5 Fun Group Therapy Activities for the Holidays
The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone and may be particularly overwhelming for someone living with a cognitive impairment. Group therapy sessions are a great way to connect with others about the issues that individuals are facing, exercise cognitive skills, and practice real-world situations. These groups can be especially helpful around the holidays when clients may have upcoming family gatherings, travel, and other events that may cause stress and self-doubt. Here are some ideas for group therapy activities for the holidays, to get your group talking and learning together about improving cognitive skills!
At the beginning of a group cognitive therapy session, having everyone participate in an icebreaker, a basic exercise for getting to know each other better and helping everyone feel more comfortable within the group can be helpful. Having clients recall details about the holidays can be helpful for exercising language, memory, and executive function skills. Therefore, some helpful icebreakers could involve answering questions such as:
- What’s your favorite holiday meal?
- Share one thing you’re most looking forward to about the holidays.
- Tell us about a person that you’re excited to see during the holidays.
- What would your perfect holiday look like? Where would you be, and who would be there?
Encouraging group members to practice gratitude and share something they’re thankful for may help to reframe the stress surrounding the holiday season. They could share this information out loud or write a list.
Or, you could set up a more involved holiday-themed gratitude activity, such as a gratitude tree. In this exercise, participants would write what they’re grateful for on slips of paper, loop a ribbon through them, and hang them on a tree.
Cognitive worksheets are an engaging way to practice cognitive skills, and they can be worked on individually or in groups. Holiday-themed worksheets may help group participants to get into the holiday spirit while they work on their cognition. Here are a few of our favorite holiday worksheets:
Individuals with a cognitive impairment may get frustrated or down on themselves. These feelings can come up around events that they used to participate in more easily, such as holiday gatherings. Self-compassion exercises may help individuals to see these feelings from a new perspective and feel better about themselves.
One example of a self-compassion exercise is having the group members share a challenge or concern surrounding the holidays. Each person gets a piece of paper and labels it with two different sides: “What I say to myself” and “What I would say to a friend.” Under the first category, they can write their internal feelings in each situation shared with the group, including feelings of self-doubt or criticism. Then, under the next category, they can write what they would say to a friend in that situation. Typically, what they would say to a friend will be more compassionate and kind. This can help participants see how hard they’re criticizing themselves and show that they are capable of treating themselves with kindness and compassion like they would a loved one.
Holiday-Specific Bridging Exercises
Bridging exercises include activities that can help to “bridge” learned skills to real life. A great example of this is role-playing and visualization. Participants can work with the group facilitator to act out their concerns, such as having conversations at a holiday party, and get practice being in the situation.
Group therapy can provide countless benefits for participants. Individuals may benefit from discussing concerns, exercising cognitive skills, and practicing real-world situations in a group therapy setting. We hope that these holiday group therapy ideas are useful for clinicians and their clients this holiday season!