Substance abuse group activities are one of the most intimidating parts of rehab for many people. Addiction isolates you from those around you, such as friends and family, and you get used to mostly being on your own. When you come to rehab and need to share intimately in a group setting during early recovery, it’s no wonder people get uncomfortable.

It’s important for inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities to incorporate beneficial substance abuse group activities. Group therapy is a helpful and effective method of treatment if you conduct it properly. The lower the barrier to entry in group activities the better. You want to encourage as much participation as possible and there are a few different ways you can do that.

Continue reading for a list of some of the best ideas for substance abuse group activities you can use at your facility. Try a few of these and see how they resonate with your group then figure out how you can proceed.

Top 30 Substance Abuse Group Activities

One of the best approaches to group activities is to start slow. People will shut down if you ask them to share their most intimate thoughts from the moment they walk in the door. You need to start slow in order to ease your clients into sharing their deeper thoughts with the group. Once your group feels comfortable with each other you can start digging deeper.


  1. Check-in questions. Provide a short list of general questions for each person in the group to answer, such as how many days sober, how they’re feeling today, and a high and low for the day.
  2. Two truths and a lie. Nearly everyone knows the game two truths and a lie. Incorporate this into your substance abuse group activities to help the group get to know each other.
  3. Discuss the impact of gratitude in life. Gratitude shifts perspective from the negative to the positive. Have clients state three things they’re grateful for.
  4. Discuss common triggers. Triggers are an easy thing to talk about substance abuse group activities because everyone deals with them. Ask for some common triggers your group deals with.
  5. Although nearly everyone knows it, talk about the importance of well-balanced sleep, nutrition, and exercise. How you care for your body determines how it performs.
  6. Talk about everyday routines. Discuss some of the important things to incorporate into a daily routine, such as a support group, exercise, family time, or fun hobbies.
  7. What are some activities group members can participate in instead of using drugs? Come up with a list of alternative ways to use newfound free time.
  8. Introduce the practice of mediation to your substance abuse group activities. It can be as simple as following a guided audio meditation or bringing in an actual instructor.
  9. Talk about stress management – how did you manage stress in the past and what are some more productive ways to manage it without the use of drugs and alcohol?
  10. Select an inspirational reading from a daily reflection or meditation book then discuss the meaning of the reading with the group.

Digging Deeper

  1. Have each person in the substance abuse group activities talk about their hero. Who is that person, what do they mean to them, and why are they their hero? What can they do to be more like their hero?
  2. Talk about the importance of mindfulness. It’s easy to lose yourself throughout the day with how quickly the world moves. How can you bring yourself back to your center?
  3. Brainstorm and write out some positive self-affirmation statements. Some people have a difficult time coming up with positive things about themselves so discussion at the group level may also help.
  4. Discuss positive, healthy self-care routines. What does self-care look like to each person?
  5. Decorate paper bags: on the outside, have people draw what they allow others to see. Have them draw what they get to see on the inside of the bag.
  6. Discuss bad habits and some positive alternatives to replace those habits with.
  7. Have each member of the group write a sentence describing themselves as they are now and as they would like to be.
  8. Goal setting – what does each member of the group want to accomplish inside and outside of treatment?
  9. Freewriting is one of the best substance abuse group activities. It’s open-ended and allows for interpretation both from a topic and a writing standpoint. Allow people adequate time to write then, if the group is comfortable enough, time to share what they wrote about.
  10. Discuss healthy ways to process fear. Many times people run from fear and back to drugs. What are some positive ways to face fears?

Breaking Through

  1. Discuss fears and the different ways men and women process fear. This delves into the way people are raised to navigate the world around them and adds an additional layer to the fear discussion.
  2. Talk about the effects of relapse. These effects might look different for each person but discussing them helps people remember the reality of addiction.
  3. Have each member of the group share three negative beliefs about themselves and then counter them with three positive affirmations.
  4. Talking with their childhood self. This is one of those substance abuse group activities that dives deep quickly so make sure the group feels safe with one another.
  5. Make a list of the best and worst moments in your life. Reflect on what made these moments come to mind.
  6. Ask people in the group the following questions: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that changed? Can you still be that thing?
  7. Discuss forgiveness. What does forgiveness look like for each person? Can you forgive and forget? Are there times when forgiveness isn’t an option?
  8. Have each member of the group share a song that means the most to them and discuss why it holds such deep meaning.
  9. Hold a group discussion and have each person Imagine it was their last day on earth. What would they do?
  10. Freewrite on the following topic: If you could tell everyone you ever knew just one thing, what would it be?

Finding Help in Addiction Treatment

If you approach them correctly, substance abuse group activities have plenty of positive benefits for those involved. Do you know someone who needs the assistance of group therapy or addiction treatment? Call Hawaii Island Recovery, a facility located on the Big Island specializing in treatment for addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and dual diagnosis. Reach our admissions office today at 877-721-3556.

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