Games families play
by Judith Richards
"It can't help but help," Joan Weltzien
says about Communication Bridge, the
game she helped invent. "It can help a
woman be seen as an individual, not a
stereotype. It takes off the mask. It's a
great way of sharing and getting in touch
with other people.
"I've learned about myself from the
game. I've gotten feedback, sometimes
surprising, about how I relate to my
A family therapy experience provided the stimulus for developing the
game. "I would give a family some
homework: every person was to suggest something for the whole group to
do together. The next week, I'd ask
what they had done and hear, 'Oh,
we played Monopoly' " So Weltzien,
a psychological associate, and psychologist Larry Brandt went to work and
developed a new board game.
"Now family members can do
something together, gamelike in quality,
not too risky, that can also give them
feedback about how they appear to
each other," says Weltzien.
There need be no loser in me
game. Players discuss how and when to
stop. Often they compromise on an
arbitrary limit, such as crossing a bridge
three times or getting six "warm fuzzies."
"People like the 'warm fuzzies' —
positive feedback — in this game,"
Weltzien says. "Positive feedback is something about you that's true that someone
likes. People just eat it up. They remember these positive strokes. Not many get
them in ordinary living.
"My seven-year-old daughter sometimes says, 'Why don't we all play the
warm fuzzy game? It makes everybody
"Warm fuzzy" is a term borrowed
from transactional analysis (TA), one
of the therapeutic methods the game
incorporates, along with some behavioral
psychology, Freudian, and gestalt. "The
game is cognitively well done," says
Weltzien. "I think we've covered the
holes that detract from similar games on
Players are not allowed put-downs
that make others feel bad. "You find out
that what you do gets done again," says
Weltzien. "If you practice making supportive statements and actions, you'll
do them more and more. Often, we take
for granted the good and comment only
"Children can't be expected to
know that all the negative stuff they hear
is coming from a very loving and caring
concern for their well-being. They need
to hear that they are liked and appreciated. These positive statements are
important to hear and say.
"From my work with school
groups, I find that mothers and fathers
really want to parent well, but they just
don't have the information. This game
heightens awareness of what you're
doing, how you act. If you know these
things, then you can change more easily.
You need to learn to talk about feelings.
"A child or teen can be helped to
feel important just by sharing time with
a parent. Merely sitting down and playing
with someone tells the other person that
he or she is of value.
"I'd say adolescents, as a group, get
less positive feedback than any other
people in our society. And women are
caught in situations almost like a kid.
But they're finding out they have a right
The game project has taken about a
year, so far. "We first decided on important topics to be covered - feelings,
reactions to family members, personal
values," Weltzien says. "Then we worked
up questions to develop self-knowledge
in these areas. What piece of furniture,
what animal, what kind of building would
you choose to be and why? If you could
write a book, what would it be about?
What's your favorite time of day? Describe how your family celebrates your
birthday. Is it what you want?
"Then we decided to make it very
gestalty and include feedback that has
to do with the game at hand: Who would
you like to go to a movie with in this
group? If you were Santa Claus, what
would you give the person across from
you? This kind of question can help a
person learn about what is going on at
that minute. It's important to share
with each other, so that others know
about you in ways not covered in daily
Weltzien and Brandt also designed
the board, chose colors, wrote and rewrote instructions, experimented with
many different production techniques
and all along got feedback from friends
and other professionals.
Since completion, the game has
been used by church, therapy and teaching groups. "I don't know how to get it
to more people who need to communicate more clearly but who aren't involved
in therapy," Weltzien says. "We've
advertised in Psychology Today and
other magazines, talked with major game
companies and publishing houses specializing in guidance and counseling materials. We did a direct mailing in the field.
Our biggest source of sales right now is
word of mouth. We've almost reached
"I'd like to see us break even and
have someone else sell and market it,"
she says. "We've talked about the next
step being to tailor it more for certain
groups who want to use it, such as
management training seminars or singles.
"I just don't like to sell things.
I like the challenge of having a novel
idea, putting it together and seeing that
it is packaged nicely. I'm not willing to
spend the time to do what it takes to
sell and market something to make a
lot of money. I've got other priorities —
my family, my professional work, alone
time, and 'outs' - contact with friends
for lunch, a show, a trip to the art
museum, l like to spend time with people
who are on the ball, well-rounded,
stimulating, idea-oriented." Contact with
such people is one reason for Weltzien's
work with the Unitarian Church, where
she was membership chair of the
Women's Group last year.
Of all her experiences with the
game, Weltzien takes umbrage in only
one area — the details of production.
"I hated the nitty gritty. I hated the
hassles related to having a good idea
and getting it in somewhat reasonable
form so I could share it."
But she has stuck by the project
and is optimistic about its worth: "I
really like seeing psychology applied
in a non-threatening way. I like to see
solid concepts put into everyday
Communication Bridge is carried
by H. Walt Hauffe & Co., 4203 Richmond, near Weslayan, 622-7191.
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