Self-care activities for groups will keep participants engaged and teach them how to be kind to themselves.
Your groups are doing great work together. They’ve formed a bond, allowed themselves to be vulnerable with each other, and are making progress on their individual and collective goals. Groups of any population, whether they’re meeting to address addiction or anxiety, will at some point discuss ways to focus on and take care of themselves. As the facilitator, it’s up to you to have a running list of self-care activities for groups in your practice. When your clients do the same group work over and over again they become less engaged, so mix up your topics with some of these suggestions.
Gardening as a therapeutic tool is not a new phenomenon. The Persians designed gardens with the aim to satisfy all of the senses around 500 BCE. Now, the act of gardening continues to play a role in stress relief for individuals who need to learn to care for themselves a little better. By caring for something else, your group participants will reap not only the stress relieving benefits, but also the end product, whether it be a beautiful flower or yummy fruits, vegetables, or herbs.
One of the best ways to approach gardening as one of the self-care activities for groups is to have the participants get their hands dirty in the first session by planting a small seedling. Make sure to pick a hearty plant to water weekly, if that’s when your group meets (or else you’ll be doing a lot of watering on your own!). Then, have them care for their plants as the group progresses.
There’s so much symbolism between gardening and therapy. Most obviously, there’s growth. Both the participant and the plant will sprout over time. Also, it teaches responsibility, nurturing, and patience.
The act of journaling allows the writer an opportunity to have an honest conversation with his or herself. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit negative thoughts or even acknowledge positive ones, so encourage your participants to free their mind on the page. To incorporate journaling into your practice, let your clients get hands-on and create their own journals. Bring in magazines, art supplies, and scrapbooking material, and allow the group participants to design a collage for the book’s cover that represents them in a positive manner. Then for their first journaling experience, have them list 20 things they like about themselves.
Request that the group participants add something to their self-care journal every session. They could share what they’re grateful for or make a list of everything they accomplished during the week.
Better yet, ask that each attendee adds notes in other group member’s journals to share uplifting messages or thank them for kind words. Remind them to always ask permission first; confidentiality is just as important in the group atmosphere as it is in an individual session, and there may be notes in the self-care journal your group participants don’t want others reading.
3. Walking Dogs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity for adults every week, and walking is an excellent way to get that exercise. In regards to self-care, walking does two things. First, it strengthens and tones our physical bodies, but also, it increases positive self-image and boosts self-esteem.
Here’s where the dogs come in. Doing good deeds for other people makes you happy. Plus, studies have shown that interacting with dogs helps to lower blood pressure, while also helping the individual cope with anxiety, depression, and life stressors. So team up with a local animal shelter and ask if your group participants can take their furry friends for a walk. Many shelters are in high need of volunteers, so it’s likely you’ll be helping them, too.
Only eight weeks of meditation was effective in treating depression, pain, and anxieties, according to a recent study done by John Hopkins. If you’re hesitant to introduce meditation into your counseling practice because you aren’t well trained in it, don’t be! There are so many great videos on YouTube that can guide your clients through breathing practice.
Similarly, search online for a playlist your clients can listen to in group for deep focus. You could also connect with local meditation practitioners who can make an appearance at your group to teach both you and your clients the basics of meditation. Of all the self-care activities for groups, this one works well, as clients can leave the group atmosphere and practice meditating at home as well. Suggest some apps they can download on their smartphones to use outside of the group.
Food is often a comfort when people are struggling with mental health issues. However, it can also become a crutch, so it’s important to talk to your clients about self-care by eating healthy. There are many ways to incorporate stress-reducing foods into a diet, so invite your participants to a healthy group potluck. Have everyone cook an appetizer, meal, or dessert and return with the recipe. Sharing a meal is a bonding experience, and it also gives participants the option to try new things in the moment, while providing healthy options for a later time.
Group classes can be incredibly fulfilling for a therapist in private practice, though there are so many administrative duties that come along with each session. If you have ten attendees, you’ll also need to process ten payments or insurance claims. Never mind all the appointment reminders you need to send. Don’t worry; SimplePractice can manage all of that for you. We’ll process credit cards, electronically file insurance claims, and send appointment reminders before every session. Practice some self-care yourself by letting go of some of your administrative duties. Try us free for 30-days!
Do you have any self-care activities for groups that you’ve found to work well? Share your ideas and success stories in the comment section.
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If you found this post useful, here are more blog posts you may like:
• Tired of Writing Treatment Plans? Here’s a Tip to Make Them Quick
• Why Self-Care is so Important
• 5 Mental Health Performance Indicators Every Practice Should Track