Substance Abuse Treatment Through Group Therapy Activities

Substance abuse treatment often includes participation in group therapy. Treatment professionals use a multitude of group exercises as part of group therapy to engage clients and help them stay sober.

These techniques may serve various specific purposes within group therapy. For instance, they can help put clients at ease, express themselves, bring them closer, or provide educational information. However, what they all have in common is their ultimate goal of guiding clients toward recovery.

The Types of Group Therapy Exercises in Substance Abuse Treatment

There are many different types of therapeutic group therapy exercises. The kinds of group activities depend on the theoretic approach that the treatment professional uses as well as the group members’ needs, background, age, and other factors.

These are some common types of activities in group therapy:1

  1. Written exercises: Techniques such as list-making, sentence completion, or answering questions sharpen the members’ focus.
  2. Movement exercises: Group members can engage in a number of physical activities, which gives them an opportunity to learn and grow through movement.
  3. Dyads and triads: Members of the group do these activities by interacting in pairs or groups of three.
  4. Rounds: Rounds are stimulating exercises where each member is asked to react to a question or statement from the therapist.
  5. Creative props: In these therapeutic group exercises, members may use common everyday objects to symbolize or explain some aspect of their lives.
  6. Arts and crafts exercises: Members need to create a DIY project. They get the satisfaction of making something while also expressing their feelings and thoughts.
  7. Fantasy exercises: Fantasy activities require members to imagine themselves in unrealistic situations, which helps them discover more about themselves.
  8. Common reading exercises: Members read a passage, short story, or a poem, which sparks further discussion.
  9. Feedback exercises: Members get a chance to share their opinions on the other members of the group or the leader.
  10. Trust exercises: The purpose of these group exercises is to inspire greater trust among members and lead to better group cohesion.
  11. Experiential exercises: Group members learn through practical experience of various kinds.
  12. Moral dilemma exercises: The leader presents the members with a challenging moral problem to which they need to find a solution.
  13. Group-decision exercises: Group members cooperate to settle on the best solution in a given situation.
  14. Touching exercises: Tactile sensations can be comforting and put group members at ease, which can be especially beneficial at the beginning of substance abuse treatment.

substance abuse treatment activities, games & exercises

When to Use Therapeutic Group Activities in Group Therapy?

People who are in substance abuse treatment can particularly benefit from group exercises and games in group therapy when the leader uses them in the following situations:2

  • When the group is meeting for the first time. This may help participants loosen up around other group members.
  • In the first few minutes of every session. This way, the leader will introduce a topic of discussion in an engaging way and grab the attention of the group.

The Effects of Group Exercises on Substance Abuse Treatment

There are several reasons to use group exercises in substance abuse treatment:3

  • They make clients more comfortable: Group members get to know each other better through activities. They often reduce anxiety and improve the members’ willingness to share.
  • They let the leader know more about the clients: They may help clients open up and divulge information about themselves that is important for the therapeutic process.
  • They start conversations: Group games and exercises are usually utilized as the basis for later discussions by the group.
  • They change the focus: When it’s time to shift to a new topic of discussion, the treatment professional may introduce it with group exercises.
  • They improve the focus: Members become more alert and their focus is sharper.
  • They help the clients learn from experience: Games and other therapeutic activities offer a change to the usual discussion format of group substance abuse treatment.
  • They are interesting and motivating: These techniques can provide some light-hearted fun to the group and ease the tension after emotionally charged discussions.

Frequently Asked Questions