Games & activities for a substance abuse group

Written by lauren tyree
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Games & activities for a substance abuse group
A change of venue and schedule can encourage active participation. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Substance abuse support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are designed to promote recovery in a healthy, supportive environment. Struggling addicts gather frequently and regularly to discuss their progress, keep each other accountable and socialise in a safe space far away from the temptation of drugs and alcohol. Stimulating games and activities go a long way toward strengthening interpersonal dynamics and benefiting all who attend group gatherings.

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Trust-building games position players in a way that maximises interdependence. To conduct trust falls, pair participants up and have them take turns leaning backward into the open arms of their partners. Knowing you'll be caught before you fall to the ground requires a generous measure of trust. For a fun variation on the game, have everyone stand in a circle shoulder-to-shoulder around a single person in the middle, who should remain as stiff as possible and keep his eyes shut. The player in the middle should trust the others to pass him gently pack and forth, bouncing him to and fro around the area within the circle. Players should verbalise their commitment to catching the player in the middle without letting him fall. Play these trust games outside on the grass to prevent injury.


Those in recovery from addiction often deal with the fallout of broken relationships with friends and family, abandoned promises and elusive personal goals. Have members sit down and write out intimate letters addressed to themselves or to loved ones affected by their harmful addictions. The goal should be to put into words the emotions they formerly suppressed by using mind-altering substances. This will be a highly challenging and emotional activity for those who haven't gone very far into the self-discovery process yet. Encourage brutal honesty and openness among the participants, and praise anyone who volunteers to share the contents of his letter.

Arts and Crafts

Group art can be a thoroughly enjoyable, constructive and therapeutic way to channel energy and frustration into expressive creativity. Facilitate a day of drawing, have the group make collages using photos, magazines and construction paper or encourage the group members to make cards and personal tokens for loved ones affected by the fallout of substance abuse. Encourage free expression and unlimited exploration during the activity; this is a great way for group members to deal with complex, abstract emotions in a healthy way.

Show and Tell

Have attendees bring in personal artefacts, like diaries, music, books or jewellery, to present to the group along with a story from the past. The story can be about a fond childhood memory or a painful let-down, a recent triumph over temptation or a long-lost friend. This activity will provoke a range of emotions from laughter to cleansing bouts of sobbing, due to the diversity of the group's members and their personal experiences. Sincerely thank and encourage everyone who chooses to participate.

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