How to Design Group Therapy Activities

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Group therapy activities are designed to help small groups of people work out similar problems under the direction of a therapist or group facilitator. The activities are fine-tuned to address the needs of the individuals in the group.

When the group convenes, group members discuss short and long-term goals. The facilitator uses the information to create a plan of action and that will aid members in resolving their issues. Group therapy is more affordable than private therapy, and is a great way to get support and encouragement from other people in a similar situation.

When planning activities for the group, the facilitator must consider a number of concerns. Why are the participants there? Are they suffering from depression or bi-polar disorder? Do they have obsessive- compulsive disorder, anxiety or ADD? Are they there because they can’t control an addiction to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or food? Are they victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse?

The group therapy environment should be a safe place where members talk candidly, without fear of judgement or ridicule. The activities used in the meeting should be constructed with the highest regard to sensitivity and privacy.

Start with an Icebreaker

If people are going to share their feelings and secrets, they have to be comfortable enough to expose themselves. Have group members write their biggest fear on a small piece of paper. The theme can change as needed. Greatest strength, weakness, insecurity, or accomplishment, are good topics to use for the game.

Members should not identify themselves with names or other identifying clues. Place all the papers in a hat or box and shake them up. Redistribute the papers among the group members. Ask each member to read the paper he received. This exercise helps the group realize how much they have in common. Remember, no names, please.

Ask for Input

Ask the members what they hope to accomplish through group therapy. If they need help coping with bi-polar or depression issues, encourage discussion among the members. Ask members to share coping techniques they have used with success. Guide the group to assure the conversation remains relevant and on point.

Encourage Participation

If you notice someone who is reluctant to participate, try to gently pull him into the conversation. Ask members to break into smaller groups. Have each group come up a list of coping mechanisms or ideas for improving their circumstances. Come back to the circle to share ideas and information.

Encourage members to share their stories and the triumphs and tragedies in their lives. A support group should be positive, uplifting and above all, supportive. The members are there to find comfort in the company of others who understand what they’re going through. Building a bond between the members is the first step toward a productive group therapy experience.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Design Group Therapy Activities," in, February 18, 2016, (accessed September 29, 2022).