Ideas and activities for substance abuse group therapy

drug abuse image by Keith Frith from

The purpose of substance abuse group therapy is to empower the recovering individual to resist drug or alcohol abuse by acquiring a new lifestyle by developing new life skills. New habits, and the motivation to remain drug or alcohol free are short-term goals for every substance abuse group therapy session.

Breaking Through Denial

To break through denial, have each group member write a short story of how she began using drugs, including all details leading up to her referral or entrance into the substance abuse group therapy process. No member should include her name on the writing assignment. The therapist collects the stories and redistributes them so that no one receives her own story. Members read each story aloud, and all members silently raise their hands whenever they hear a statement read that appears to include denial of addiction or the seriousness of the consequences involved.

Using Music

Inhibitions in group therapy can be reduced through allowing group members to express their feelings through sharing music. Assign each group member to bring to group and share at least one CD single that expresses an important aspect of his life or reveals something personal about him that he would like to share with the group. Have each group member share times he has also experienced the sentiment expressed in the music.

Throwing It Away

Have each group member write a list of behaviours related to drug or alcohol abuse, along with a list of negative consequences caused by the behaviours. After each behaviour and consequence have been shared aloud with the group, place a waste basket in the centre of the circle, and have each member wad the lists up and physically throw them into the waste paper basket in front of the group. Each group member should verbalise that she is throwing the destructive behaviour and consequences away.

Role-Playing Drug Refusal Skills

Select one group member to role-play drug refusal skills while other group members role-play drug dealers, old friends and family members trying to get the newly recovering person to use drugs or alcohol again in any way they can. Follow this exercise with drug refusal skills suggestions and then repeat the exercise with the same person using the skills.


After an intense Drug Refusal Skills role-play, it is important to have group members encourage the selected addict in the role-play exercise to stay in recovery, reminding him of the consequences of drug and alcohol use for addicts. Allow the individual the opportunity to share feelings he experienced during the role-play and to receive empathy from other group members.

Most recent