Substance Abuse Group Activities

substance abuse group activities, substance abuse group ideas, substance abuse group therapy topics, substance abuse groups

Substance abuse group activities are effective ways of increasing engagement and building trust among members of your therapy group. The goals of using activities in recovery groups are to assist clients with getting in touch with their feelings and learning how to express them in a constructive manner. For example, a client can learn how to process and manage anger and not rely on outbursts when upset. Group therapy activities can be an invaluable tool in therapy and recovering from addiction.


Why Substance Abuse Groups Are Effective ?

According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “One reason for this efficacy is that groups intrinsically have many rewarding benefits—such as reducing isolation and enabling members to witness the recovery of others—and these qualities draw clients into a culture of recovery. Another reason groups work so well is that they are suitable especially for treating problems that commonly accompany substance abuse, such as depression, isolation, and shame.”

Knowing which activity to use in group therapy can be overwhelming. Below are a few suggestions based on the goals of exploring various emotional states including love and positivity, loneliness and fear, and even understanding legacy. 

Substance Abuse Group Activities

Beach Ball Activity with the Group Topic

Buy an inexpensive beach ball at a dollar store or discount store. Write questions or statements related to the group topic on masking tape and place them randomly around the beach ball and pass it around to group members. When a client catches the ball, they have to talk about the statement or answer the question closest to their right thumb.



Substance abuse clients often have a hard time forgiving themselves. Have the members of your recovery group practice reflecting on their self-love. Ask your clients to close their eyes, breathe deeply, and try to clear their minds. In a calming voice read affirmations to your recovery group. Have the clients repeat after you with their eyes closed. Do this activity for approximately seven to ten minutes. Doing this longer than ten minutes may make your clients feel uncomfortable. Afterward, have the clients discuss how this exercise made them feel.


Collage Your Positive Affirmations

Before your group, type up about 50 or more positive traits and affirmations, and be sure to double space. Print out the sheet and cut out the positive sayings and affirmations into strips or for larger groups, print out three or more copies of the affirmations. Each group member will need at least twelve strips of paper to apply to posters. The purpose of this exercise is designed to help clients discover and celebrate their positive traits and affirmations, so providing clients with several strips to choose from is critical. 

Place all of the strips into a bowl or paper bag. Supply small cardstock posters and glue sticks for each client along with shared markers  When the clients enter, give each client a cardstock poster. Explain that today they will be focusing on their good traits. Have the clients write their names in the middle of their poster with a marker of their choice. Next, pass around the traits and affirmations strips. You can also spread the affirmations on a table for your group participants to look through. For the first half of the group, allow your clients to paste the strips to their posters.

During the second half of the group, allow clients an opportunity to share their posters. Ask the group how doing the project made them feel. Some examples of traits and affirmations include:

  • I choose to be proud of myself.
  • I am self-reliant, creative, and persistent in whatever I do.
  • I love change and easily adjust myself to new situations.
  • I am well-groomed, healthy, and full of confidence. My outer self is matched by my inner well-being.
  • My confidence, self-esteem, and inner wisdom are increasing with each day.
  • I nourish my body with healthy food.
  • I am grateful for this moment and find joy in it.
  • All is well in my world. I am calm, happy, and content.
  • I am talented.


You can use single descriptive words for the client’s positive traits:


Tombstone Activity

Pass out pre-printed outlines of a tombstone and ask your clients to think about this exercise seriously. Ask your clients to share what their tombstone would say if they were to die today. Have your group members explore the following questions:

  • How would their loved ones remember them?
  • What do they wish they could change in their lives?
  • How do they want to be remembered?
  • What can they start today to become more like the person they want to be?


This can be a very emotional exercise. It forces the client to look at their lives as a whole and highlights that we have a limited number of chances. Make sure to give the group plenty of time to process after this activity.

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Discuss Loneliness

As therapists, we know loneliness can sometimes be a trigger for our clients. In your recovery group, have the clients discuss being alone. Ask them to share if they can be alone and not be lonely? Explore what balance they need in being alone and not feeling isolated.


 What Are Your Fears?

 Before the therapy session, cut sheets of paper in half. Pass out one-half sheet of paper to each client and ask participants to write down their fears. Let the group know prior to writing their fears that you will not ask participants to identify their fears openly within the group. This will help make the clients more comfortable to share if everyone remains anonymous. Collect the papers in a bowl or paper bag and read off each fear. This exercise will allow everyone in the group to see that they all have fear, that they are not alone in their fears and they can offer comfort to each other.


 Review the Importance of Self-Care

 In a group, discuss the importance of self-care. Ask each group member to share what they do to take care of themselves. Ask the clients about their nutrition and sleep habits. Ask what they are currently doing to achieve these goals. Have the group share how they can improve their self-care.

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