A great activity for everyone


Unravel the mystery: Act like others, confuse the 'psychiatrist' in this engaging group game!

By Jon Zajac

What is Psychiatrist?

The Psychiatrist icebreaker is a fun and engaging group activity that involves one person serving as the “psychiatrist” while the other participants act as “patients.” The purpose of this game is to confuse the designated psychiatrist by having each patient act like another person in the group, following a specific pattern that does not change. This pattern can be based on various factors, such as seating arrangement or physical characteristics.

The psychiatrist’s goal is to figure out who is acting like whom within a set amount of time, while the patients try their best to deceive the psychiatrist by answering questions and interacting with each other according to the established pattern. If the psychiatrist asks a question and a patient answers incorrectly, the person they are pretending to be must alert the psychiatrist, causing everyone to rearrange themselves.

This icebreaker is suitable for medium to large groups of 6 or more people, and it works best with participants aged 13 and above. It requires no materials other than a timer or stopwatch and can be played indoors. The game continues until the psychiatrist correctly guesses the pattern or the time runs out, at which point the last person to have spoken to the psychiatrist becomes the new psychiatrist for the next round.

This engaging activity encourages active listening, teamwork, and communication among participants, making it an excellent choice for icebreaker events, team-building exercises, or social gatherings. The Psychiatrist game is a fantastic way to create a lively atmosphere and help people get to know each other in a fun, interactive manner.

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Rules for Psychiatrist

  1. Choose one person to be the “psychiatrist” and have them leave the room.
  2. Have the remaining players, or “patients,” decide on a specific pattern for acting like each other.
  3. Bring the psychiatrist back into the room and line up the patients.
  4. Start the timer and allow the psychiatrist to question patients and guess their patterns.
  5. If a patient answers incorrectly when questioned by the psychiatrist, everyone must rearrange themselves.
  6. The game ends when the psychiatrist correctly guesses the pattern or time runs out.
  7. If the psychiatrist wins, they will be the winner of the game. If not, the patients win.
  8. After each round, the last person to have spoken to the psychiatrist becomes the new psychiatrist for the next round.

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Materials needed for Psychiatrist

  • Timer or stopwatch: This is used to keep track of the time allotted for the psychiatrist to guess the pattern.

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Setting up for Psychiatrist

To set up for the Psychiatrist icebreaker activity, there is no need for any specific materials as it’s more about organizing the group and explaining the rules. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Find a suitable indoor location where you can gather a medium to large-sized group of at least 6 people.
  2. Choose one person to be the “psychiatrist” and have them leave the room or an isolated area while the rest of the group remains.
  3. Have the remaining group members, who will be the “patients,” discuss and decide on a specific pattern that they will follow to act like each other. This pattern must not change throughout the game.
  4. Once the pattern is decided, bring the psychiatrist back into the room or area where the patients are seated in a circle.
  5. Start the timer for a set amount of time (recommended at least 5 minutes) and begin playing the game.

That’s it! The Psychiatrist icebreaker activity requires no materials, only organization and communication among the group members.

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How to play Psychiatrist

  1. Choose the Psychiatrist: I will select one person to be the “psychiatrist” and have them leave the room while the rest of us decide on a pattern to follow.
  2. Decide on a Pattern: While the psychiatrist is out of the room, we will discuss and agree on a specific pattern for acting like each other. For example, we might choose to act like the person to our immediate left, regardless of where we sit or move.
  3. Bring Back the Psychiatrist: Once we have established our pattern, I will bring the psychiatrist back into the room and line up the patients. The psychiatrist’s goal is to guess the pattern by asking questions and observing our interactions.
  4. Follow the Pattern: As “patients,” we must remain faithful to our chosen pattern throughout the game, even if it means correcting ourselves or others when necessary. If a patient answers a question incorrectly, the person they are pretending to be should yell out “psychiatrist!” and everyone will rearrange themselves accordingly.
  5. Rearrange When Necessary: After rearranging ourselves, the pattern remains consistent, and we continue acting according to our original plan. The game ends when the psychiatrist correctly guesses the pattern or when the designated time runs out. If the psychiatrist fails to guess the pattern within the set time limit, they lose, and the patients win.
  6. Pass the Role: After each round, the last person to have spoken with the psychiatrist becomes the new psychiatrist for the next game. This ensures everyone has a chance to participate in both roles and keeps the game engaging.

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Benefits of Psychiatrist

  • Encourages Active Listening: As the psychiatrist must listen carefully to each patient’s responses, this game helps improve active listening skills. This is a valuable skill for building strong relationships and excelling in both personal and professional settings.
  • Promotes Critical Thinking: The psychiatrist must analyze clues and make connections to figure out the pattern, which engages critical thinking. Similarly, patients need to think strategically about how they can maintain their disguise while responding honestly to questions.
  • Fosters Teamwork: The game encourages collaboration as players work together to create a consistent pattern that confuses the psychiatrist. By relying on each other’s ideas and supporting one another, participants strengthen their teamwork abilities.
  • Enhances Communication Skills: Players practice verbal communication while interacting with the psychiatrist and fellow patients. The game also encourages nonverbal communication as players must maintain their characters’ mannerisms throughout the session.
  • Boosts Confidence: By pretending to be someone else, participants can step out of their comfort zones and try on new personas. This can lead to increased self-confidence, which is beneficial for both personal growth and interpersonal relationships.
  • Encourages Adaptability: The game requires quick thinking and flexibility as players must adjust their responses based on the psychiatrist’s questions and actions. Developing this ability helps participants become more resilient in the face of unexpected changes or challenges.
  • Provides Entertainment: Above all, the Psychiatrist icebreaker is an enjoyable activity that can help build camaraderie among participants. It sparks laughter and excitement as players try to outsmart one another, making it an engaging way to strengthen interpersonal bonds.

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Skills built with Psychiatrist

  • Communication skills: Players need to effectively communicate with each other in order to decide on a pattern and act it out convincingly. The psychiatrist must also use active listening and clear communication to gather clues and make deductions about the pattern.
  • Critical thinking skills: The psychiatrist must analyze the information gathered from questioning patients and make logical deductions in order to guess the pattern. Players acting as patients must also think critically to maintain their pattern and come up with convincing responses to the psychiatrist’s questions.
  • Teamwork skills: All players must work together to create a believable scenario and maintain the agreed-upon pattern. This requires cooperation, trust, and effective communication.
  • Problem-solving skills: The psychiatrist is presented with a puzzle that they must solve within a set amount of time. They must use their problem-solving skills to gather information, make deductions, and ultimately guess the pattern correctly.
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence: Players must put themselves in other people’s shoes and act like them, requiring empathy and understanding of others’ behaviors and characteristics. The psychiatrist must also be able to read body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues to gather clues about the pattern.
  • Confidence and self-presentation: Players acting as patients must present themselves confidently and in character, maintaining their act even when questioned by the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist must also present themselves with confidence and authority in order to lead the game and make deductions.

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Why I like Psychiatrist

I enjoy playing the Psychiatrist icebreaker game for several reasons. First, it is a great way to encourage communication and interaction among a group of people, making it an ideal activity for gatherings and team-building events. The game’s rules are simple enough for anyone to understand, yet it also allows for strategic thinking and problem-solving, which keeps things interesting and engaging.

Another reason I like the Psychiatrist icebreaker is that it promotes creativity and role-playing. By acting as someone else in the group, players can think outside the box and come up with unique ways to express themselves while still following a predetermined pattern. This aspect of the game also helps build empathy and understanding among participants, as they must put themselves in someone else’s shoes and consider their thoughts and feelings.

Additionally, I appreciate that the Psychiatrist icebreaker can be played with a variety of group sizes and ages, making it a versatile and inclusive activity. The game’s setup is minimal, requiring only a circle of players and a timer, so it can be easily adapted to different settings and time constraints.

Lastly, I find the Psychiatrist icebreaker to be a fun and entertaining way to build connections and strengthen relationships among group members. By working together to outsmart the psychiatrist, players must rely on each other’s strengths and trust in one another’s abilities. This collaborative aspect of the game fosters a sense of community and camaraderie that can last long after the game has ended.

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Tips for making Psychiatrist more inclusive

  • Tip: Use gender-neutral language. Instead of using gendered terms like “guys” or “girls,” use more inclusive language such as “everyone” or “people.” This ensures that all players feel welcome and respected, regardless of their gender identity.
  • Tip: Allow for flexibility in seating arrangements. Make sure the game can be played with players in wheelchairs or with other mobility aids by allowing for flexible seating arrangements. Consider using cushions or stools so that everyone can sit at the same level.
  • Tip: Encourage respectful communication. Remind players to speak clearly and slowly, use respectful language, and avoid ableist or discriminatory language. This creates a safe and inclusive space for all players to participate.
  • Tip: Modify the game for neurodiverse players. Consider modifying the game for neurodiverse players by allowing them to opt out of certain activities or providing visual cues to help them follow along with the game. This ensures that all players can fully participate and enjoy the game, regardless of their neurological differences.
  • Tip: Use culturally sensitive language. Be mindful of cultural differences and use language that is sensitive to diverse backgrounds and experiences. Avoid stereotypes or assumptions about certain cultures or groups. This helps create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all players.

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Reflection questions for Psychiatrist

  1. What was your experience being the psychiatrist? This question can help the participant reflect on their role as the psychiatrist and the strategies they used to try and guess the pattern. It also allows them to share any challenges they faced or successes they had during the game.
  2. How did you decide who to act like in the group, and why? This question can help participants think about the decision-making process behind choosing who to act like in the group. It may reveal insights into how individuals perceive themselves and others in the group dynamic.
  3. Did you find it challenging to maintain your character throughout the game, and if so, why? This question can prompt reflection on the effort required to sustain a character and the potential difficulties that arose. Participants might discuss how staying in character affected their interactions with others and the overall group dynamics.
  4. What strategies did you use to confuse the psychiatrist or figure out the pattern as a patient? This question can help participants consider the various tactics used during the game, such as body language, tone of voice, or specific phrases, and how effective they were in achieving their goals.
  5. How might this game relate to real-life situations where you need to guess someone’s intentions or navigate social dynamics? This question can encourage participants to think about the connections between the game and real-world scenarios, helping them develop critical thinking skills and self-awareness.
  6. What did you learn about yourself or others while playing this game? This question allows for open reflection on personal insights gained during the game, as well as observations of group dynamics and individual behaviors. It can help participants deepen their understanding of themselves and their relationships with others.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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