to


For the Smile Category


Presented by _________ Date __________

The Magic Box

Construct a "magic box" which can be any kind of a box with a mirror placed to reflect the face of anyone who looks inside. Begin the activity by asking the group, "Who do you think is the most special person in the whole world?" After allowing the client to respond individually, continue: "I have a magic box with me today, and each of you will have a chance to look inside and discover the most important person in the world."

Give each client a chance to look into the box after you ask them who they think they will see. Some client may have to be coaxed, because they may not believe what they see. Be ready with some of the following comments:

"Are you surprised?"

"How does it feel to see that you are the special person?"

"You smiled so big -- are you happy to see that you're the special person?"

Before rejoining the group, ask each client to keep the special news a secret.

After all the client have had their turns, ask the group who the most special person was. After each client has had an opportunity to say "me," explain that the box is valuable because it shows that each of them is special. You might ask how it is possible for everyone to be the special one. A discussion about each individual's uniqueness may ensue.


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