5 Group Therapy Activities for Adults

There are many group therapy activities for adults. Be innovative with your counseling approach.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” —Helen Keller

When most new practitioners conjure up the idea of owning their own private practices, one-on-one, individual-and-counselor therapy is often the first thing that comes to mind. Group counseling can be an ideal addition to any practice—but coming up with group therapy activities for adults that don’t revolve around sitting in a circle in a cold dark room isn’t the easiest feat.

The first steps: Adding group counseling to your practice

The first step to creating counseling groups is identifying your clients’ needs, as well as your own professional specialties. For example, offering an addiction-based group to a clientele whose diagnoses don’t include alcohol or chemical dependency won’t yield many participants. Similarly, a group for chronic-pain sufferers isn’t a smart addition to your practice if your clientele is primarily suffering from bipolar disorder. Choose groups you have the skills to lead, with focuses that service your clients’ needs. Then, market your services on your website, email newsletter, or send a brochure as a direct local mailing.

Once you’ve planned and scheduled groups for your practice, take a moment to reflect on how they will run. As the group leader, you’ve already pre-screened the members in your individual sessions to make sure that everyone will mesh well, even if they have different personality types. However, it’s still important to set ground rules before the group dives into their first session. Explain all group rules in detail—think: confidentiality, trust, vulnerability, helpfulness—and ask attendees to sign a “contract” agreeing to the group terms. Consider asking the group if they have any rules they feel needs to be included.

And remind them of this quote from Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

Are you ready to add groups to your private practice setting? Great! Here are five innovative group therapy activities for adults you can use in your practice. Some of these can run for consecutive groups, while others are fun ideas to that may only happen once in a group’s cycle.

01-5-group-therapy-activities-for-adults1. Art

Art therapy is a great tool to include in group settings. In a recent study, researchers “set out to identify the possible effects of art therapy on the recovery process in groups of adults with personality disorders, based on existing anecdotal observations made by practitioners in the field and patient testimonies.” Their data indicated that art therapy was successful in helping patients in five major areas:

  • Perception and self-perception
  • Personal integration
  • Emotion and impulse regulation
  • Behavior change
  • Insight and comprehension

With that in mind, there are a lot of options for the kinds of art therapy you can offer. Think about how popular painting or pottery classes are these days—there’s no reason your group therapy classes can’t afford some of the same social benefits, while also offering your clients a safe space for healing and mental health.

2. Culture

When people from different backgrounds are part of a group, it’s an excellent opportunity to challenge perceptions, discuss tolerance, and learn from each other. There are many ways to incorporate culture into a group therapy session. Ask participants to come prepared with one item representing their family’s culture. It could be an item passed through the generations, or it can be a story or belief held in their culture. Boundless found that “In some cultures, for example, hallucinations are not seen as a mental illness.” Group members of various cultures can process each item or story based on their individual experiences.

Think of it as an adult version of show-and-tell.

02-5-group-therapy-activities-for-adults3. Cooking

If you have anxious group members, it might take a lot for them to open up. However, food speaks a universal language, so why not turn group members into line cooks? Ellen Kanner, the author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost, was quoted as saying, “Getting a meal on the table means putting aside differences and grudges and focusing on the task at hand.” Of all the group therapy activities for adults, this job relies on attendees working together.

So, what will your attendees make at the next session? Salads, sushi, and smoothies are all easy-to-create options that don’t require the use of a kitchen. (Just don’t forget to bring a blender!)

4. Small Games

Icebreakers are important group therapy activities for adults. If you’re looking for activities that can run progressively week after week, incorporate small games like Hangman or Memory at the beginning of each session as one way to relax anxious participants.

One game that works particularly well for the first session is “Find the Person Who.” At the beginning of your first session, pass out papers with identifying notes about other members. Sort these lists so that all attendees get different lists. Think along the lines of “Who was senior class president?” or “Who worked at a gas station for their first job?” (Keep in mind, you’ll need to gather three random facts ahead of time!) Start the first session by challenging attendees to socialize with others until they’ve found people who match the descriptions on their list.

03-5-group-therapy-activities-for-adults5. Music

Similar to art therapy, music can be an integral part of the healing process. Have participants come prepared with one song they can share with the group. Then, together, talk about why the music reduces stress. Is it the melody or the lyrics? Do all group members experience the music in the same way?

Similarly, instead of sharing music other people made, your group may want to create their own. According to Courtney Armstrong in Counseling Today, “Music making and related activities such as drumming, singing, chanting and dancing have traditionally been pastimes that societies engaged in together to strengthen bonds, connect spiritually and foster group cohesion.” If a participant offers to bring in a guitar and strum away as others sing, let them!

Group therapy activities for adults are designed to encourage personal growth while embracing socialization. Plus, more attendees are likely to commit for the long haul since group therapy is often cheaper than individual sessions.

With all these clients appearing in your office at the same time, you’ll need smart systems set up to process payments and follow up with therapy notes. Let SimplePractice do the hard work for you. Try us free for 30 days. We’ll even send appointment reminders to your group members, so you don’t have to!

Have you hosted group therapy activities for adults? Share your ideas and success stories in the comment below. Let’s make this community a resource for everyone.

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