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Worry stones (palm stones, thumb stones) are smooth, polished gemstones, usually in the shape of an oval with a thumb-sized indentation, used for relaxation or anxiety relief. They are used by holding the stone between the index finger and thumb and gently moving one's thumb back and forth across the stone.
From the perspective of cognitive behavior therapy, the use of worry stones is one of many folk practices that can function as psychologically healthy self-soothing exercises. Such techniques are imparted at an early stage of treatment, displacing any familiar but destructive coping methods (nail-biting, scratching, lip-biting, etc.) that the patient may have developed. This helps ready the patient to safely confront anxiety or trauma. Worry stones are simple and intuitive enough to be useful in therapeutic contexts where complexity and unfamiliarity are paramount concerns, such as when offering short-term treatment to refugees or children with post-traumatic stress disorder. After a patient has mastered a more sophisticated relaxation script for anxiety management, the worry stone itself can serve as a physical 'relaxation script reminder'; the patient may notice an impulse to use the object, and thereby become aware of their own anxiety.
Worry stones enjoyed relative popularity in the 1970s.
- Brief Therapy of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Refugees. Sara Nieves-Grafals. In Trends in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Research, ed. Thomas A. Corales. Reference pp. 195-196.
- Pediatric Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Judith A. Cohen, Audra Langley. In Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Children and Adolescents, ed. Eva Szigethy, John R. Weisz, Robert L. Findling. Reference p. 294.
- Menhirs, Dolmen and Circles of Stone. The Folk-Nature of Sacred Stones.
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