Monday, June 21, 2021

An Interview with your Past and Future Self


Directions: For this activity, you will need to use your imagination to go backward and forward in time. First, you will answer some interview questions as your past self, followed by answering some more questions as “you” in the future (your future self). This may be challenging for some but try to do the best you can as this exercise can help with building insight and motivation for making positive lifestyle changes.

Part 1 – An Interview with my Past Self


Choose a time in your life when you were younger and less experienced. If you are attending this group for help with a substance use or mental health issues (or both) you may choose to think about a time when you were in the earlier stages of those conditions.


Prior to answering the questions for this part, tell the rest of the group what age you chose for your past self. You can give a (very brief) description of your self at that time. Consider an example:


My Past Self: “I am choosing me when I was 18, when I was fresh out of high school, and I was first starting to get more involved with harder drugs. This was a year before my father died”


Now answer the following interview questions (to the best of your ability, using your memory and imagination) but give the answer as your past self:


My Past Self:


How does it feel to be you?


How did get to this point in your life?


What are you focused on right now in your life? (Values and priorities)


What are you struggling with?


What are you doing well?


What else is going on that is important and relevant in your life right now?


How will things turn out for you? (How would you answer this THEN, not knowing what you know now)



Part 2 – An Interview with my Future Self

Now answer these as your future self.  Pick a time in the future when you think that things will be better. Tell the group what time in your life you choose for these questions as your future self and use your imagination to answer the following interview questions:

My Future Self:


How do you feel at this point in life?


What did you need to change to get where you are?


What are some specific things that you needed to do to get where you are?


What helped you along your path?


What is going right in your life right now?


What are your values and priorities in life right now?


In summary, how did you get here? (What did it take for you to succeed?)



Part 3 – Closing Discussion: The Present


Closing group discussion: What are 2 or 3 things that you can draw from this exercise that can help you to move forward in life in a positive direction to successfully achieve your goals?



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Cravings Planning

The focus of the following group activity is to get the group thinking about relapse triggers and coping skills for cravings.

The chart below has two lists of titles for potential discussion topics. The list on the left (Negative/Struggles) are topics about how various triggers, cravings and negative situations can cause setbacks and relapse. The list on the right (Positive/Strength Builders) are topics about skills, supports, and inspirational situations that can help someone to succeed and pull through even when faced with a craving or relapse trigger.

So, with this in mind, the group leader should display these lists below so that everyone in the group can see them. As a group, go through the lists in any order and discuss personal stories about relapse prevention using the topics on the lists, selecting topics that apply personally based on experience. There are no right or wrong answers, rather as stated earlier the purpose of this discussion is to get everyone talking about strengths and weakness when it comes to triggers and cravings. Two examples are provided here:

·        “Toxic Relationship” – Whenever my cousin is in town, he calls me to get together and on the phone, he always says he isn’t using but sooner or later it seems like by the end of the night after he comes over, I find myself in some bar drunk late at night with the two of us calling dealers looking for cocaine.


·        “Old Reliable” – “In an interesting way, my bicycle has been “Old Reliable” in my life. So many times, when I was feeling down or craving to get high, I went for a long ride on my bike, and it really took my mind off of things. I need to get back into biking now that the weather is nicer now that I am not using.



Monday, June 7, 2021

The Randomizer


The Randomizer

Directions – The Randomizer is an easy and fun group activity that will help get people talking about a creative array of topics. A device with internet is needed such as a phone, laptop or tablet. Click the link marked “Click Here for Spinner Link” at the end of these directions to access the spinner used for this activity. (Or another option is just open “Google” and search “spinner”) Set the wheel size on the spinner to “20”

Once the spinner is all set up, using the Randomizer is easy. Group members should take turns. When it is someone’s turn, the spinner should be spun twice, coming up with two numbers. Match the two numbers from the two spins with the list below to come up with a two-word random phrase such as “Happy Dream”, “Amazing Advice” or “Intense Relationship” – Then the person whose is having their turn, should do their best to tell a story based on this two-word phrase. Group members are encouraged to do their best to share something when it is their turn even if that may seem challenging. Then continue with the next person who has a turn and so on

Keep in mind, some two-word phrases are easier than others. The counselor may have to help elaborate on some word combinations for group members who find this difficult. If someone is truly stuck, they can re-spin for another word combination. Choices #20 on both spin lists are free choice selections and the person who is having their turn can come up with their own word when a 20 is spun

Click Here for Spinner Link

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Retelling the Story


Warning: This activity is not an introductory group therapy activity or an ice breaker. Rather, this activity should be done in a group that is a safe environment for all group members and the group should be prepared to be supportive and open with one another as sensitive topics will be discussed

Background: Sometimes group therapy is used to share, discuss, and process various personal stories and experiences that may have been traumatic or hurtful. However, for this exercise, the purpose is to retell some challenging personal experiences however doing so while ending on a positive note by emphasizing gains made in spite of these adversities.

Directions: Group members should take turns selecting a topic from the list below and then tell a story of a personal challenge based on that topic. However before telling the story, make sure of the following:

Make sure that you are comfortable enough to share this story right now in this group. If you are not ready to share an experience, then there is no pressure to do so right now. Choose a topic and a story that you are mentally and emotionally prepared to share at this time.  

Be prepared to end your telling of the story with the positive ending including gains you have made in spite of your struggles.

Further points to review as a group before starting this activity and discussion:

Everyone should agree to listen, pay attention, support one another without criticism or judgement. It is critically important that people listen to one another when discussing sensitive topics


The point of this exercise is not to tell war stories “I had it worse that you did” – Everyone’s experience is unique and there should be no comparison or ranking of who had it the hardest. No one should feel afraid to be judged by their story


The point of this exercise is not to say it was a “good thing” that certain experiences happened. Rather, the point is to focus on good things that are now being experienced in life today, in spite of these past negative experiences.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Below is a list of some very important and desirable human traits that dogs often can display much better than us on a consistent basis. Discuss each one as a group:

1.     LOYALTY



4.     JOY



7.     WARMTH




Follow up group questions:

If you have a dog, discuss how dog ownership can help you cope. For those who don’t have a dog, share how animals and nature in general can help us to cope and thrive.

Which of the 10 qualities discussed do you feel like is a strength for you and how do you know (When and how do you show this quality)?

Pick one quality above and share how you can increase your effort to display this positive quality more in your life and how do you specifically plan to do this going forward?

Friday, May 21, 2021

Addiction and Mental Health Pictured

 Directions: This group therapy activity features a series of pictures that depict various artists thoughts and feelings about mental health and substance use related topics. As a group, review each picture and discuss group members thoughts and feelings about each picture. The counselor/group leader should be prepared to let anyone express if they feel triggered by any of these pictures to work through their feelings if that occurs. However, as a precaution, graphic pictures were avoided for this exercise for that very reason. Also, many of the pictures are "dark" however the last two are more hopeful and recovery-focused, to end on a positive note which is the ultimate goal. Further, if there is time, the activity at the end is about using our feelings discussed in this activity about some of the struggles associated with addiction and mental health to motivate us toward self-improvement, empowerment, hope, positive future goals and recovery.


Some suggested discussion questions for these pictures (optional) –

What do you think that the artist was trying to show in this picture? Is there a message that comes across to you?


Do you have a personal reaction to this picture? What thoughts come to mind? What feelings does it bring out?

Review each picture as a group and discuss

When the group is done reviewing the picture, it is important to end on a positive note. The goal of this exercise is to discuss thoughts and feelings and mental health and addiction; however, it is best to end the session focused on positive motivation going forward. Therefore, to end this session discuss the following question:


How can you use the thoughts and feelings that we discussed today related to these pictures, to stay motivated for positive change, and make positive progress in your recovery?



Closing Discussion and Art Exercise - Hope and Recovery

Discuss: In your life, what motivates and inspires you today?

Draw and Share (If time) – Pick a positive topic word or phrase as an artwork theme and everyone in the group should take some time make a drawing based on that theme. Share and discuss your work (Focus on meaning, not quality or artistic ability as this exercise should not be an art contest but rather about self-expression regardless of skill

Suggested topics: “Inspiration and Motivation”, “Recovery”, “Illumination”, “Awakening”, “Renewal”, “Resurgence”, “perseverance”


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Boosting Self Esteem


10 Tips for Increasing Self Esteem - Review the following list of tips for increasing self esteem and discuss these as a group:


1.    Nullify Negative Thoughts – If you catch yourself putting yourself down in your own head (Like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m never going to make it”), practice breaking that negative habit. Do whatever you can to distract yourself and think of something else. If possible, do the next one below instead (Think positive)

2.    Practice Positive Self Talk – There is a reason for reviewing these affirmations from the previous exercise and that is because affirmations work. Practicing saying a few positive things each day can lead you to starting to believe these positive thoughts. Learn to be your own cheerleader


3.    Learn When Not to Care – It is nice to be a caring person and there are times when it is important to care about what others think as image can be important. However, people with higher self-esteem usually are skilled at knowing when to ignore the haters, drown out the drama and lose the losers.

4.    Don’t “Catch” Other People’s Negativity – Negative thoughts and vibes are often contagious, and some negative people are skilled at spreading the disease of negativity through gossip, slander, insults. Other people can be sarcastic and discouraging and can pull you down with their words gradually over time. It is often best to avoid spending too much time with anyone like this if you want to build yourself up

5.    Gravitate Toward Encouragement and Support – Even just one supportive and encouraging person who sincerely cares and wants to see you succeed can be such a boost to your self-esteem.

6.    Keep Your Mistakes in Perspective – Mistakes are bound to happen, but some people have a harder time getting back up after a fall than others. Self esteem building is all about looking at the big picture and accepting the fact that things are going to go wrong from time to time but that does not mean you are not going to eventually succeed in your goals

7.    Goals are Golden – Speaking of goals, having short term goals every day and long-term goals to keep focused are essential aspects of self-esteem. If positive self-esteem is a tower, then individual goals are like the bricks that the tower of self esteem is built with. Each goal achieved is a self esteem boost no matter how small

8.    Get Outside Your Comfort Zone – Speaking of goals, one goal should be to take some healthy risks to push yourself to move in positive directions. Yes, there may be some anxiety and discomfort when venturing outside the comfort zone but going past the boundaries is the only way to expand your world and grow in your experiences which can really boost self esteem

9.    Sense of Humor – It can be so empowering to be able to laugh at life and to know when not to take yourself too seriously. People with self esteem often know when and how to just let themselves be human and to be able to use humor to de-stress and to let go of some of the small stuff that can weigh you down

10.  Accept Imperfection – There are times when practicing and striving to get things just right can be very rewarding and some people have had great success perfecting a skill or a craft. However, in general, to ALWAYS strive for perfection can be a lesson in frustration. Expecting “straight A’s” in all facets of life can be very damaging to self-esteem because we all fail from time to time and that’s okay.


Group Questions: As a group discuss:

What are some of your areas where you are already making progress and growth?

Which areas can you focus on more for self-improvement?

What are one or two specific things you can start working on right now to boost your self-esteem?