In A Better You

Group Therapy Activities for Overcoming Emotional Problems

group therapy activities

Group therapy can help you overcome mental and emotional difficulties in your life. Rather than work individually with a professional therapist, you have sessions in a group environment of anywhere between 5-12 people. Through Group Therapy Activities, you have a chance to meet and befriend others with similar needs, learn how to deal with your problems and move on.

Group Therapy Benefits and Goals

Group therapy activities are designed to help people improve their communications, problem solving, social and trust building skills by:

  • identifying and changing undesirable behavior
  • overcoming mental and emotional difficulties in their lives
  • developing a support system to help achieve their goals

By using a wide range of approaches, group therapy can help people get a handle on many of their personal concerns to include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental health problems, etc.

When it comes to therapy, there are many benefits to working with others who share your concerns as opposed to working with a therapist on your own. Group sessions give you the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. As you become friends with members of your group, your support network grows. You’ll soon be gleaning new tactics for improving your personal situation as well as helping others do the same.

As you become more open in sharing your experiences, you’ll realize that you’re not alone. Many people go through the same struggles and need help to carry on. Working with others helps put your situation into perspective so you can focus on solutions rather than succumbing to your problems. Working with a diverse group lets you see how people from different backgrounds and walks of life handle similar problems in their lives. You’ll be able to share ideas and strategies for making progress in areas you are lacking.

Understanding Group Therapy Activities

There are dozens of ideas for group therapy activities, both for children and adults. These activities will vary to correspond with people’s problems. If you need help with alcohol or drug abuse, you can benefit from activities geared for helping you overcome these problems. In like manner, mental health group therapy activities are more conducive to people suffering from mental problems. There are also group therapy activities for kids to help them manage anxiety, anger, mood swings or ADHD.

By consulting a professional therapist, you’ll get a better idea of how group therapy can benefit you and/or your children. Group therapy approaches can be divided into the following categories:

  1. Icebreakers: introductory activities to help group members become acquainted with each other
  2. Trust building activities: designed to help members develop a rapport and establish a relationship of trust
  3. Psychological exercises: provides greater insight into members’ thinking and behavior patterns
  4. Behavior therapy activities: helps children (or adults) learn desired behaviors through a system of rewards and consequences

Taking your circumstances into consideration, your therapist can help you determine what approach(es) would work best for you.

Substance Abuse Group Therapy Activities for Adults

Substance abuse therapy is designed to help individuals overcome problems with alcohol or drug abuse and give them a chance to start anew. This therapy focuses on helping addicts break their addiction, educating them on the dangers of substance abuse, teaching them new life skills and helping them create new habits free of alcohol or drug use.

Motivating former addicts to stay off alcohol or drugs and establishing new habits are important steps toward long term recovery. Therapists may use discussion sessions and/or a series of activities to help work towards these goals. Here are a few examples of group activities geared for this purpose:

Denial Story Writing

Before addicts can get a victory over substance abuse, they need to acknowledge they have a problem. Denial story writing is an activity used to help addicts get through the denial process. It involves writing their story of how they got hooked on alcohol or drugs, from the beginning up to the time of joining a therapy group. The group members are not allowed to put their names on their stories. Once completed, the stories are collected by the therapist and redistributed among different group members. Each member then reads aloud the story they have received. Whenever members hear a statement that gives the impression of denying addiction or downplaying the seriousness of this condition, they silently raise their hands. Through this activity, group members grasp the importance of acknowledging their problem.

Throwing It Away

In this activity, group members make a personal list of alcohol or drug abuse behaviors and repercussions of yielding to these behaviors. Each list is read out loud. After everyone shares their list, a waste basket is placed in the middle of the group. Each member then tears or wads up their list and throws it away, symbolizing their commitment to discard their destructive behavior and start anew.

Drug Refusal Role-Playing

Learning to refuse drugs or alcohol is key to gaining a victory over an addiction. Through role-play, group members practice refusing drugs from a “dealer,” friend or even family member, who is being role played by another person in the group. During the course of the exercise, other members can make suggestions on how to handle different scenarios that may arise, giving everyone a chance to learn and exercise effective drug refusal skills.

Mental Illness Group Therapy Activities

Mental illness patients often need help in various areas to include social interactions, memory and attention span and problem solving. Through activities and games, therapists encourage group members to work on improving these areas without getting angry or frustrated in the process. Here are a few group therapy activity ideas therapists may use for honing a patient’s mental skills.

Role-play, acting out short stories or playing charades is a fun way of engaging mental illness patients in socializing with each other while helping them practice dialogue, listening and body language skills.

Card and board games such as Memory, Go Fish and Uno and group puzzles focus on practicing listening, memory and problem solving skills. The Alphabet Game is also a great choice for stimulating a person’s memory. This game starts with one person gazing around the room and saying something he sees that begins with the letter “A”. The next person repeats what he said and adds something else with the letter “B.” The game proceeds in this manner throughout the entire alphabet. Using objects from the room gives others a chance to remember what was said by looking around.

Group Therapy for Kids

Like adults, children can also benefit from group therapy activities for anxiety, depression, anger management, etc. Through fun group therapy activities, kids can develop good social skills and learn new behavior patterns that will benefit them at home and school. Monkey See, Monkey Do is one game therapists can use to teach kids appropriate behaviors (kids copy how the therapist acts in different situations).

Art therapy is yet another means of helping kids with emotional problems. According to Art Psychotherapist, Leila Moules, “creative expression can help manage anger, anxiety and pain.” Her art therapy classes can provide kids with “opportunities to practice new behavior and new ways of relating to others”, enabling them to “find parameters for new and positive behavior.”

Sample Group Therapy Activities for Kids

Surf the Angry Sea – Children picture their anger as a wave in the ocean and draw or paint this wave to illustrate what it’s like. They are then taught how to “ride the wave” rather than let it crash on top of them. Once their picture is done, they can write inside the wave the various causes of their anger.

Inner Child – Kids draw a picture of a child that represents them. They then write words around their picture to describe what he or she needs to be happy, such as safe home, loving parents, brothers, sisters, pet, etc. Kids then talk about what’s important in their livs to be happy.

Wishes and Gratitude – Kids are asked to draw or paint a tree with long roots and tall branches. Along the roots, kids write things they are thankful for. Along the branches, kids can draw leaves and write inside the leaves things they wish for. Once everyone is finished, they can share their gratitude and wish list with their group and talk about the role gratitude plays in making their wishes come true.

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