Substance abuse group activities are commonly used to treat addiction. These activities, whether pursued as an alternative to individual therapy or in addition to it, are incredibly useful tools for those in addiction treatment. In a typical group therapy session, group members sit in a circle, taking turns to share their thoughts and feelings with each other and a therapist who leads the group. Group members may choose to discuss particular themes, or process experiences together instead.
Many groups are open, meaning new members may join at any time. Other groups consider themselves as closed, so new members may only join when a new group forms. Regardless of the group format, members expect confidentiality. The only time confidentiality may be broken is if the group’s therapist becomes concerned for a group member’s safety or the safety of someone else.
In each session, you may engage in a number of group activities. The following 10 group therapy activities are commonly used to treat addiction and mental illness.
Starting the session with a brief meditation can set a tone of calm for the day. It can also serve as an ice breaker, especially if a new member has joined the group. Popular group meditations include reading aloud an insightful passage and reflecting on it as a group. Modeling daily meditation in the group can also help motivate group members to practice meditation on their own.
“Checking in” is a time for group members to go around in a circle, introduce themselves and state how they are feeling. To aid in the process, the group therapist may post a list of emotions to draw from to aid in the process. This activity works to cultivate social skills, including emotional self-awareness and empathy. It can also serve as an opportunity to go over the group’s ground rules, encouraging a non-judgmental and productive session for all.
Many groups for addiction follow the 12 steps. The 12 steps are a set of guiding principles that are used to treat all kinds of addiction. They center around accepting help from a power greater rather than oneself to overcome addiction and make amends. Group members support each other by working through the steps together and building trust with other group members.
Reflecting on one’s highs and lows in life is a common practice in group therapy. On a large piece of paper, group members plot out these points and connect them with a line. They then share with the group the feelings and thoughts they have surrounding their life’s timeline. Together, the group discusses the ways these events are similar and different from each other. They will also reflect on their individual goals for the future.
Under the leadership of the group’s therapist, group members use cognitive behavioral therapy to work through a problem related to their addiction. Members will identify their triggers and the core beliefs surrounding their addiction. Together, group members reflect on the seemingly unmanageable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that resulted from their triggers.
Additionally, the group will challenge their negative thoughts and irrational beliefs and discuss best and worst-case scenarios. Cognitive behavioral therapy equips group members with greater insight, perspective, and confidence to face their own problems. It also teaches them effective actions and coping skills to manage life’s challenges and avoid relapse.
Practicing mindfulness is another way for group members to cope with unmanageable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It involves paying attention consciously, without judgment, and with compassion for oneself. Examples of mindfulness practices include repeating a meaningful mantra, focusing on one’s breathing, and grounding oneself in the 5 senses. Yoga is a popular way for group members to practice these techniques.
After completing a mindfulness practice, group members are encouraged to share what they noticed or how they felt during the practice. Group members may notice feeling less anxious, happier, more energetic, and more in tune with themselves and the world around them. Over time, regular practice of mindfulness can help members of the group manage cravings, cope with anxiety and depression, build intentional relationships, and maintain sobriety.
Under the direction of the group’s therapist, group members can use role-play to act out significant parts of a group member’s life. Given these similarities to a theatrical performance, this activity is also known as psychodrama.
At the end of each “scene,” the therapist checks in with the group member whose life events are being reenacted. Together, they discuss and process strong emotions evoked by the scene. The role-play session often ends with the therapist recasting key individuals of the group member’s experience and rewriting key events so that he or she might obtain healing and closure.
Music therapy can be a welcome addition to a group therapy session. Forms of music therapy for a group setting include:
All these activities produce therapeutic sound frequencies that promote a sense of wellbeing, as well as a greater awareness of oneself.
Cooperative games such as untying a “human knot” and forming a “human pipeline” to transfer a ball across a distance work to build communication and problem-solving skills. They can also help group members become more comfortable with engaging in sober fun and working in physical proximity.
Some group therapy programs use family therapy to deal with family issues. The group’s therapist works with a group member one-on-one while a second therapist works with their family members. “Scripts” are prepared to address problematic family behaviors in a nonjudgmental way. Later, the group member and their family members reconvene to take turns sharing their scripts with each other in the presence of their therapists and the larger group.
The specially trained staff at The Blackberry Center in St. Cloud, Florida have experience with a wide range of group therapy activities. We will work with you to reduce stress, practice skills, and better your overall mental health.
If you are ready to discuss treatment, please call our admissions staff at 407-449-8142. Or, if you’re not quite prepared to take that step, submit your questions through our online form.