Members Article – Monopoly

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Diversional Therapist working in mental health, I am fortunate to be continually challenged with a wide range of client goals. These goals can be as diverse as; overcoming social isolation, lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment of everyday activities and even learning how to use currency! Learning how to use Australian currency? Do Diversional Therapists even do that?

Recently I worked with two rehabilitation clients. Both were from a Non English Speaking Background (NESB) with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia and Traumatic Brain Injury. Client A identified a range of rehabilitation based goals, two of which were to learn how to read and write in English and to learn how to use Australian money. Client B wanted to be able to use and understand his money more confidently.

The Occupational Therapist (Helen Driscoll) and I worked on both goals concurrently. After a brief tea break conversation, we developed a great idea. We wanted to support our clients to successfully achieve their goals but we wanted to achieve this in a fun and interesting way. Being a locked Mental Health Ward, with clients who were unable to access the community we thought, “What better way to learn how to use money than to play Monopoly?” This classic family board game was an ideal way to teach our clients how to effectively use Australian Money in a restricted environment, while also addressing a range of other goals such as the ability to follow instructions, turn taking, dealing with frustration and developing concentration tolerance.

Currently there are no versions of Monopoly that use realistic Australian notes. All games including the Sydney and Australian versions, use $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and $500 notes. As nice as it would be to have a $500 note here in Australia, they don’t exist. So the task began to create realistic money that could be used for the game, without getting us in trouble with the authorities for alleged counterfeiting! The kind administration staff here at Liverpool and I searched high and low for realistic money but most of the notes we found were too small or the packs did not provide enough money for the game to be played successfully. So, in true DT and OT fashion, coloured paper was collected and stencils were developed. We used images of each denomination and copied them on to the appropriate colour – yellow for $50 and green for $100 etc. We also made $1 and $2 coins to teach the skill of making change and off we went.

I ran two Monopoly sessions in the afternoons with a week break in between. Both NESB clients, two interpreters and I all sat down and played a game. The clients quickly picked up the rules and were truly excited to play the game. They were fascinated by the designs and artwork and asked a range of questions. They were particularly interested in the people portrayed on the notes and their significance – a big test of how well I remembered my primary school history lessons!

The idea was a success. The clients developed their monetary skills quickly. With prompting and support, my clients were able to provide change to one another, understand the use of multiple notes to make a non-standard sum and calculate the change to expect from a transaction. The fun and enjoyment of playing Monopoly enabled them to develop confidence in using Australian currency. There were no issues regarding concentration, understanding or retaining information and one client stated that, “I really enjoyed the game and I feel like I can figure out my change now when I go out”.

This activity is great for clients to build confidence and develop their skill and understanding of how Australian currency works, while doing it in a leisure-based and enjoyable way. Activities developed by Diversional Therapists need to support and challenge clients’ wellbeing while also addressing their goals. However, it is important to remember that goals can always be addressed in a way that is more enjoyable and worthwhile. This program addressed these concerns and gave my clients the opportunity to progress in their rehabilitation and to develop skills to engage confidently with their community.

The ability to effectively manipulate money is vital in everyday society and does not need to be taught in a structured classroom environment. So start buying those houses and a hotel will be there before you know it!

Lucy Bade
Diversional Therapist
Liverpool Hospital NSW, Mental Health Rehabilitation

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