I cannot speak for other counselors, but I had a favorite group topic I liked to do while I was working in inpatient. Did not matter if adults or kids, I enjoyed doing this one. When you are working in an inpatient setting, you realize that it is never a matter of IF someone is going to go into crisis, it is more a WHEN will someone go into crisis. There is something about the environment, especially for those consumers that have really decompensated, or those who have been court ordered for treatment (and sometimes those are two in the same), that is conducive to short tempers with sometimes-dangerous outcomes. Which leads me back to my favorite inpatient group topic. I am talking about the topic of “stress relief and appropriate coping skills”. Yep!
I would start out my session with asking each person to identify some of the issues in their lives that “stress them out.” If I remember correctly the top three were often, “Money”, “Being in here [inpatient facility]”, and “family”. There was very often a combination of two out of three, with the occasional Three-in-a-Row answer written on each worksheet. (I preferred to use worksheets to help those who were less verbal in the group discussions, demonstrate that they were at least paying attention to the topic and hopefully gaining something from the session.) I could tell when the consumers started to make understanding and commiserating responses that they were identifying with other group members and their stresses.
As the session progressed, each person was asked to identify some of the physical and emotion symptoms they experience when they are starting to feel stressed. Finally, they were asked, “What are some ways you can reduce stress, and even prevent future stress?” Some people had many answers; some had few or none. Often these were the consumers who were very sick- either they were very depressed and had yet to rediscover any hope, or they were the ones living in their own little world and only occupying a physical space in the room.
There were three favorite answers that I would recommend if the group had trouble starting off: writing, laughter, and counting to ten. Often the suggestion to “count to ten slowly” elicited laughter, so two birds- one stone, right? As for writing, perhaps I am taking my own advice here, as I jot down these experiences and stories. Even if the scribbles are not remotely related to what might be the precipitating factor of one’s stress, just letting a flow of thoughts and ideas out, can be helpful. At least I find it is.
Oh, and saying the alphabet backwards (that’s my little stress reliever secret).