CLEARWATER, Fla. — As concerns about the prevalence of mental health issues continue to rise, alternative ways to manage them are emerging. Roughly half of adults in the United States who have mental health issues seek treatment, according to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

What You Need To Know

  •  SmashBox20 in Clearwater is merging smashing objects with therapy

  •  Participants are paired with a therapist who walks them through exercises designed to release pent-up emotions

  •  Kaci Crook, a therapist and Guided Smash coach, says smash therapy can be less intimidating than traditional talk therapy

SmashBox20, a rage room in Clearwater, has started a new program that integrates smashing with therapy. Participants are paired with a mental health professional who walks them through exercises created to release pent-up emotions, followed by a traditional talk therapy session.

“I think it’s a lot less intimidating than coming into a therapist’s office, having to bare your soul and talk when you can just go in and break stuff,” said Kaci Crook, a Guided Smash coach. “I think that’s really appealing to people, and it’s really, really helpful to release stuff.”

Crook said that through smashing, patients create visual representations of anxiety, depression, trauma and other challenges leaving the body. Her primary goal during each session is to make the participant feel comfortable enough to give it their all.

“There’s a lot of internalized messages of ‘I can’t break things, I can’t make messes, this isn’t normal,’” Crook said. “Getting them past that first and being like it’s OK to let loose, just smash things and have fun.”

Diane Williams wanted to try a Guided Smash session to help work through her anxiety.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to release that just by talking,” she said. “I felt like smashing something or throwing something. I’d be able to release some of that anxiety I have without having to talk about it.”

Ultimately, Crook wants her participants to leave each session feeling tired and lighter inside. Williams turned her worries into strength, smashing everyday items into a million little pieces. She left the room feeling liberated, having chipped away at her anxiety.

“I was worried that I wasn’t going to feel anything,” she said. “I was worried that the anxiety was so thick and so deep within that breaking things wouldn’t help me, but it really did.”

The Guided Smash program is part of Smash Intervention Technologies, a new collaboration between SmashBox20, the University of South Florida and the Cypress Wellness Center in St. Petersburg. The program also includes a mobile smash clinic and a virtual reality smash room, which is currently in development.