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The Worry Can Technique

The Worry Can Technique

By - Debbie S. Jones



Children have many worries that they keep inside themselves. These worries maybe at the root of many negative behaviours, including temper tantrums, fears, separation anxiety, and peer conflicts. This activity invites children to identify and discus their worries with an adult and/or other children.


According to Strayhorn (1988), a child can learn the psychological skills necessary to become a competent individual. With this technique. He identifies skills deficits, and then provides learning groups based on the targeted psychological skills.

The learning group focuses on the following targeted psychological skills:

  1. Closeness, trusting, relationship building.
  2. Cognitive processing through words, symbols and images.
  3. Dealing with frustration and unfavourable events.
  4. An adaptive sense of direction and purpose.

Objectives include the patient demonstrating the ability to:

  1. Utilize verbal skills
  2. Recognize and verbalize one’s own feeling
  3. Empathize with others
  4. Disclose and reveal oneself to another
  5. Tolerate a wide range of other people’s behaviours.
  6. Tolerate one’s own feelings
  7. Enjoy positive attention from others
  8. Comply, obey and submit to reasonable authority
  9. Concentrate and attend to tasks

10. Aim towards making circumstances better

11. Initiate social contacts and engage in social conversation


Materials needed:

  1. Used powdered baby formula cans or any enclosable can, washed and dried thoroughly to prevent rusting.
  2. Construction paper and typing paper
  3. Markers
  4. Glue
  5. Scissors


  1. Cut construction paper in a strip long and wide enough to cover the can. (Tip: you may want to prepare this ahead of time when working with a group)
  2. Have the child or children draw “scary things” on one side of the construction of paper strip and colour them with markers. If the children prefer, they can write down scary words instead.
  3. When each child is finished drawing or writing, have him or her glue the strip to the can.
  4. Put the lid on the can and make a slot in the top of it using the scissors. The slot should be large enough to put small, folded pieces of paper inside the can.
  5. Cut small strips of the typing paper. Each strip must be big enough to write a few words on it.
  6. On the strips of paper, have each child write down his or her worries with one worry to a piece of paper.
  7. Each child should fold each worry and put it into the can he or she has made.
  8. Take turns sharing one worry with his or her peers. Encourage the sharing of support and feedback.


This technique can be used in a small group of 6-8 children or on an individual basis. It can be utilized with a variety of problems, including separation anxiety, explosive disorders, depression, and phobias. Sometimes children, and the adults who love them, don’t realize the number of worries that children carry around with them. This concrete exercise can bring these hidden concerns out into the open so that they may be examined and discussed. It also assists the child to determine which worries he has control over and which worries are beyond his control. Once the worries are categorized in this manner, the adult can teach problem-solving skills for those worries the child can control.


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