Group Therapy Activities to Break the Ice

Group therapy activities play an important role in the therapeutic process. In group settings, it is vital that each member feel safe and like they can connect to the other members of their group. One of the major purposes and applications of group therapy is to create a sense of community for clients who need to relate and connect to others who have shared experiences. 

The application of group therapy activities can be a great way to foster connection, trust, safety, and community among group members who, before they entered the room, knew nothing about one another. 

 

What is an Ice-breaker?

The term “ice breaker” is an expression that refers to an activity that breaks the tension that exists in a room. This tension usually exists in the group therapy setting because everyone is unfamiliar with one another and is usually apprehensive about opening up for that reason. Ice breakers are games that therapists can use to help alleviate apprehensiveness and connect each person in their group. 

 

The Benefits of Ice-breakers in Group Therapy:

Ice breakers have been used for years to connect people that do not know each other. They are used across all different settings other than the therapeutic one like in educational and professional settings. 

They are a great tool to help individuals learn the names of the other group members, learn about their personalities, and relate to them. 

They are a casual way for group members to express their personality and characteristics without any pressure.

Group therapy activities will:

  1. Build trust
  2. Foster safety 
  3. Engage each member 
  4. Create community 
  5. Connect everyone 

 

Great Group Therapy Activities that Will Break the Ice:

Desert Island:

Most everyone should be familiar with the prompt “if you were stranded on a desert island what would you bring?” 

This is an incredibly familiar ice breaker that is meant to express a person’s interests, what they find important, or what they think matters. The great thing about this group therapy activity is that it can vary in seriousness, literalness, or creativeness. Some members might choose to bring items that would help them survive in this desert. This shows that that member is practical in nature. Another member might say they would bring their favorite book or their favorite snack. This would show what brings them comfort. There are endless directions that this group therapy activity could go and it is an effective way to display a person’s personality. 

This is Me Collage:

If a therapist needs a group therapy activity that is a little more hands-on, a “this is me” collage might do the trick. This group therapy activity is crafty and meant to give group members an opportunity to display their characteristics in a creative way. 

Therapists should bring a stack of magazines, scissors, glue, and paper for this exercise. Give each member 10 minutes or an entire session to put together a mini collage that reflects who they are. The collage should be a mash-up of everything they feel reflects them. 

This particular group therapy activity can be great for younger populations that might not be quick to share about themselves and can, instead, display it through a creative outlet. 

Cooking:

If your group is struggling to build community and trust, then a cooking exercise might be an effective way to bring everyone together. Cooking involves a wealth of moving parts and jobs that are all equally important to the outcome. Assigning each group member a part in the process can give them each a purpose while also building teamwork and trust between members along the way. 

5 Facts that Define Me:

There are some individuals that could spend all afternoon talking about themselves and others who therapists struggle to get a single word out of. Sometimes, a group needs an exercise that encourages communication without catering to one or the other. 

A group therapy activity that does not take too much time but still does a great job of conveying the personality and characteristics of group members is having them list 5 facts that they feel define them as a person. 

This exercise does not have to have rules for what those facts should be about. Clients can be allowed to list anything they feel reflects them. If a group struggles to focus, then a therapist could give them prompts for what their facts should be about. For example, a prompt could be “the first fact should be about something that brings you joy. The second fact should be about something that makes you feel vulnerable.” and so on. 

 

Ultimately, ice breaker group therapy activities are always a great place to start when trying to get a group to connect in the therapeutic setting. What activities are used will vary on the age of a group’s members, what circumstances brought them together, and what the therapist determines is most important for their progress.

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