4.94/5
1198 Verified Reviews on
 40% off when you buy 8 items or more. Use code 40OFFSHOP at checkout.
6 7 4 6 1 1 Units sold

Key Takeaways:

  • Group therapy for kids and teens takes many forms, including DBT, CBT, process groups, and social skills groups.
  • You can arrange an appropriate therapy group by doing your research, gathering referrals, or asking your existing therapist for references.
  • Some fun and engaging group therapy games include mandala-making, storytelling, journaling, role-playing, LEGO-building, and meditation.

While individual therapy is a fantastic resource for kids and teens seeking help with their struggles, group therapy can provide the social enrichment they need to thrive. Children struggling with grief, bullying, anxiety, and depression can benefit tremendously from group therapy activities.

Consider group therapy if your child struggles with interaction skills or cannot connect with others!

Understanding Group Therapy for Kids & Teens

Group therapy for kids and teens addresses specific shared goals, such as improving social skills or managing anxiety. Most groups won’t surpass ten participants and typically take the following forms:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These therapy groups combine psychotherapy and skills training to improve emotional functioning in children.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These groups help adolescents restructure negative thinking patterns and habits.
  • Process groups. Children who have experienced psychosocial stressors or trauma may benefit from process groups that provide safe spaces and supportive environments.
  • Social skills groups. These groups may be best for you if your child needs to practice social skill-building exercises with age-appropriate peers.

Guidelines for Organizing Group Therapy Activities for Kids & Teens

Therapists organizing groups for kids and teens should prioritize creating a safe space. They should emphasize that anything shared within the group is confidential and set clear expectations for behavior and participation.
Aim to group five to ten kids facing the same challenges together. For instance, you might assign children experiencing anxiety or social skills issues together to encourage shared experiences and streamline goals.

Keep things approachable and fun to encourage participation but understand that resistance is normal. Adolescents may be hesitant about therapy but regularly celebrating their successes can keep them motivated.

Icebreakers and Warm-Up Activities

Starting group therapy may seem scary, especially for a young child. Thus, providing safe and fun activities to get to know one another is essential.

Two Truths and a Lie

To play this popular game, participants must come up with three statements about themselves—one of which is a lie. The group must then guess which statement is true.

Two Truths and a Lie poses a fascinating look into people’s lives, putting their experiences into perspective.

Human Bingo

Facilitators must create bingo cards featuring various personal facts, such as “Owns a pet,” “Can play a musical instrument,” or “Can speak more than one language.” Participants must start conversations with their classmates to determine whether these facts hold for them.

Show and Tell

A person’s favorite thing can say a lot about them. For this activity, participants must bring their favorite item from home and explain what it means to them. These objects can be anything—a stuffed animal, a letter from a friend, a piece of jewelry, or whatever holds sacred meaning.

Skill-Building Activities

Being socially adept is necessary to survive in an increasingly competitive professional landscape. Being personable and learning to communicate as early as school age can positively equip a child for the future. Here are some skill-building activities you can incorporate into group therapy settings.

Goal-Setting

Therapy groups typically work toward a specific goal, such as overcoming trauma, processing grief, or learning to manage emotions. Thus, exploring these goals through a fun group activity can make them more approachable and motivate participants to succeed.

Facilitators can ask each child to keep a therapy journal and set shared and individual end goals. For structured goal-setting, use our DBT SMART Goals worksheet.

Role-Playing

Problem-solving can be challenging for children who struggle with conflict resolution. Thankfully, group therapy provides a safe space to roleplay scenarios like disagreeing with a friend or a challenging discussion with a parent without judgment.

Role-playing and feedback are essential in developing self-regulation and conflict-resolution skills [*].

They can receive guidance from the group therapist and get feedback from other participants. Role-playing imparts essential lessons in empathy and communication.

Lego-Building Communication Activity

In this activity, participants will learn the value of clear communication. Facilitators will divide participants into two groups. The first group will have a pre-built Lego building, and the other group will have the unbuilt pieces.

The first group will only provide instructions for the second group to help them recreate the figures accurately without seeing each other. It’s a fun game that tests active listening skills.

Expressive Arts Activities

Children who struggle to express themselves verbally may benefit from creative activities. Give these crafty exercises a shot.

Mandala-Making

Mandalas are an ancient concept representing wholeness and unity. Crafting them can be a highly therapeutic experience and inspire children’s imaginations.

Because the mandala-making process incorporates symmetry and flow, art therapists use it to restore balance and improve well-being [*]. Encourage participants to use any materials they find, such as paints, markers, and natural materials.

Self-Portraits

How a child draws or paints a self-portrait can reveal much about their perception of themselves. Encourage participants to share why they illustrated themselves in specific ways. Then, ask observers to share positive attributes of that person. It’s an excellent exercise for boosting self-esteem and self-confidence.

Vision Boards

Vision boards provide a more imaginative alternative to traditional goal-setting. Participants can use mixed media, such as magazine cutouts, photographs, and various coloring materials, to create a board representing their hopes, dreams, and desires.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Activities

Mindfulness plays an imperative role in any therapy setting. It can benefit both children and adults. Here are some approachable mindfulness activities you can try with adolescents.

Guided Meditation

Meditation has many proven benefits, from boosting happiness, improving sleep, reducing stress, and enhancing focus [*]. Facilitators can use guided meditation videos online or use techniques like:

  • 4-7-8 breathing
  • Box breathing
  • Body scan meditation
  • Mantra meditation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

When the body is relaxed, it allows us to relax the brain. Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step technique that involves slowly tensing or tightening the muscles and completely relaxing to calm the body and reduce stress.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are necessary for kids and teens learning to manage intense emotions. They put individuals in a better, calmer place and more receptive mindset.

You can try various breathing exercises, such as bunny or deep belly breathing, to determine what works best for the group.

Group Bonding Activities

Adolescents must feel bonded to each other to flourish in group therapy settings. Here are a few activities that may bring participants closer together!

Trust Fall

A trust fall is a powerful tool in group therapy sessions, regardless of age. Have each child pair up, then demonstrate the trust fall. This activity helps improve communication and opens up discussions about how trust is essential in friendships and other relationships.

Storytelling

Storytelling doesn’t just exercise the creative mind—it allows others a peek into a person’s characteristics and experiences. Facilitate this activity by providing a theme. For example:

  • Share a funny story involving your siblings.
  • Share a story about a time you had to make a tough decision.
  • Share a moment you felt most grateful in the last week.

What Makes a Home?

In this simple bonding activity, participants will build the ideal “home” together by taking turns writing words and characteristics on a simple drawing of a house. For example, they might write:

  • Family
  • Safe space
  • Joy and love
  • Togetherness
  • Milestones

Another therapeutic activity involving a metaphorical house is our DBT House Worksheet, which allows clients to explore their values, emotions, hopes, and coping strategies represented by a specific room or level in the DBT house illustration.

Closing Session Activities

Some therapy sessions can be heavy, so participants should have opportunities to debrief and decompress. Here are some closing activities to try.

Gratitude Circle

Therapy sessions always give us much to be grateful for. At the end of each session, facilitate a quick gratitude circle and encourage participants to share their favorite takeaways.

5-Minute Journal

When sessions are intense, participants sometimes feel “all talked out.” Give them a chance to reflect privately in a five-minute journal session, during which they can free-write and revisit their thoughts later.

Positive Affirmations

Children should leave therapy sessions feeling motivated, fulfilled, and determined. To keep them in good spirits for the next session, end each session by reciting positive affirmations or mantras.

The Bottom Line

Group therapy is a great way to improve a child’s social skills in a safe and engaging environment. However, to have more productive and enriching sessions, you must tap into their shared interests, so exploring different group activities is key!

Explore our other social skills worksheets to get more ideas on group therapy activities.

Sources:

  1. Wagner BN. “Roleplaying to Develop Self-Regulation.” SOPHIA, 2016.
  2. H Kim, S Kim, K Choe, JS Kim. “The Effects of Completing Mandalas on Mood, Anxiety, and State Mindfulness.” Art Therapy, 2020.
  3. Gallant SN. “Mindfulness meditation practice and executive functioning: Breaking down the benefit.” Consciousness and Cognition, 2016.

No articles found...

Search Results
View All Results