Card Play Props

Some examples of different types of props that can be used in Card Play.

The central prop used in Card Play are decks of cards with evocative visual imagery. There are many, many, many different card decks available. I will describe the types of decks and props most suitable for Card Play. The most important element of a Card Play deck is the imagery. 

Tarot Cards

Tarot cards are perhaps what most people think of when they think of an image-based deck of cards. While the typical intended use of tarot cards is as a divination system unto itself, they function differently in Card Play. The focus is on the imagery of the card and what it elicits in you. A benefit of using tarot cards is most tarot decks come with a guide book that describes the meanings of the cards. The cards generally reflect some aspect of the human experience, each card a kind of facet of a larger crystal. You can use these ‘meanings’ as ‘points of view’, almost like from another person or part of yourself, to explicitly focus on a certain aspect of your situation or experience. However, before you explore the meanings of your cards using a guide book or other resource, first explore your personal associations and meanings to the imagery of the tarot card. 

Tarot cards in Card Play can be used represent characters or entities, since many tarot decks often portray figures like people or animals.

There are many tarot decks available in a variety of themes.

Oracle Decks

Oracle decks are similar to tarot cards. Oracle cards often have concepts written on them, in addition to imagery. In Card Play, sometimes you can use the oracle card as a Concept Card (described below). When you are choosing an oracle card to work with in Card Play, you may be choosing it partly because of the image and partly because of the concept words on it. For this reason, at times you may prefer to work with oracle cards as opposed to purely image-based cards.

Some oracle decks are centered on entities such as fictional beings or creatures (real and fantastical). These can be useful when exploring characters, inner roles, and parts of self in Card Play.

Archetypes or Symbols Decks

Decks that focus on archetypes are useful when exploring characters, parts of self, and inner roles. Although they may have images on them, the archetype, character, or role portrayed is the most salient aspect in terms of Card Play. These can function as Character Concepts, described below.

Affirmation Decks

These can be useful additions to Card Play to help explore different and supportive perspectives. These can function as helpful and supportive thoughts or perspectives you may want to incorporate into your daily life.

Emotion Decks

These can be helpful to assist deepening understanding of emotional experiences explored in Card Play.

Instead of or in addition to emotion cards, a ‘feelings wheel’ or a feelings list can help you identify subtleties among emotional experiences. Here is a free helpful list from the Hofmann Institute

Image-Only Decks

Imagery used in card play should be evocative. Unlike tarot and oracle cards, image-only cards rely solely on your interpretations and associations, making them a potent element in Card Play. There are decks available to purchase. However, you can also make your own using photographs and other images. You can be creative in terms of how you obtain your image decks. This process of seeking cards from different sources supports developing a creative skill of seeing different ways to use an object. When you see something visual, consider whether or not it will be useful for you in Card Play. Other ideas: postcards, greeting cards, games…any large collection of evocative images in card form.

Psychotherapy Decks

Often written by mental health professionals, these present specific skills from psychotherapy modalities. These can be used to help determine what to do in a given situation explored through Card Play. These can inspire practices for daily life.

Intention Decks

Similar to Affirmation Decks, these are often small cards and consist of a single word, typically evocative. Use these as Concept Cards due to the evocative nature of the words.

Self Care Decks

Similar to psychotherapy decks but not necessarily written by a mental health professional. Nevertheless, these can often point to concrete actions that can be taken to support overall wellbeing.

Question Decks

Some decks have lots of introspective questions. Answers can be explored using Card Play processes. As described above, Card Play facilitates exploration from a variety of perspectives.

Concept Cards

Concept Cards aren’t random words. They are evocative. There are various decks available, such as for creating stories or poems, that can function as Concept Cards. You can create your own using paint chips from hardware stores. Paint chips can be helpful when coming up with titles for your Card Play. I’ve created four sets of different Concept Cards useful in Card Play, putting careful thought and intention in choosing the words. Concept Cards are primarily words. 

Character Concepts: a collection of characters and roles useful in exploring internal roles and parts of self. Often in Card Play these are externalized as characters. Often archetypal.

Location Concepts: A collection of various settings intended to augment and deepen exploration. Can function as metaphors.

Healing Concepts: A collection of various objects that symbolize strengths and resources. Function symbolically and as metaphors.

Concepts Cards: A fundamental Concept Card is added to an image card to direct a new meaning or interpretation.

Props That Are Not Cards

I mention the below items to encourage outside the box thinking when approaching Card Play. In a sense, Card Play creates an ephemeral collage.

Word Tiles 

I have a large container of ‘word tiles’ I purchased at Target. Although not evocative in and of itself, I might pull a tile and associate it to something else. These are not nearly as useful as Concept Cards but they can function as props and therefore are an option.

Similar to word tiles are word beads, which I have purchased at Michael’s craft store. With words like, ‘wish’ and ‘dream’ these are slightly more evocative than the tiles.

Story Prompt Flip Book

I bough this at a teacher’s supply store. It has creative prompts for stories. This or something similar can be used as prompts for Card Tricks.

Story Cubes

Symbolic in nature, these can function like Concept Cards to add an idea/concept in Card Play or present some kind of strength or helping factor to a character. The idea is for you to free associate with the symbol; what does it mean to you in the context of your current Card Play process?

There are also cubes with words on them that can function as Concept Cards.

Bag of Tricks

I created this after learning of a similar idea in one of my classes in graduate school. Essentially, I curated a collection of small symbolic objects. Like Concept Cards, these represent concepts, ideas, people, or strengths/resources.

I created, wrote, and produced this deck of 50 practices intended to support wellness & wellbeing. It's now available for purchase on Etsy and Amazon!

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