Thursday, January 14, 2021

Fill in the Blanks Discussion Generator


Fill in the Blanks Discussion Generator – This activity is easy and can be done in person or through telehealth. It is good for both adolescents and adults and for people with any type of presenting problem as the directions are clear and simple: Just take turns reading out loud each of the “fill in the blank” discussion points and let group members give their answers. It is up to the group to see where these discussions go by asking follow-up questions and sharing support and feedback. This is better done as a discussion than as a worksheet - Remember there are no right or wrong answers and this is not a contest to see who can be the cleverest – Just say what is on your mind:


Random Conversation Starters

Before I _______ I definitely have to _________

I am not going to ________ without my _________

When I look at ________ I can’t help but seeing ____________

If I was getting paid to ____________ I would have over a million dollars by now

If I could just figure out __________ then I would  ___________

I think I could get into ________ if it wasn’t so ___________

People sometimes think I’m ___________ but I am actually ___________

If _________ was here right now I would probably _____________

If I could just have ____________ then I would make sure to _____________

The key to understanding ___________ is that you need to _____________

I can ______________ better than most people

If you want to learn the right way to ____________ then you should ____________

Sometimes when people _________ I really want to _________ but I usually just __________

One good thing about my life is ___________ even though sometimes I have to ________


_______ can make me cry

______ makes me laugh

I am happiest when I am __________

One sure way to make me angry is to ____________

I try never to ______ because later I will feel guilty about it

I need ________ in my life in order to feel like I am at peace

When I  am able to ___________ I feel proud of myself

I can feel confused by ____________

I get upset when people _______ but I don’t care much when they __________

One thing that gives me anxiety is ___________ but one thing that helps is ______

If you want to see me stressed out, then make sure to _____________

Thoughts and Opinions

___________ is okay, but ___________ is better if you ask me

The main difference between a friend and an acquaintance is ______

________ is the best part of ____________

I like _________ except that I could do without the ___________

I will choose _____ over _____ just about every time

I like __________ even if some people say _____________

I think that ____________ is one of the best  _________________

Even though some people think _______ is important, I just don’t care very much about _________

I can handle _________ but I sometimes I have a hard time with __________

I often want _________ but I really need _____________

One of the most important things in my life is _______ and I would like to rid my life of ________

I’d rather ________ for a month than have to __________ for one day

I don’t trust it when people say ___________ because I know that people ______________

I appreciate it when people _______ but I often say “no thanks” to ___________

I like thinking about _________ but I would rather forget ________

I love to go __________ but you won’t find me anywhere near ________

I have pretty good self-control when it comes to ________ but I have to watch myself around _____

________ sets a fire under me (gets me motivated) but _______ slows me down

When people think of me, I would like ____to come to mind but I would never want to be associated with ____


Deep thoughts

Love is _________

Strength is _______

Recovery is _________

Family is _________

Faith is _______

Hope is _______

Forgiveness is ______

Serenity is ________

Success is _______



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thinking, Feeling and Coping in Challenging Scenarios


Thinking, Feeling and Coping in Challenging Scenarios

Introduction - For this activity you will be reading some scenarios and you will be asked to try to do your best to answer some self-examination questions about thinking, feeling, behaving, and later, coping. When reading the scenarios, keep in mind not every detail is provided, so try to use your imagination to fill in the story in a way that best matches your real life. Feel free to discuss how these scenarios can be different depending upon these different details. This activity is a way to practice the following important skills for self-improvement:

Accurately identifying emotional triggers, as well as related thoughts and feelings

Deciding on appropriate vs inappropriate behaviors and reactions to trigger situations

Directions – As a group discuss the following scenarios. The counselor can choose which ones to cover if there is not enough time for all of them. Remember when processing each one, try to identify these areas:


  • Thoughts – What is going through your mind? – (Your cognitions)

  • Feelings – This goes a little deeper: Can you describe what is going on with you, using feeling words?

  • Actions – What do you think you would do or say?  What are your likely behaviors and choices? What coping skills will help you make the right choices?


Also – Make these scenarios even more interesting by adding some “what if” details in the discussion




Left Out – You show up at work or school and everyone is talking about a great time they all had together over the weekend. People are laughing and sharing stories with enthusiasm and joy. As time passes you see that even more people were there, but you were not – You were not invited, and you have no clue as to why. You find out who was behind putting the event together


Strange Connection – You are out somewhere with your significant other (If you don’t have an SO, use your imagination based on your experience) You notice that there is someone else there who your SO seems to have a connection with. They seem all too familiar with each other. There is no overt flirting going on however you get the sense they know and like each other more than you had realized.


Something’s “Off” – Your close friend introduces you to the new person who they are dating, telling you that they think they may have finally found “the one”. It does not take long until your instincts tell you something just is not right with this person. You do not have any specific proof or examples yet as to how you know that there are probably some red flags with this person, but you can just sense it based on your experiences and your instincts.


Trash Talker – You unexpectedly make a new acquaintance. You meet someone who is interesting, fun, has a lot in common and who just clicks with you in all the right ways as a potential friend. However, there is one downside. This person gossips and talks negatively about just about everyone that comes up in conversation the whole time.


Triggered – You meet someone new at work or school and you are engaging in conversation. The person does not say anything overtly offensive, but your instincts just tell you that this person is ignorant and insensitive and has values that are not in agreement with your own. You know that you will have to be around this person at times for the foreseeable future, possibly even working on projects together

Forgive or Re-live? – You get into a disagreement with a close family member and some words are exchanged and you both end up walking away from the argument before things get too heated. The next time you see this person, they offer you an apology and they say that they just want to drop it. However, in your mind it’s not over, you just don’t feel satisfied with the apology and big part of you does not want to let it go just yet.


Ganged up on – You are involved in some kind of group project (whether it be at work, school or planning something together with friends) where everyone had different responsibilities and tasks assigned that they agreed to. When you meet up with the group everyone seems like they are complaining that you did your part of the assignment wrong. In your own head you feel so sure you did everything right and you did a good job, but the group is unanimous that you screwed up your part of the project


Out of the Loop – You are in a conversation with people who aren’t strangers, but they aren’t close friends either. Everyone is talking about something and as the conversation goes on you realize you just don’t know what they are talking about. You find yourself smiling and nodding to be polite, but you fear at any point they may ask you to give your thoughts or opinion on this topic you know little or nothing about.


Stoned Contractor – You hire a contractor to do work in your home and when the crew gets there you can tell that one of the guys is high on something. He is functioning as far as you can see but you can tell that something is off by looking like his eyes and listening to the way he speaks and other telltale behaviors. He is going to be coming in and out of your house for at least the next day or two.


Fun at First – You are introduced to someone new and you hit it off with this person very quicky – Instant friendship! – However, the more you talk to this person, you can tell that this is the type of person who was fun for you to hang out with in the past but usually lead to trouble. So far in the conversation everything is innocent, but your instincts are telling you that this person, although entertaining and fun, is probably bad news for you especially if you want to stay on the right path with your own goals


Against the Crowd – You are with a group of people and everyone is getting along and connecting and there is just a good vibe in the room with this group of people as you all seem to just “click” together as a group. After a while of having innocent fun, things start to take a turn. The group unanimously wants to do something that you know is not a good idea. You don’t want to be a “downer” and ruin the fun, but you also know there is potential risk involved with what you think may be about to go down


Social Media Stress – You post something meaningful to you on social media and someone makes a comment that just does not sit right with you. It is not overtly hurtful or mean however at the same time the more you think about what is said, it is not supportive and can be even be interpreted as a little bit condescending or passive aggressive


Jealous Jerk – Someone in your social life seems like they are always trying to “one up” you and show how their life is better than yours. They are very subtle about it, but you can’t help but notice how they always try to paint themselves in such a good light and they seem to always tell their stories making it out so that they are either the hero or the victim.


Indirectly Insulting – Someone who you have to interact with regularly seems to at times be condescending and at times even a little bit rude or dismissive but in a very subtle way. They aren’t doing or saying anything in particular that alone is something inappropriate but it is just the overall way they seem to speak to you and treat you that you just do not like


For more group therapy material like this


Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 to 2021: A Transition Like No Other



2020 was a year that all people across the globe will remember for sure. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of our lives and the hope for a better 2021 can open up many possibilities. Consider the following activities as a group based on this transition

Getting Started

Opening Icebreaker - Directions: Everyone should draw one picture entitled “2020” and then another picture entitled “2021” The counselor/group leader should allow the group time to creatively work on their pictures. Anything goes and creative expression is highly encouraged. When everyone is done, each group member should share their drawings and discuss them side by side in comparison. Discuss feelings, thoughts and hopes that may come up when explaining these drawings.

Allow group members to ask each other questions and give positive feedback (no criticism as this is not an art show but for the purpose of self-expression and identifying feelings)

Follow up discussion: Quarantine-Proofing” your Goals for 2021




What are some of your “Hope Goals” for 2021- (These are goals you want to achieve if the world successfully returns to some semblance of being “normal” in 2021 – For example, places you would go, things you would like to do if there was again more freedom to freely go to places and gatherings one day in 2021)



What are some of your “Fallback Goals” for 2021 – What are things that you can still work on even if restrictions remain for most or all of 2021. These are things you can work on regardless of social or travel restrictions due to COVID-19 (For example, getting an online degree or losing weight)



Next: As a group share where you hope to make progress in each of these areas in 2021:

Treatment and Self-Help Goals – (Such as emotional and mental health goals or substance use related goals)

Employment/Education/Career Goals

Family Goals

Relationship Goals




Physical/Health Related Goals

Legal Related Goals

Financial Goals

Spiritual Goals – (Increasing meaning and purpose in life)

Fun/Entertainment/Recreational/Hobby-Related Goals

Other – (Areas not already covered)


Group close out questions:


How can you stay motivated, positive and hopeful all year round in 2021, (no matter what direction things may go)? 


Who or what will help you along the way?


How can this group help and support you in achieving your goals in 2021, no matter what comes our way?








Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Give the Gift of Kindness and Hope

Background: This group activity can be done any time of year however it can also be a useful activity during occasions or times of year where giving may be expected or customary (such as a holiday). This group activity can be done in person or via telehealth. If done in person, group members will need pen and paper to secretly submit their thoughts and ideas in written “secret ballot” format to the group leader. If this is done via telehealth, group members should use the chat function on the telehealth platform and send messages privately via chat to the group leader.


Directions: In this group, members will give and receive two things: thoughts of kindness and thoughts of hope. Everything is done anonymously so group members can share their honest thoughts without feeling shy, reserved, or anxious

Someone in the group should volunteer to take the first turn. When it is a person’s turn, the group messages will be directed toward that person. Everyone in the group should anonymously submit two messages: The first message, a thought of kindness, should be a kind statement or observation about the person whose turn it is. The second should be a message of hope. Submission should be done via private chat or secret ballot as described earlier. Once all are collected, the group leader will then, one by one, read the group’s messages to the person whose turn it is. 

Review the following rules first:

Positive messages only. This group is designed to be encouraging and fun, so this is not the time for group members to reveal secret gripes or resentments. Insults or criticism is not appropriate for this group. The counselor/group leader should not read a message that is mean-spirited, insulting, critical or that violates boundaries or is otherwise inappropriate. Positive messages of hope only should be acceptable. Again, this is supposed to be fun and positive. For example, a message such as “I hope you get what’s coming to you” would not be an appropriate message of hope


Author of messages is to be kept secret – If messages are kept anonymous then people can feel free to be more open and honest. The counselor/group leader should just read the messages but not announce the author or give any hints. Group members should refrain from saying “I wrote that one!”


For thoughts of kindness, complements are OK as long as they are appropriate – For example it is okay to submit a message such as “You have a great smile” but it would not be appropriate to say, “I would like to date you” or to specifically make a sexually oriented comment. If possible, it is better to focus on personal qualities (intelligent, funny, outgoing, honest, etc.) rather than physical qualities


Messages of hope are better if they are realistic – For example saying “I hope you win a billion dollars” is nice but not all that meaningful. Something specific to the person which is realistic and attainable is much better such as “I hope you to get the career you always wanted”

The group leader will read the thoughts of kindness and the thoughts of hope to the person who is up for their turn. Before ending a turn, the person taking the turn should share with the rest of the group how they feel about the messages they received and comment on anything that may have stood out to them

When a turn is over, switch to the next person and allow them to have a turn receiving positive messages from the rest of the group.


A general rule for the whole group is the old principle – “If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all” - However, group participation is encouraged for all wherever possible



For more group therapy activities visit

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Irony of Addiction


The Irony of Addiction

Irony occurs when what actually happens is much different from or the opposite of what is expected

Simple, easy to understand basic examples of irony:

  • The teacher fails the test
  • The firefighter’s house burns down
  • The health and fitness guru dies of cancer

Some interesting true-life examples of irony:

  • Duct tape should not be used for sealing ducts
  • The most commonly stolen book is the Bible
  • The inventor of the stop sign never actually learned how to drive
  • The founder of, encouraged everyone he knew to join it, including his girlfriend. She eventually left him for a man she met on
  • For 35 years one CEO at Crayola crayons later admitted after retiring that he was colorblind
  • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone which changed the world, but he refused to keep one in his place of work because he feared it would distract him 

On a much more serious note – Consider how their can be irony in substance use, addiction and recovery

As a group: Review the following ironic statements that can be related to substance use, addiction and recovery. Not everyone may find these all to be true as everyone has their own unique beliefs and experiences.  However, when you find that any of these applied in your own life and experiences, share this with the rest of the group if you are able 

  • Drugs and alcohol: What often can start out as the funniest, most relaxing and most enjoyable thing in the world does the most painful, stressful and destructive things to you later down the line
  • In order to start to think straight first you may have to stop trusting your own thinking
  • As it says in 12 Step philosophy: You get sick of getting sick and tired of being tired
  • You may have to give it up to get it all back
  • In order to learn about who I really am I had to forget about who I thought I was
  • What used to make me feel good, I had to use just not to feel bad
  • In addiction you can go from thinking you know everything to realizing you know nothing
  • It may take struggle and hard work to achieve serenity and peace
  • Before you can start growing you may have to realize and recognize you have been withering away
  • What you once used to escape becomes a prison
  • I got high to feel free but ended up feeling trapped
  • In order to learn how to love myself again, I had to learn that it was ok to be loved
  • I couldn’t really start feeling until I finally stopped numbing
  • I had to stop lying to myself before I could be truly honest with others
  • At first you may break but it ends up making you stronger

Your own examples? – Can you think of any other ironic statements related to substance use, addiction or recovery?

Addiction, Insight and Experience – Sometimes this involves learning that things are not how they seem to be. (Sadly, at times this may be learned the hard way) – Often how we think things will turn out are very different than expected early on when it comes to substance use and addiction

Group Discussion – Have you ever said any of the following statements to yourself in your past? If so, share how that turned out for you?

Have you ever said the following?....If "YES" how did it turn out for you?

(Early, before changing)

“I won’t ever lose control of how much I use”

“There is no way I will ever mess with the hard stuff”

“I can hide this, no one will ever find out I am getting high”

“I’ll quit tomorrow”

“I won’t ever let it get to the point where I will ever____ (Fill in the blank)

In treatment or recovery (During the change process)

“Now that I have to stop using, I will just stop, no problem, I got this”

“I can still hang with my old friends who get high and not get high myself”

“I’ll just use around the days of drug tests so I don’t get caught”

“I’ll just use a plan to avoid or fake the drug tests”

“I will just set daily limits on how much I use and stick to it”

“I’ll just use stuff that doesn’t show up on the tests”

“I don’t need help; willpower is all I need”

“I know what I need to do, I don’t have to listen to these so called “experts””

“I can just lie and deny my way through this”

“I don’t need to change anything. I’ll just stop for a while”

Closing Discussion Questions:

Out of all that was reviewed and discussed in this session – What stands out to you as some of the most important life lessons you have learned along the way?


What are you doing (or planning on doing) in your life now to remain self-aware and positive so as to prevent yourself from returning to faulty thinking patterns that you may have had in the past? 


For more group activities for substance use

 and mental health treatment:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gratitude Grab Bag


Gratitude - the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The state of being grateful. 

Gratitude List Directions: Come up with at least one thing that you are grateful for under each category. If using telehealth participants can use separate list on paper


Family/Loved Ones - Meaningful relationships and relatives


Friends and Others - Things about other people you are grateful for outside of your family


Self - Things about you (Qualities, strengths, experiences, achievements, etc.)


The Big Picture – Things you are grateful for in the bigger world outside of you and your immediate view


The Small Stuff - Little things that may seem insignificant, but you are still grateful for them


Life in General – Why are you grateful to be alive?


Activities/Actions – What things are you grateful for that you are able to do?


Future – Things potentially in your future you are grateful to look forward to


Past Experiences – Things you have done or experienced that you are grateful for


Current – Things in your life today you are grateful for right now at this current time, right now.


Gifts – Things others have given you, done for you, taught you, shared with you, that you are grateful for


Knowledge and Insight – Things that you are grateful to know and understand


Other – Come up with one more thing that has not been mentioned yet


Discuss your gratitude lists as a group

Strategies for Increasing Gratitude


Turn on your “gratitude radar” – Look for gratitude wherever you can find it. Let yourself be attuned to it – search for it – find it – “Stop and smell the roses” in life – You will be happier as you are more grateful


Flip the script on the negative – Reframe negatives to consider the bright side – Some examples:

“I got flat tire today- At least I didn’t get a blowout and crash my car”

“I failed a test – At least I have a chance next test to study harder and improve my grade”

 “My girlfriend/boyfriend broke up with me – At least I know I will find someone else someday who may be even better”

 “I lost my job – Maybe this is a doorway to an even better opportunity for me”

“I relapsed – Still, if I face it honestly, I can learn from this and be even more prepared in the future”


Daily Gratitude list- Start or end each day either writing or speaking out loud 5 things that you are grateful for each and every day – This is time tested and works for increasing gratitude



Don’t compare, but if you do - Compare down, not up - “Comparison is the thief of joy,” is a saying attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt and others, which can be very thought provoking and can instill a strong sense of gratitude. If we compare ourselves to others, we may be left with feelings of inferiority or superiority, both of which are unhealthy and have the potential to block feelings of gratitude. Instead avoid comparison altogether whenever possible. If you can’t help comparing, then think about the many people in this world who may have it worse than you – Some examples below -


Involved with Drug Court? – Rather than comparing yourself with people who have no legal charges, compare you life with what it would be like to have to serve the years in prison you may have been facing had you not been accepted into the Drug Court program


Addicted? – Don’t compare with people who can use socially – Think about the person who is at their bottom and how much better you are today even if you are still struggling. That person may even have been you. Think about how much better you have it now


Poor/broke or unemployed? – That is stressful but imagine what it’s like to live in a refugee camp or a country where people struggle daily just for clean water or a bowl of rice to eat. Think of the potential opportunities awaiting you in life if you do not give up



Never forget the basic building blocks of human gratitude – As long as you are breathing, you have hope to get better – It can always be worse – If you are alive then each day is a blessing and an opportunity to change for the better and build the life you deserve, even if its little by little, each day matters. Hope can sustain you if you keep it alive in your heart and mind.



Ø  Surround yourself with positive, hopeful, and grateful people - Avoiding negative, critical, complaining, and self-destructive people can drain you of your sense of gratitude