Group Therapy Activities for Adults

Group therapy session

According to the New York Daily News, a study performed by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that reported stress levels have increased 30% in the last three decades, with women, adolescents, and low income Americans having the most symptoms. For those who have decided to be proactive in seeking help, group therapy activities offer a great coping mechanism. Groups focus on interpersonal learning and allow others to work together to help each other through communication inside the group while focusing on problems outside of the group.

1. In Thee We Trust

Trust is important in groups because members share deeply with one another. Trust building games, such as the one below, allow group participants to begin to trust each other. A traditional example of a trust building activity would be the use of blindfolds and guidance. This activity throws total darkness into the mix so the stakes become higher and more fun.

How to Play

To play this game with any number of people, you'll need the following:

  • Interior room free from natural sunlight (thick drapes in windows are fine)
  • Two pairs of night vision goggles
  • Items of affirmation (book of scriptures, personal bottled water, framed picture of a child, stuffed animal, etc.)

How to Play

This game is ok for large or small groups, but the larger the group, the larger the room should be:

  1. Divide the participants into two groups and give a pair of goggles to the "dictator" of each group.
  2. Place everyone in a distinctive area of the room except for the dictator before darkening the room.
  3. The dictator places the items of affirmation in random areas throughout the room (corner, top of a couch, etc....)
  4. One person from each team attempts to find the item to be determined by the dictator while the others stand in their spots (laughing at the confusion).
  5. Have the dictators direct the visionless participants from their team throughout the dark room around uneven terrain towards the direction of the items.
  6. The dictator calls to the affected participant who is trying to retrieve the items by name, saying things such as: "Raise your right foot to step over the rug," " Duck your head to avoid the chandelier," and similar statements.
  7. As soon as one person finds their item, the next person on the team starts.
  8. The game is over when one team retrieves all items, hopefully without a major spill into one another.

Why It Works

As described by NewHealthAdvisor.com, building trust is effective in group therapy because it aids those who have problems building and maintaining relationships. It works because participants will learn to gain trust and possibly start a means that will lead to the establishment of new relationships.

2. Goal Identification

Often, goal setting is part of group therapy, so games that help with goal identification and setting have therapeutic benefit within the group. This is a game that has the potential to be fun and optimistic, and you can play it with small or large groups in a simple setting.

You Will Need

To play this game, you will need the following:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Colored pens
  • Paper

How to Play

To play this game in any sized group:

  1. Have each member draw a short-term (a few months) goal, a short-term range (one-year) goal, and a long-term (a few years) goal. All three should be goals and steps leading to a larger goal.
  2. One at a time, each participant displays the paper to the group.
  3. Group participants attempt to guess the goal and offer comments on how the participant can accomplish it.

Why It Works

An activity that prompts and explores goals and mechanisms is effective in group therapy. The identification of goals lays the framework for participants to attain positive experiences in future therapy sessions, and in life, according to Essentials of Group Therapy. Commentary from other participants about accomplishing the goal allows it to work because it provides insight that the participant may not have considered previously and allows for seemingly impossible goals to feel more attainable.

3. Anything You Can Do

In group therapy, participants have the opportunity to help one another and offer support. Knowing that one is not alone helps in dealing with day to day struggles with adversity.

You Will Need

To play this game, you will need materials of achievement like past plaques, awards, newspaper articles, trophies, etc.

How to Play

Any sized group will work. To play, have each participant stand on stage and re-enact whatever caused him or her to win that particular accolade. The participant gets to relive times in which they have achieved something great, and others can once again applaud them for the achievement. Reliving the event and allowing others to applaud the effort will allow for self-esteem building and an overall feeling of self-worth.

Why It Works

According to the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, patients with high self-esteem achieve higher gratification on outcome measures following completion of therapy, and low self-esteem groups show better progress regarding depression symptoms after therapy. Building self-esteem is a way to show compassion and unity.

4. The Self-Compassion Pause

Compassion is an essential component of group therapy. However, often participants are able to offer compassion to others but unable to do the same for themselves. This exercise allows individuals to practice self-compassion and mindfulness with the encouragement of their peers. These are often practices given to others but not to oneself during times of stress and depression.

You Will Need

To play this game, you will need the following:

  • Pen
  • Paper

How to Play

Any sized group will work:

  1. Have each participant to sit alone and take time to reflect silently on terminal regrets in his or her life, writing each down on the paper.
  2. When reassembled as a group, one at a time participants read aloud to the group their regrets, recognizing what went wrong and why they are living with regret.
  3. The group encourages them by relaying why self-compassion and forgiveness is necessary. The group cannot place blame.
  4. The group should offer ideas and solutions as to how to deal with the regret.

Why It Works

Practicing self-compassion delves deep into the psyche to explore why people are so hard on themselves. The Positive Psychology Program offers books and worksheets explaining the concept behind self-compassion. Practicing self-compassion explores feelings of doubt, love, confusion, and suffering. The benefit to this activity in a group session is support and finding others dealing with similar problems and coping together through communication.

5. Dance Your Worries Away

Having fun dancing

Groups need opportunities to experience unity. Music is the common denominator in unifying souls. It can rock you, soothe you, or bring you to tears. This activity offers group participants a fun and musical way to experience support and unity.

You Will Need

For this game you will need:

  • Paper
  • Writing utensils
  • Something to play music on

How to Play

This game is great for small and large groups:

  1. Appoint a musician/DJ.
  2. Prior to playing, have participants list favorite songs of different genres and give it to the DJ.
  3. Next, participants list errors, trials, or problems in their lives on paper. Each participant should list the same number of issues (decided beforehand by the therapist: 5, 10, etc).
  4. The DJ randomly chooses songs from the participant lists, and participants then dance along to the music until it mentions a word or problem on the list.
  5. Participants then cross out the problem, like in bingo, and dance harder.
  6. The person who "dances away" all of their problems first is the winner and continues to dance through other participant's problems as a fun way of showing support.

Why It Works

Therapy with music can prove benefits regardless of what the underlying problem is. A study published in the Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society stated results that suggested musical therapy is a useful therapeutic method that compliments traditional treatment methods in global healthcare. The study provides a thorough evidence base for the advantageous effects of music therapy on a variety of physiological and psychological conditions.

Moving Forward

Group practices provide understanding, coping, support, and relief to many. Just having a sense of belonging and knowing that one is not alone in the universe enables one to get through each day with the optimism that lives are improving.

Group Therapy Activities for Adults