A vital component of healthy relationships is being able to establish and maintain boundaries. But what exactly are boundaries within interpersonal relationships? Boundaries are limits within relationships that keep both individuals safe. This can include emotional boundaries and physical boundaries.
While that may sound simple, boundaries are a complex topic. Boundaries are impacted by our culture, previous relationships, who the other person is, and the setting that we are in with that person. As an example, you likely have boundaries with your coworkers or colleagues that differ from boundaries you have with your close friends and family members.
It is understandable that individuals may have different expectations of what boundaries should be within a relationship. If we do not talk about what our expectations are for boundaries with others, we are not giving ourselves the opportunity to set boundaries with them. This can cause damage within the relationship, or lead to unhealthy relationship patterns. Keep reading to learn 22 group therapy activities for setting boundaries you can use in your therapy practice.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Feedback and Validation: Group members can offer feedback and validation, helping individuals gain a better understanding of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cost-Effective: Group therapy is often more cost-effective than individual therapy, making mental health support more accessible to a wider range of people.
- Experiential Learning: Through group dynamics, individuals can learn about themselves and their interpersonal patterns in real-time, which can be highly insightful and transformative.
- Peer Accountability: Group members can provide encouragement and gentle accountability for personal growth and positive change.
- Generalization of Skills: Skills learned in group therapy can be more readily applied to real-life situations and interactions with family, friends, and colleagues.
- Increased Motivation: Sharing progress and setbacks with a group can boost motivation to work on personal goals and make positive changes.
- Confidentiality: Group therapy is conducted in a confidential setting, ensuring that what is shared within the group remains private.
- 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 Does Group Therapy Help Individuals Set Boundaries?
Group therapy can be an effective tool for individuals who struggle to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. We initially learn about boundaries from the adults in our lives as we are growing up. As we age, we practice establishing and maintaining boundaries. This is an important life skill that is a continuous growing point for many of us.
Group therapy can provide you with an opportunity to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships, communication skills that can help you verbalize your boundaries, and skills to help you maintain and reinforce your boundaries. Boundaries group therapy activities can help normalize the personal struggles that individuals have and provide them with a safe environment to practice new skills.
List of Group Therapy Activities for Setting Boundaries
Group therapy activities on boundaries provide Counselors with an opportunity to provide psychoeducation about healthy boundaries and a safe space to practice relevant life skills. Teaching boundaries activities for group therapy can be modified for each group to address common experiences among group members. Below is a list of group activities that can help individuals struggling with personal boundaries:
- Allow the group to identify their group rules and norms. Spend time discussing that the group rules and norms are boundaries within the group that members will be held accountable for. Use this as a time to model effective communication, and discuss what the follow-up would be if the group rules or norms were broken.
- Ask the group members to identify a boundary that they would like to establish. Allow time for members to engage in a role-playing exercise where they practice establishing their boundaries. At the end of the exercise, talk about the thoughts and emotions that came up during the exercise, and what the group members can do to cope with them as they arise in real-time.
- Ask the group to identify a situation where they were able to set a boundary, physical or emotional. Spend time exploring what helped them in this situation, and how they can use this success in other situations where they establish boundaries.
- Ask the group to identify behaviors, thoughts, or feelings that indicate that they are in need of new boundaries. Are there any behaviors that others show them that act as a red flag? Have they ever had a gut feeling indicating that something needed to change? If so, were they able to act on that feeling?
- Come to the group session with a large piece of paper, and ask the group to identify characteristics of a person they feel safe and supported by. Ask the group to discuss how these characteristics influence their ability to set and maintain boundaries with these individuals. As an example, if we feel that someone is understanding, we may feel more comfortable talking about our needs for boundaries.
- Focus a group session on the act of setting a boundary. This can include how to clearly communicate your boundary, communicating your needs in a way that keeps the focus on your needs, and stating your follow through. Ask a group member to volunteer with you while you engage in a role-playing exercise modeling the skills you discussed. Allow time for the group to break down into pairs to practice their own boundary-setting skills.
- Practice role-playing exercises. Group members can practice setting boundaries in hypothetical situations, such as saying “no” to a friend who asks for a favor that makes them uncomfortable. This can help individuals build assertiveness skills and confidence in their ability to set boundaries.
- Practice values clarification exercises. Group members can identify and clarify their personal values, which can help them set boundaries that align with those values. This can also help individuals identify situations where they may need to set boundaries to protect their values.
- Provide the group with a sheet of paper and ask them to identify barriers that keep them from establishing boundaries. This can include a lack of confidence, uncertainty about how to do it, fear, worry, guilt, etc. Place the sheets in a bowl to draw them randomly. Spend time exploring how group members can relate to the identified barriers, and what they can do to work past these barriers. Follow up in the next group session to see if group members were able to work past any barriers since the previous session.
- Spend time discussing how our thoughts impact our emotions which lead to our behaviors. Provide the group with an understanding of cognitive distortions, and explore any cognitive distortions that impact group members’ ability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
- Spend time discussing how our values are connected with our boundaries. Ideally, our boundaries would support and encourage the values we have. Spend time exploring the values that group members have and how they relate to their boundaries. Ask if there are any values that could be supported by new boundaries. An example would be establishing boundaries that promote a better work-life balance so individuals have an appropriate amount of family time.
- Spend time discussing the benefits of mindfulness practices. Explore different mindfulness practices that group members can use to keep themselves in the present moment. This can include practicing various forms of meditation such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation exercises. Grounding exercises can also be introduced as a tool to keep group members in the present moment.
- Spend time discussing unhealthy relationship patterns, and explore group members’ experiences with them. As an example, this can include being too dependent on someone, being too independent, and not being able to communicate your thoughts and needs.
- Spend time exploring concerns that group members have about setting boundaries. This can include fear of losing the relationship, fear of angering the other person, fear of being lonely, guilt, wanting approval from the other person, or feeling as though they “owe” the other person for previous actions. Ask the group to discuss their concerns, and validate their reasons. Spend time discussing how they can work towards addressing their reasons in a way that feels safe to them.
- Spend time exploring how a person’s self-talk impacts their ability to set and maintain boundaries. Talk about encouraging and supportive self-talk patterns that group members can use in regard to their personal boundaries.
- Spend time exploring the different areas of a group member’s life where boundaries are needed. This can include boundaries with their emotions, time, mental health, and physical space. Ask the group to identify one new boundary that they could work to establish that would improve their overall well-being.
- Spend time providing knowledge about codependency. This can include what it can look like, the prevalence of codependent relationships, and the consequences that can occur. Spend time discussing what group members can do to break the patterns associated with codependency, and how they can work towards having healthier boundaries.
- Spend time providing psychoeducation about healthy boundaries, rigid boundaries, and porous boundaries. Allow the group members to share which they feel they currently belong to, and what changes they can work towards to have healthier boundaries.
- Spend time reviewing healthy and effective communication patterns, such as the use of “I Statements”. Since communication plays a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining boundaries, explore concerns and barriers that members experience regarding being able to communicate their thoughts and emotions. Allow time for roleplaying the use of communication patterns discussed.
- Spend time talking about assertiveness. What does assertiveness mean to group members, and do they feel it is a skill they have? Assertiveness can be associated with being mean or disrespectful. Explore how group members can practice being assertive while being true to themselves. Allow for time to practice this in pairs or groups.
- Talk about the importance of self-care and the impact it has on our mental health. Explore what group members do for self-care. Counselors can provide the group with a worksheet listing different self-care ideas, and ask the group to identify 2 new behaviors that they can try adding to their routine. Allow time to follow up on this in the next group session and process their experience.
- Using a large piece of paper, ask the group to identify the characteristics of a healthy relationship and of an unhealthy relationship. Spend time discussing the group member’s ability to pick up on these characteristics in real-time, and how they can respond to them.
Final Thoughts on Selecting Group Therapy Activities for Setting Boundaries
Thank you for reading this resource on 22 Group Therapy Activities for Setting Boundaries. When you are searching for group therapy activities for setting boundaries, keep in mind the individuals that you are working with. If you recognize a pattern of codependency within your group, spend time focusing on the concerns that this relationship pattern can bring, and what can be done to decrease codependent behaviors. Similarly, if you become aware of physical or emotional boundaries that can be improved, this can be a topic for group discussion.
If you prefer to run your group sessions with handouts or pamphlets, TherapyPatron.com has Setting Boundaries Worksheets that can be used for group sessions that focus on boundaries.
Lastly, group members can benefit from witnessing their counselor establish and maintain their own boundaries. This can include establishing and reinforcing group rules and norms, as well as being consistent in your therapeutic approach. Being mindful of our own experience in our group can support the knowledge and skills we provide our group members.
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 help your clients be their best selves.