Who am I, Anyway?

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So many of our clients (and let’s be honest, ourselves as well) are eager to look inward and find out who they are.  For so many years, many of them have been labeled the “addict”, the “screw up” etc. and they don’t know who they are outside of those labels.  With that in mind, I often run a group that focuses on our roles within our family and with that, I love to bring in Caroline Myss’ archetypes.

When I first saw these Archetype cards in a grad school course, I immediately was hesitant because I could not get past thinking of them as Tarot cards which was not something I was personally going to bring into my sessions. However, these are far from Tarot cards, rather they are a list of archetypes that we can chose as being part of our personal support team and we chose based on how closely we associate with the light and shadow aspects of each archetype. Caroline Myss has written numerous books about archetypes and how individuals are made up of 12 archetypes, all of which are included in the box of archetype cards.

Of those 12 archetypes, we all share 4 “survival” archetypes that include; The Prostitute, The Saboteur, The Victim and The Child.  Once again, there are a variety of different child archetypes and it is again about finding the one that speaks most strongly to you and how you view yourself.

In terms of groups, I often give a brief background about each archetype (a book is included in each box of cards for reference) and I will then open it up to the group and allow them to go through the box and pick out archetypes that they identify within themselves.  This is a great exercise because each archetype has both “light” and “shadow” attributes and allows a greater discussion as to what strengths can come out of aspects of ourselves we often consider negative and vice versa.

An important note: for our clients that often get into black and white thinking, this exercise can be a challenge.  When I tell clients, “we all have the archetype of prostitute”, there is often push back and initial discomfort for that fact so it is important to be sure to follow that up with a conversation about the symbolism of prostitute.  An attribute of being the prostitute can be the negotiation of our own morals or ethics for financial gain; it is not necessarily saying that we all sell our bodies for financial gain.  With that in mind, it is important that you are well versed and educated in Caroline Myss’ theory and how it relates to archetypes before engaging in this exercises, but I would encourage others to give it a try! I have found it highly effective with men and women and individuals of all ages.

Soundtrack to Your Life

mix tapehttp://www.geekytechnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/7-80s-music-tapes.jpg

This blog started as a place to get some ideas for group and I intend to keep that goal going.  At my current agency, I continue to do groups, largely in the Substance Use field and as such, I have plenty of opportunities to fill our groups with psychoeducation but also with activities!

One activity I recently brought to the group was having all group members make a line on a piece of paper to represent their life.  Then, they were to place major life events on their timeline. After filling in their timeline with life events, they were to come up with a song that helped them identify with that moment.  As group members did this exercise, they were encouraged to play some of their music for the group (with the rule it could not be offensive).  This allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere and encouraged bonding between group members.

At the end of the group, members were encouraged to share what they felt comfortable sharing with other members of the group. They were encouraged to go home and create a playlist for the soundtrack of their life.

There are many variations you can do with this, for me, I encouraged clients to pick out the positive moments in their life to help identify songs and encouraged them to stay away from the negative moments.  Sometimes, we do the entire life, both positive and negative. Sometimes, you can do only future hopes and dreams and make it almost a dream board but through music.  No matter what you choose, it’s just helpful for them to get in touch with their emotions and thoughts in a different medium than just speech or writing which we tend to focus on in groups.

What do you all think? Any suggestions?

Affirmation Stones

Working with substance use groups, you usually are talking about heavy topics and it is difficult to have clients focus on the positive aspects of themselves as opposed to dwelling on the negative ones.  In order to combat that, I have found affirmation stones to be a good group activity.  In terms of supplies, everything you need is simple!

1) MAGAZINES – try to get a variety – especially if you have a heterogeneous group. I like to have some Men’s Fitness, Self, People, etc. Try to steer clear from Cosmo unless you want some unnecessary moments of them getting stuck on the sex section and before you know it, an hour has gone by and everyone’s still wanting to talk about the “just right” orgasm.

2) Scissors – get at least one for every two people

3) Tape or Super glue – I tend to stay away from the super glue after some unfortunate mistakes, but it does look nicer than tape.

4) Stones – if you are at a location like mine, you can just walk outside and have them pick their own! Make sure it’s dry and clear from dirt before starting or it will be a gross mess.

After you have all of the supplies, encourage people to look for words or pictures that make them feel good about themselves and that highlight the good they have within themselves. Make sure that if you suspect there are any literacy issues with group members, to offer the picture idea as well.

The rocks serve a purpose other than as a fun activity for a group. When clients start to feel overwhelmed and find themselves in a downward spiral looking only at the negative things they have done and internalizing that as being bad people, they can look at their rocks to remember the positive.

Have you tried affirmation stones with clients before? How was the experience?

The Ungame

ungame

While I was looking for fun and exciting games to bring to my group therapy sessions, I kept coming across the Ungame. So, after weeks of hemming and hawing, I decided to give it a chance and bought it through Amazon.  Most of clients are in their 20s/30s so I bought the Ungame for 20 Somethings, hoping it would be less “hokey” and “family fun” and more geared to this age group.

Overall, it was a nice addition to the group because it was a break from our usual conversation based session. Clients were at first excited to play a game, but the problem was that this game doesn’t really feel like a game, rather it feels like you’re just going through a list of questions.

A few suggestions for the game:

  • Use deck 1 if you are utilizing the Ungame for a break from “formal” therapy. The questions are lighter and keep the conversation flowing and the clients connecting with one another without feeling like they need to share some deep, dark secrets.
  • Go through the cards! Some of the cards will be of no benefit to your particular group of clients so take them out.  Nothing kills the momentum of the game faster than pulling a card that takes everyone out of the moment.
  • Great game for clients who do not know each other too well – so try to use it on a newer group, or a group that recently added some new members.  It allows them to open up in an environment without any pressure. It is far easier to share your favorite movie than it is to talk about a relationship you ruined because of your drug use.  However, after connecting with others about something as minor as a favorite movie, the clients are laying the ground work for more deep and serious conversation later on.
  • Make it more of a game! Every other turn, I allowed the clients to either answer their question or give the question to someone else – the only rule was once they passed the question to another person, that other person could not be asked another question that round. Clients love this aspect and it brings more of a “game element” to the activity.

So go out and give the Ungame a try! If you have used the Ungame before or have any ideas on how to better incorporate it into therapy, let me know!