Mad Libs Story Telling

By: Voski Hovsepian and Adam Mills


This activity require minimal materials. List below are required materials and some optional

Required materials:

  • Pen or pencil

  • Paper

Optional Materials:

  • Mad-libs booklet

Optional material is suggested to provide a client who is unfamiliar with mad-libs helpful context to for suggested activity.


Introduction to Activity: At times individuals with impulsivity or even mania can act before thinking. This can be very jarring for the individual as they often have very different expectations for the outcome of their plan than reality. Onlookers can misunderstand their intentions which can further exacerbate the situation and even serve to frustrate or isolate the acting individual inhibiting growth from the experience. This activity seeks to provide an opportunity for growth and reflection in a playful and nonjudgmental context.

An individual will be asked to recall an idea or event where they attempted to enact a plan which backfired on them or yielded a negative unexpected result/response. Individual will be asked to write down the story on a piece of paper. The client will then be instructed to identify key moments of decision making or action within the story. Depending on the attention ability, writing skill level and cognitive abilities the clinician should provide guidance and corrective feedback to help facilitate the writing process assuring the story has a beginning middle and an end. Below if an example of how to prompt a client to start thinking of an event or story. The clinician is encouraged to use appropriate language that meets the client at their own level of understanding and within their style of language.

“Tell me about an idea you had that you thought was a really great idea but when you tried to put it into action it completely failed.”

This can help clients begin to think procedurally and the consequences of acting without a plan. Clinicians may then engage the client about each action the client took and how that experience was for them from beginning to end.


Target Population:

Children, adolescents and young adults ages 8 and up.

Expected Results and Troubleshooting:

The above therapy activity will be used in order to give the client the opportunity to process the event that is bothering him or her. It will also give them the chance to view these events from different perspectives. Furthermore, this interactive storytelling exercise will be a fun way for the client and therapist to build rapport and approach a problem in a new yet creative way. In addition to contributing to the therapeutic relationship, it can be a great way to assess if there are other emotions present that the client did not realize or was unable to process at first. Thus, it is a great tool for further assessment and growth for the client (Mutchnick & Handler, 2002). Lastly, this activity will be beneficial for family therapy. Correa, González, & Weber (1991) found that using story telling helps families with children struggling with learning disorders to restructure the family dynamics and helps to inform parents more. One issue that may occur during this activity is the client states that they cannot come up with different answers or perspectives on the story. This can be resolved by the therapist processing with the client why this may be.

Related Works:

Correa, J. E., González, O. B., & Weber, M. S. (1991). Story telling in families with children: A therapeutic approach to learning problems. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 13 (1), 33-59.

Mutchnick, M. G., & Handler, L. (2002). Once upon a time…: Therapeutic interactive stories. The Humanistic Psychologist, 30 (1-2), 75-84.

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.

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