Group activities for mental health are the most effective form of psychotherapy. Mental health challenges like depression, and anxiety becomes chronic without help. Addictions, anger, low self-esteem, underdeveloped social skills, and the death of a loved one Can also compromise mental health.
Group therapy is recommended by psychotherapists because it’s popular among patients. It allows people from different backgrounds and experiences to sit together. And open up about their negative and positive life experiences in the presence of a therapist(s).
Group sessions are more rewarding as compared to individual therapy. It gives strength to overcome mental health challenges knowing you’re not alone.
‘’It is uncomfortable to share your thoughts and feelings in a room full of people. But it’s encouraging how people accept and understand exactly how you feel.’’-Anonymous
The idea of therapeutic group sessions is to engage and involve people to feel connected. Patients know it’s normal to go through mental health challenges and they are manageable.
Read on! This article is all about therapy groups, group activities, and their benefits. How they can help you and your family members overcome a difficult path in life.
How Are Therapy Groups Formed?
Group therapy involves one or more psychologists in a group of five to 15 patients. The groups are designed for individuals to feel inclusive and understanding. Some patients also take individual therapy sessions along with group sessions. Whereas, some only take group sessions.
To make therapy groups work in the most effective way, they’re formed based on three elements;
A Common Problem: Therapists address and engage people who face similar problems. A common problem that connects people is anxiety, depression, abuse, obesity and etc. Patients speak out and hear each other under supervision. This gives hope and strength to patients despite challenges and hurdles in the way.
A Common Purpose: These groups share the same purpose as they chose to get therapy in the first place. This can range from developing confidence, and social skills to overcoming fears.
These sessions have modules and discussion topics that help the patients. They look up to each other and improve their condition.
A Common Experience: These patients share a common traumatic life experience. These discussions can lead from rich to intense discussions. Experiences shared by the group members involve suffering and pain. Such as a painful divorce, death of a family member, rape, abuse, violence, and more.
Types of Support Groups
The area of focus may remain the same which is peer lead psychotherapy. Due to different mental health conditions, groups can be broken into smaller groups.
These are not held by trained therapists. But by people who’ve had similar issues in the past. These people serve as role models for group members who are going through a difficult time.
I like self-help groups as they allow peers to open up to one another and feel validated. As a certified Peer Support Specialist, I facilitate these groups. In my opinion, peers are most likely to share their stories when they hear others share their experiences with mental illness or substance abuse. When done right, self-help groups create a safe environment for individuals with common life experiences to come together and start their recovery journey. Although recovery looks different for each individual, from my experience in this field, recovery is a process and not a destination. Essentially, it means reaching a place where you are able to pursue a safe, dignified and meaningful life. Based on my experience as a certified peer support specialist, the first step is usually the hardest one to take, but when they do, they almost always say they wish they have taken it sooner.
Cognitive Therapy Groups:
The sessions help participants who have distorted thinking patterns. For instance, struggling with a negative mindset, making their decisions, and thinking straight.
Interpersonal Therapy Group:
The focus is to deep dive into your relationships. Your interactions with peers, family, and friends.
Skill Development Groups:
These group sessions involve people who have mental/developmental disabilities. They want to work on their communication, confidence, and social interaction.
This session may involve family members too. Support groups provide each other with encouragement, comfort, and advice.
Therapy Groups Sessions And Rules:
There are two types of therapy group sessions:
1. Closed Therapy Group Sessions:
These sessions don’t let patients join the ongoing sessions. People have to wait for new sessions until new groups are formed.
2. Open Therapy Group Sessions:
These allow patients to join therapy groups. You don’t have to wait for the new group to form. But they need to get familiar with and adjust to the changes.
These sessions are free-form or planned. Depending on the working style of the therapist(s).
These sessions take place in a room where participants sit on chairs facing each other. These sessions vary in length and time. The group members meet twice or thrice for a couple of weeks.
The sessions usually start by introducing and talking about yourself. As time goes by, people share their progress and challenges with the therapist and peers.
Rules that all the group members follow during the mental health therapy session are:
- What is discussed during the group sessions remains there. No one is allowed to share any information outside. This might hinder the healing process and break the trust of fellow peers.
- Commitment to attend sessions, arrive on time and stay till the end.
- Participation and contribution by group members are encouraged. For effective treatment group members should connect and support each other.
- No informal interaction should take place in or outside the therapeutic sessions. Making friends during therapy can slow down progress and hinder wellbeing.
- Communication through words is encouraged. People respond well to words rather than physical actions. Verbal communication as compared to physical can have a different reaction.
Benefits of Group therapy
Group activities for mental health, encourage participants to change their lives. There are many many benefits of these therapeutic sessions, few are:
- Group sessions are affordable as compared to individual therapy.
- These sessions provide a safe environment for all the participants.
- These groups provide unconditional support
- Development of social skills
- Feedback by therapist and group members
- You don’t feel alone anymore
- Therapeutic sessions give you Self-awareness
- They help you feel confident and focused.
- Most of the time they keep you away from medication.
- They help embrace diversity.
Therapeutic Group Activities For Adults
Psychotherapy is so much more than sharing experiences and building trust. Meeting twice or thrice a week and going over the same routine might get repetitive and boring.
There are countless easy, fun, and motivating group activities for mental health. Planned by the therapist, group activities and exercises are therapeutic and nerve-satisfying.
These activities help patients with mental disorders find value in them. Some group activities become habits to overcome challenges and bring positive change. Even better, career opportunities.
The therapist(s) decides on group activities and exercises that benefit groups depending on the purpose.
3 Mental Health Group Activities and Exercises
For starters setting a goal and trying to achieve it might feel impossible. Goal visualization is a powerful tool to realize what you get if you do the hard work, not quit, and achieve your goal. For instance, a group member wants to become a football player. Football field and playing on wet grass can make a difference and a positive mind shift. Goal visualization strengthens the mind. Patients think of themselves as capable enough to heal and have a fulfilled life.
Group members have exercise sheets to fill in information for the goal visualization activity. They write down their feelings and answers to questions.
This group activity is practiced in every session. It’s a checklist that outlines the start, middle, and end of the session. Introduced by Judith Belmont, a psychotherapist, and an author. An effective beginning and an impactful end of a group session is the key to progress. Sharing successes and challenges.
A few items the activity includes are;
- Mood check
- Establishing goals.
Make a List
This group activity for mental health patients can be creative and fun at the same time. This includes building a list for various situations. For instance, make a list of 20 favorite things in your life. Another example, make a list of 30 things that you don’t like and make you feel crazy.
Motivational Group Therapy Activities
Therapists come up with motivation group activities to encourage people and take targeted action. And most of all continue to feel positive during and after the group therapy sessions. Few motivation activities that your therapist(s) encourage you to take part in are;
Setting small goals during the sessions and committing to them can be life-altering. Setting goals may include being kind to yourself and being mindful while speaking. Maintaining eye contact, or telling yourself you are good enough are a few to start with.
Mindful speaking is on every session’s agenda. The members of the group activity for mental health are given a topic. Approximately 2-3minutes to speak with each other. Mindful speaking teaches participants to be present and avoid impulse interactions. This is also for couples and families for a peaceful and productive atmosphere.
Think of your favorite moment in the past. Good memories bring in positive emotions and behavior. People may forget what they said but they never forget how they feel.
Motivational quotes, courses, and boards are also helpful. Having motivation quotes around you can foster a positive mind.
Fun And Easy Group Therapy Activities
Although group activities for mental health are a great way to heal. Some can be fun and effortless. Overcoming problems and pain through activities is easy to do and can be fun. The therapist(s) make you indulge in activities that are healthy for your mind and body.
Exercising may take a sweat but it feels great once you’re through it. Patients who feel depressed and anxious due to obesity should exercise. Aerobics, jogging, camping, and bicycling are a few to mention. Exercise has other benefits such as;
- Better sleep,
- Low cholesterol levels
- Improved mood, and health.
Therapists believe that cooking is one of the most effective therapeutic activities. Cooking is a process from start to finish. Patients with mental health issues must cook healthy meals for themselves. This will avoid weight gain and give a sense of accomplishment. They’ll feel even better after sharing their cooked meal with others. Baking is also used as a therapeutic activity to release stress and anxiety.
Painting, clouring, sketching, and drawing on papers/notepads are also therapeutic in nature. Like cooking or exercising painting and drawing also has a calming effect. Other creative activities are listening to music, writing journals, and reading books.
Therapeutic Group Activities And Games For The Youth
In the world of social media and virtual reality. Growing kids can feel isolated and disconnected from the world. Friendships that are in person are more rewarding than on the internet.
Distractions and chaos around keep the youth away from in-person social interaction. Disconnection with peers, family, and friends can cause depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. it also builds the pressure of feeling ‘’not good enough.’’
This is where the group therapy sessions come in. Sharing experiences in supervised group activities and games can be encouraging and fun. Some of the engaging group activities for mental health among youth are;
This is a fun problem-solving activity for youth. It teaches how to work with team members. holding hands with random group members in a circle and then untying each other builds trust.
Fear In a Hat
Everyone has their own fears. In this activity, all youngsters write on a piece of paper what they are most afraid of. The therapist then reads them out loud. This is a way to connect with the group and understand that everyone has a weakness.
Writing to your future self about things you love or that make you angry. This is a way to open up through writing. Freestyle writing can release stress and anxiety.
Gratitude mapping is always about shedding light on your present life. It’s a way of being thankful for all the people, things, places, and skills you have in your life.
Scene Play and Music:
Acting scenes and writing music are also fun ways to express ourselves. Scene play and music is therapeutic for youngsters to find peace in these activities.
The activities are age-appropriate and designed to serve the group purpose. There are many activities and each one is used when needed the most.
Are Group Activities Good for Mental Health?
Group activities have a positive impact on mental health. These therapy sessions create a comfortable and sharing environment. That allows individuals to open up, and explore their emotions and behaviors.
It allows people to understand situations by listening to others. People who’ve been in the same boat or worse situations. Group activities for mental health bring hope and healing to people.
How to Get Started
As a Patient:
If you feel you are someone who will benefit from group therapy. You should contact your physician for information. And book an appointment at the nearest group therapy session. You should also share your preferences to join an open or closed group therapy session.
As a Therapist
Like any other job, you need to be a specialized and trained therapist to lead group therapy sessions. When you feel you are ready and have all your resources ready you can start with your own group sessions.
Every therapist has a style of leading group activities for mental health. So lay down the ground rules before your therapy sessions. Always remember to create a safe and supportive environment. That is comfortable for discussion and sharing experiences.
The Bottom Line
Group therapy sessions are affordable and provide better support than individual sessions. The group activities for mental health are a safe alternative to lifelong medication. It’s easy for patients to connect with each other and talk about common issues and problems. Group therapy is effective for adults as well as young people.