Group Therapy Activities with Projective Cards
“The River” and “Roads” decks of cards are useful projective tools that can facilitate therapeutic processes in individual and group sessions. The cards can serve as prompts for group discussions and for group activities including role-playing, storytelling, creative art and more.
Following are easy-to-follow suggestions for using “The River” or “Roads” cards in therapeutic groups of adolescents and adults*.
These are not fixed activities, but general ideas that mental health professionals should adjust to the needs and abilities of their clients, to the specific type of their group, and to their underlying therapeutic goals.
One of the advantages of using “The River” or “Roads” with groups is the fact that the images on their cards can be joined to become a card-continuum of a river or a road, respectively. In this way, each participant can choose a card to represent an issue from their life. Then, when placing it next to a card chosen by another member, the cards connect into one long river/road that contains all the individual cards of the group members.
This image of the group-river, or group-road, is a concrete visual anchor that can serve as a basis for group discussion and for various therapeutic activities.
The therapist guides the clients in choosing cards and building card-continuums around themes that are relevant to the group’s work in that session. As the session progresses, the therapist chooses which subsequent activities to lead with the cards, according to the goals at any given point in therapy.
Examples of Group Activities Surrounding Various Goals and Themes:
Activity 1. Theme: Challenges and Coping Skills
The therapist invites each group member to choose a card that represents the current period in their life and name one challenge that they are facing.
Each client describes their card and puts it next to a card chosen by another member.
The cards connect visually and become one long road that represents the challenges that the various members are currently facing in their lives. (If using The River cards, the cards will connect into one long metaphorical river).
In the third stage, the therapist invites the members to observe the group-road and discuss questions such as: Which paths resemble your own path? Is there a section of the group's road that reminds you of a period in your life? What challenges does this road encounter? How does it cope? How can your individual path support the group-road?
In the fourth stage, the therapist puts pens and two pieces of paper next to the cards-continuum and invites the participants to write two lists:
- A list of the challenges that their group-road is facing currently
- A list of strengths or coping skills that are present in the group (or that can be developed through individual and group work) and which can be used to support it in the current phase of its journey
The participants can either fill in the lists separately, with each member adding a word in turn, or together.
To conclude the session, the therapist reads the two lists aloud and invites each member to mention a word or an image that came up during the session and gives them hope regarding future paths. This can be something that came up in another participant’s work or in their own.
Activity 2. Goal: Fostering a sense of belonging in the group
The therapist invites each group member to choose a river card that reminds them of a meaningful period in their lives.
Each member describes the card and puts it on a large sheet of blank paper, next to a card chosen by another member. Thus, a long river of cards is now placed on the paper in the centre of the room.
In the third stage, the therapist asks each member to share what they connect to in the descriptions or cards chosen by the other participants. This can include feelings that were evoked while listening to another participant’s description of a period in their life, illustrated images that remind them of places that are meaningful to them, or any experience that they are familiar with from their own life.
In the fourth stage, the therapist invites the group to observe their combined river in silence. After a few minutes, they can write something that can help their own metaphorical river segment to flow in a way that suits its needs, as part of the long group’s river, on the paper around the cards. When everyone has finished writing, the therapist reads what the participants have written aloud.
To conclude the activity, the members can discuss optional names for their group-river.
Activity 3. Goal: Encouraging group communication
The therapist asks each participant to choose a road card that can describe how they feel in the group.
Each participant describes their card or explains why they chose it. They do not need to connect their card to other cards.
In the third stage, the therapist divides the group to work in pairs. This can be done randomly or according to specific considerations of the therapist.
Each pair is encouraged to discuss questions such as: What do your cards or the feelings that they evoke have in common? What do you feel is different between your cards or your experiences? Which part/s of your partner’s card do you like? Which illustrated images in your partner’s card do you find difficult to relate to? What do you find interesting in your partner’s reasons for choosing their specific card? Which questions come up as you observe the two cards?
In the fourth stage, the therapist invites the pairs to return to the group setting and encourages each pair to share their experience with the whole group.
To conclude the session, each participant is asked to mention something new or something interesting that they have learned about their partner, about the group or about themselves during this activity.
To learn how to use these cards and others, Please join one of our online workshops