Therapeutic Icebreaker Activities

Written by mary pletcher
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Therapeutic Icebreaker Activities
Icebreakers help group participants feel comfortable. (Paul Sutherland/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

In group therapy, there are specific techniques to allow the group to bond, develop a level of comfort and explore the group's resources. Icebreaker activities are especially important at the beginning of group therapy. Therapeutic icebreaker activities permit members of the group to get to know one another and explore their feelings in a nonthreatening manner.

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The Name Game

Icebreaker activities that permit the group to get to know each other are important when beginning therapy. For new groups, learning each others' names and interests through the Name Game helps them become acquainted and break down barriers. To play, the first person says his name and an adjective to describe himself that starts with the same letter as his name, such as "Adventurous Andy." The second person repeats the first person's name and adds her own name. Continue around the circle until the last person repeats everyone's names and adjectives. The adjectives chosen help lighten the mood, and the repetition encourages participants to look at and remember each other.

Weaving a Web

To weave a web, begin with a ball of yarn. Roll the yarn from person to person, with each person holding on to the yarn before rolling it and calling out the name of the next person. This not only gets people moving but makes a point about teamwork--the yarn forms a web that the group must untangle together. Icebreaker activities that get the group moving and active serve a dual purpose. They not only help the group get to know each other, but they get the mind and body working while drawing participants into the session.

Animal Gathering

Begin by blindfolding each participant. Choose four or more animals (depending on the size of the group), and whisper the name of an animal in each person's ear. They cannot speak but should each make the sound of their assigned animal. They then move about the room, trying to find the other animals making the same sound until everyone is gathered with their animal group. Icebreaker activities that call on the group to be silly can help them relax before engaging in the work of therapy.

Drum Circles

A drum circle or egg shaker pass can get people in touch with the group in a new way as they create music together. To start a basic drum circle, pass around drums or other percussion instruments. The leader may pick a rhythm for the group to follow, or you can allow the group to find its own rhythm. An egg shaker pass is more complicated. Each person has a small shaker to shake before passing to another person. The tempo increases until people drop shakers or they all end up with one person, which gets the group laughing and ready to try something new. Music is a powerful healing tool, and using it as an icebreaker sets the tone.

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