15 Group Therapy Icebreaker Activities for Clients

Group therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy for individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns. This can include individuals living with grief, trauma-related concerns, substance use disorders, and mood disorders, to name a few. Keep reading to learn group therapy icebreaker activities you can use your therapy clients.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy can help individuals learn about and practice important life skills including communication and boundary setting. 

For many clients, group therapy can be an ideal form of treatment. One aspect of this is that group therapy tends to be more affordable than individual therapy sessions. There are many mental health concerns that contribute to isolating behaviors, which can make it feel as though our clients’ challenges are unique to them. Being in a group session provides them with an opportunity to hear the perspectives and experiences of others which can validate and normalize our clients’ experiences. 

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Why Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy where a trained therapist facilitates a therapeutic session involving a small group of individuals who share similar emotional or psychological concerns. These group sessions provide a supportive and confidential environment for participants to discuss their challenges, express their feelings, and gain insights into their own experiences and behaviors. Group therapy can focus on various issues, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, grief, or interpersonal difficulties. Through interaction and feedback from both the therapist and other group members, individuals can develop coping strategies, enhance self-awareness, and build a sense of belonging, ultimately promoting personal growth and emotional healing within the context of a supportive community.

Group therapy offers several benefits that make it a valuable and effective approach for addressing a wide range of emotional and psychological concerns:

  1. Support and Connection: Group therapy provides a sense of belonging and support. Participants realize they are not alone in their struggles, which can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  2. Diverse Perspectives: Group therapy exposes individuals to diverse perspectives and experiences. Hearing from others who have faced similar challenges can provide valuable insights and alternative viewpoints for problem-solving.
  3. Feedback and Validation: Group members can offer feedback and validation, helping individuals gain a better understanding of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  4. Normalization: Participants often find relief in realizing that their experiences and emotions are common human responses to difficulties. This normalization can reduce shame and self-criticism.
  5. Social Skills: Group therapy allows individuals to practice and improve social skills, such as communication, active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution, in a safe and supportive environment.
  6. Cost-Effective: Group therapy is often more cost-effective than individual therapy, making mental health support more accessible to a wider range of people.
  7. Experiential Learning: Through group dynamics, individuals can learn about themselves and their interpersonal patterns in real-time, which can be highly insightful and transformative.
  8. Peer Accountability: Group members can provide encouragement and gentle accountability for personal growth and positive change.
  9. Generalization of Skills: Skills learned in group therapy can be more readily applied to real-life situations and interactions with family, friends, and colleagues.
  10. Increased Motivation: Sharing progress and setbacks with a group can boost motivation to work on personal goals and make positive changes.
  11. Confidentiality: Group therapy is conducted in a confidential setting, ensuring that what is shared within the group remains private.
  12. Efficiency: Group therapy allows therapists to work with multiple clients simultaneously, making it an efficient way to provide therapy services.

Group therapy is an effective tool to help your clients. Keep reading to learn specific activities that can help your clients in a group therapy session.

How Can Icebreakers Benefit Group Therapy Sessions?

Kids who are participating in group therapy may be reluctant to talk in group sessions, which demonstrates the importance of being mindful of the group therapy icebreaker activities that are being used. It is important to ensure that the activities are geared and appropriate for your group members. Icebreaker activities for children groups can include activities or games that promote participation and discussion.

Teenagers may be hesitant to be vulnerable in group sessions until group cohesiveness and safety is established. Introducing icebreakers for group therapy can be a fun and safe way for group members to practice sharing in the group setting. Icebreaker activities can include general information about the group members which they will likely feel more comfortable sharing, or dive into personal details when the group has developed trust.

Adults who engage in group therapy can experience the same hesitation or reluctance to share in group sessions as children and young adults. Barriers that adults can experience include being in therapy to appease another person or legal entity, fear, and anxiety. Group therapy icebreakers for adults can help group members share about topics that are not as personal, which can increase the comfort they feel in their group setting. Once you have a safe environment created, group members can feel more comfortable talking about their own struggles.

List of Pediatric Group Therapy Icebreaker Activities

Kids and adolescents can benefit from group therapy as adults can. Children can benefit from process groups, social skills groups, dialectical behavior therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy. Below is a list of icebreakers that can be used for kids to promote group encouragement:

  1. Ask the group if they were an animal, what would they be and why? Allow the group time to think about their answer, and provide writing materials if you feel that this would help your group members share their thoughts more effectively. Spend time exploring the characteristics and qualities that they are drawn to.
  2. Ask the group to share what super power they would like to have for a day. Spend time exploring what benefits they feel they would gain from their super power, and draw on any similarities.
  3. Bring a soft ball to the group session. Ask the group members to stand in a circle. While tossing the ball to each other, group members can share their name and a fact about them. Facts can be simple, such as their favorite color, or favorite food. The first person will then toss the ball to another group member who then repeats the name of the individual who gave them the ball before answering their own question. This continues until all group members have shared a fact about themselves.
  4. When your group members are all present, play a game of musical chairs to begin the group session. Have a neutral melody or song playing throughout the game.
  5. Have BINGO cards prepared for each member in your group. BINGO squares can have questions about the group members such as their favorite color, favorite food, most disliked class in school, and what career interests them. When group members have a line on their board, they need to answer the chosen questions in order to successfully win the match. This can be repeated several times to include more than one group member in the sharing. 

List of Adolescent Group Therapy Icebreaker Activities

Teenagers and young adults can also benefit from group therapy. Similar to group therapy for children, teenagers can engage in process groups, social skills groups, and therapeutic groups. Teenagers can also benefit from specialized group sessions including groups for depression, anxiety, trauma-related concerns, and substance misuse and abuse. Below is a list of icebreaker activities for teens in group therapy:

  1. When the group begins, have the group members participate in two truths and a lie. With this activity, group members share two truths and a lie about themselves and the other group members each guess which fact is the lie. After each member guesses, the lie is revealed.
  2. Group members are asked to face each other in a circle, this can be standing or sitting. For never have I ever, ask the group members to hold up 5 or 10 fingers. You will want to have more fingers if you have a larger group. Each member then shares something they have not done that they feel others may have. If group members have engaged in the identified activity, they then put a finger down. This continues until someone has all their fingers down.
  3. Have small pieces of paper or post-it notes ready with the names of various animals. Each group member will have an animal on their back, and other group members will give them hints about what their animal is without identifying the actual animal.
  4. Provide each member with materials needed to create a vision board. This can include markers, colored pencils, magazines, construction paper, scissors, and glue. Explain that a vision board can include their wishes, goals for the future. This is intended to serve as a source of motivation and inspiration.
  5. Have the group work together to create an item list with the first letter of the alphabet. As an example, you can ask them to create a list of foods, places, or items that correlate with each letter of the alphabet. 

List of Adult Group Therapy Icebreaker Activities

Group therapy for adults can be process groups, based on therapeutic treatments, and educational. Process groups can address a variety of concerns including grief, substance use disorders, and mood disorders. Specialized groups using treatments such as CBT and DBT can be effective for individuals living with trauma-related concerns. Here are some examples of group therapy icebreaker activities for adults:

  1. Provide the group with small slips of paper, a larger piece of paper, and writing utensils. Ask the group members to write down a fun or unique fact about themselves. Collect the small slips of paper and read the facts individually. Group members will write their guess of who the fact belongs to on the larger sheet of paper. Once you have shared all the facts, review them by asking the group members to share which fact is about them.
  2. Bring a picture printed out into the group session. The picture can be of anything; a location, people doing something, or an object. Have the group members come up with a story of the picture, line by line. Each group member will come up with one line, followed by the next member. Write down the lines on a large paper so that it can be used as a reference.
  3. Begin the group with a check in question. Group members can check in with their name, and how they are feeling at that moment. Questions that can be added to their check in can include what is something that went well for them in the past week, what challenged them in the past week, what are they proud of from the last week, etc. The questions can be tied to or related to a group activity that you have planned.
  4. Have the group members do a check in, and attempt to say their name backwards. If they struggle, other group members can help them out. Group member’s check in can include other information such as how they are feeling at that moment, and if they would like time to share in the group session that day.
  5. Develop a themed Pictionary game. Drawing prompts can be related to the purpose of your group therapy. As an example, if you have been talking about coping skills, your prompt could be to draw a coping skill that can be used if a person is angry, sad, or overwhelmed. 

Final Thoughts on Choosing Group Therapy Icebreaker Activities

 Group therapy icebreakers can be an effective way to promote group participation. Reluctance to share in groups can occur in newly formed groups, as well as groups that have been meeting for sometimes. Group members can have days where they don’t feel up to sharing, and that’s okay! Icebreaker activities, such as the ones listed above, can be a fun way to get group members to work through their reluctance and still be present in the group session.

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.

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Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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