Feeling Floor Check: Tools of the Trade

May 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Tian Dayton in Addiction | Trauma

The Feeling Floor Check is one of my most popular exercises. I created it about fifteen or twenty years ago when managed care took over and at that time clinicians in our area were being given groups of thirty and told to provide them with a therapeutic experience. I adapted the concept of locogram and very timidly started putting feelings on pieces of paper, I honestly thought that psychodramatists would object to my being somehow too prescriptive but I needed to come up with something that was safe, contained and experiential. Since that time, neuroscience has underscored the importance of working with emotion and self regulation.

This floor check does that easily. As clients “find” what they are feeling on the floor they begin to identify something that’s going on within them. As they move from feeling to feeling, the emotion that they are choosing grows inside of them. They then translate what they are feeling into words which helps to regulate and right size it and teaches them skills of emotional literacy. They share openly what they are experiencing on the inside, they listen to others as they share and then they connect with others who may be feeling similarly or they develop some empathy for those who may be feeling something else.RTR_opt

Feeling Floor Check

Excerpted from RTR Relationship Trauma Repair  @ Tian Dayton PhD TEP

Goals: 1. To expand a restricted range of affect that can be the result of trauma.

2. To allow the group to become comfortable identifying, articulating, and sharing emotion.

3. To allow the group to connect with each other around vulnerable emotions, share and take in sharing and support.

4. To teach and develop emotional literacy and emotional intelligence.

5. To help clients learn to”tolerate” and talk about painful emotions so that they are less likely to act them out and relapse over them.

6. To help clients learn to “tolerate” and talk about positive and self-affirming emotions so that they are less likely to relapse over them.

Notes to Therapist: Learning the skills of self-regulation and regulation of basic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is core to trauma treatment and relapse prevention. The feeling floor check is designed to facilitate this learning process. Those who have experienced relationship trauma can have trouble tolerating their intense feelings without acting out, imploding, exploding, or self medicating. The feeling floor check allows clients to get in touch with both what they are feeling and how much they are feeling, i.e., emotional intensity. They learn to share emotions and listen to others do the same. Trauma shuts emotions down, the feeling floor check reawakens and categorizes emotion. One of the main tasks of recovery from trauma is to learn how to feel strong emotions and translate them into words, so that the thinking mind can bring order and balance to the limbic brain/body (read: emotions and sense impressions) through insight and understanding. As with all parts of this model, keep interpretation and advice to a minimum, the idea is for clients to take a hold of their own inner world and learn to manage it without the use of substances or compulsive behaviors. As much as possible allow the healing group to work its magic through mutual sharing, identifying and support. The more that clients come to their own “ahas” and learn to get in touch with their own internal “healer” and “teacher,” the more they will be able to bring themselves into balance when triggered once they leave treatment. That is what this experiential model is designed for, to create an experience that has teaching and therapy inherent within it so that clients feel that they are learning organically and coming to know and manage themselves, in a sense, on their own.


1. On 8 x 10 pieces of paper write “feeling” words such as angry, sad, anxious, content, hopeful, frustrated, desperate, happy, etc., always leaving a few pieces of paper blank for the group members to write in their own feeling words. Have one paper marked “other” so clients can “write in” their own emotion.

2. Place the words a couple of feet apart from each other, scattered around the floor.

3. Ask participants to “stand on or near” the feeling that best describes their mood of the moment.

4. Say, “Whenever you are warmed-up, share in a sentence or two as to why you are standing where you’re standing.”

5. After all who wish to have shared, allow the group to repeat the process and stand on another feeling that they might also be experiencing (note: learning to “hold” more than one feeling at a time helps clients to tolerate living in “gray” rather than “black and white”) then share as before.

6. At this point you can vary the next criterion questions by asking, “Which feeling do you avoid feeling?”

7. If the group still has energy to continue to explore more questions you can further vary criterion questions by asking, “Which feeling do you have trouble tolerating in someone else?.” Or, if you want to build resilience you might ask, “Which feeling would you like to experience more of in your recovery?”

8. Next invite the group members to “place their hand on the shoulder of someone who shared something with which you identified.” Group members can share directly with the person why they chose him or her. The entire group can do this at once.

9. Psychodramas may emerge out of the sociometry at any point in this process. 10.Next sit down and share about the entire process and what came up throughout

Variations: For each question asked, group members can share so that the entire group can hear them or, if the group is large, they can share with those who are standing on the same word that they chose. If they share on the same word they are sociometrically aligned and sharing with those who are feeling the same as they are, this helps to train clients to “take in sharing and support” and reduces isolation. The word choosing can go on as long as it is useful, depending on the needs of the group. Generally, the group is saturated by the third or fourth choice.




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Tian Dayton, MA, PhD, TEP, is the Director of the New York Psychodrama Training Institute and the Program Development for Breathe Life Healing Centers and executive editor of the Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy. She serves on the board of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics and is the author of 15 books. Dr. Dayton is the creator of the Internet's first interactive self-help website, www.emotionexplorer.com. Learn more at www.tiandayton.com.

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