Get the Coping Card PDF and PPT by clicking here.

*This index card activity is an adaptation of Veteran and psychologist Dr. Craig Bryan and Dr. David Rudd’s evidence-based “Crisis Response Planning” intervention.

By far one of my most popular “how to” moments in my workshops is this coping card. Here’s where you’ll find the directions and a download. This is an activity parents can do at home with their kids, teachers or even academic advisors can do with students, counselors can do with a camper, or you can do for yourself.

Everyone should have a coping card. Because life never goes perfectly.

Life can be awesome, boring, uncomfortable, and even explode in your face. And when we hit life’s speed bumps and the going is not easy, how will we handle it? Is there a way to prevent a crisis? Who would you talk to? What matters to you?

Based on Dr. David Rudd and Dr. Craig Bryan’s work in suicide prevention, this “coping card” is an edited version of their CRP or Crisis Response Plan. This is the mental health version for everybody.

It’s just a plan-ahead tool that helps you think about how you will manage or avoid a crisis and who you’d be willing to reach out to.

Elements of the Coping Card

Headings for the “Coping Card”

  1. Reasons for living
  2. Name two trusted adults
  3. List healthy coping strategies
  4. Crisis and support resources
  5. Backside: List of “wins”

Front side of the coping card

The orientation of the card doesn’t matter. North/South was easier for me to fit all the stuff.

coping card side 1 filled in

1. Reasons for Living (at least 2, plus keywords that activate a happy memory)

In addition to at least two reasons for living which can be a dog, family, friends, or even your YouTube audience, there should also be keywords related to a past event that makes a person feel good. So for example I have “Vienna 1998” on mine.

Those two keywords I wrote activate a pleasant memory of a time when we had a magical night laughing, connecting, and dining in a castle with the royal family in Vienna. The “reasons for living” portion of the card is the part that studies have shown is the most effective in reminding people what’s important in life. So while this is a coping card for everyone, I kept “reasons for living” as the title but you can name it whatever you like as long as the spirit is the same.

To identify that which might qualify as a “reason for living” think about what is most important to you.

2. Name two trusted adults (at least 2)

Whether you are a teen or an adult, who are are two adults you’d go to if you had any kind of issue that was keeping you up at night.

A trusted adult is someone over 25 you trust to talk through private issues from wanting to change your major to going through a divorce. These are two people, regular people, who know how to listen. For students, the trusted adult doesn’t have to be a parent but it can be.

The reason I mention over 25 is that people over this age typically have a fully developed frontal lobe, meaning the cockpit of their brain has developed sufficiently to be able to ask the questions that help you arrive at your own answers.

3. Healthy Coping Strategies (at least 2)

If you can, have a discussion about what defines a healthy coping strategy. One good rule of thumb is, “Will this strategy help you or hurt you long term?

So having a glass of wine every time you are anxious could set you up for what? Becoming dependent or addicted, excessive weight gain, impaired driving, and functioning. Numbing problems simply put them on hold and they often come back like a boomerang on steroids.

The goal is to have a toolbox full of strategies from which you can choose. Some list deep breathing, others list writing. Other examples have included “reading fart jokes” or “reading the bible.” Rock climbing, beekeeping, drawing, listening to music, counting to 10, intense exercise, gardening, cooking, yoga, Tibetan singing bowls, and dancing are all examples of coping skills. Breaking things down into micro-steps, and learning DBT emotional regulation skills are all ways to find relief in moments of despair.

4. Crisis and Support Resources

These are just numbers you call in crisis and numbers you might call prior to a crisis. Ideally, you want some local resources as most all counties in the USA have a 24/7 crisis line.

So you might recognize signs that distress is coming and so you might reach out to warmline in your state (USA), for example. Warmlines are listed here. Simply click on the words “WARMLNE DIRECTORY.” This is a great alternative to crisis lines when you just need to talk to someone who has likely been through something similar to you.

Examples of resources here:

Support

  • USA Warm Lines (peer support not a crisis line to talk to someone who has been there)
  • TrevorSpace Discussion Board for LGBTQ+ support (peer support and not a crisis line)
  • Grief Support
  • Other examples of support could be AA, NA, Families Anonymous members, SMART recovery group members, a sponsor, peer from a NAMI Peer Support Group or NAMI Family Support Group, rape crisis line, domestic violence line and so on.

Crisis

The flip side of the coping card can have “wins and accomplishments”

coping card side 2 filled in wins

That is to remind a person of things they are good at and what it is an accomplishment. Because sometimes when we are down on ourselves, we forget all our wins and this serves as a reminder.

I have a secret web page of all the comments people have made over the years. I have thousands but I save a few for this page as a reminder on days I think, “Nobody cares.” It gets me out of that funk. On my card, I have glued these comments as reminders that what I do is important. 

*This index card activity is an adaptation of Veteran and psychologist Dr. Craig Bryan and Dr. David Rudd’s evidence-based “Crisis Response Planning” intervention.

coping card activity ebook

Coping Card Activity (PPT and PDF) The coping card activity for everyone