(Updated 9/22/22) This resource guide for grief & loss is for mental health professionals as well as for anyone who is grieving. This grief & loss guide includes a list of recommended books (for both adults and children); free printable PDF workbooks and handouts; and links to education and support sites.
Recommended Books for Grief & Loss
Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (2000) by Pauline Boss, Ph.D. (176 pages)
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief (2017) by Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D. (248 pages)
The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change (2006) by Melody Beattie (368 pages)
Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss (2018) by Jan Warner (272 pages)
The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith (2009) by John W. James & Russell Friedman (240 pages)
Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers (Healing a Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages)
How to Survive the Loss of a Love (2006) by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, & Peter McWilliams (208 pages)
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand (2017) by Megan Divine (280 pages)
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (2008) by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. (292 pages)
No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death, 7th ed. (2014) by Janice Harris Lord (240 pages)
Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief (2014) by Tom Zuba (121 pages)
Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything (2017) by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. (256 pages)
Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2019) by Stephen Levine (240 pages)
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2016) by Pema Chodron (176 pages)
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief (2015) by Francis Weller (224 pages)
Recommended Books for Children & Adolescents
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages (1982) by Leo Buscaglia (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-14)
Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-18)
The Invisible String (2018) by Patrice Karst (40 pages, for ages 4-8)
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief (2017) by Joanna Rowland (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss (2005) by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (56 pages, for ages 8-12 years)
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families) (1998) by Laurie Krasny Brown (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1996) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 9-12)
When Something Terrible Happens: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1992) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Recommended Books for Clinicians
Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children (2006) by Liana Lowenstein (205 pages)
Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Fifth Edition: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (2018) by William Worden, Ph.D. (352 pages)
Grief Counseling Homework Planner (PracticePlanners) (2017) by Phil Rich (272 pages)
In the Presence of Grief: Helping Family Members Resolve Death, Dying, and Bereavement Issues (2003) by Dorothy S. Becvar (284 pages)
Transforming Grief & Loss Workbook: Activities, Exercises & Skills to Coach Your Client Through Life Transitions (2016) by Ligia Houben (264 pages)
Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide (2014) by Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph.D., Camille B. Wortman, Ph.D., Catherine A. Feuer, Ph.D., Christine H. Farber, Ph.D., & Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. (358 pages)
Free Printable Workbooks & Handouts for Grief & Loss
The Sober Survival Guide provides readers with an opportunity to explore their drinking habits and determine if an alcohol-free life may be right for them. It also serves as a handbook for coping with everyday life situations that may lead to cravings or relapse. (Includes a quote from the author and exclusive details about his next book, which is set to be released by the end of this year!)
“I didn’t ever set out to write a book, but as my blog grew and more people were visiting my website and finding the articles I was writing helpful, I was getting a lot of comments that I should do something more substantial, from here the book began to evolve.
The more I wrote, the more immersed I became in writing a book that I felt would have helped me at the time I wanted to quit. Right through the process I asked myself ‘would this help someone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol?’, if the answer was no, I removed it.
I wanted to create something unique in the ‘quit lit’ sector, that would not only help readers learn the best strategy for quitting drinking that worked for me, but would also help set them up for long-term success when it comes to dealing with the challenges that arise in the months and years after getting sober.
I decided to split [The Sober Survival Guide] into two parts. The first part deals with the process of actually quitting drinking and guides readers along the path to freedom, the second part addresses specific situations that come up after quitting, such as social events, vacations, parties and events, relationships with friends, partners and family and dealing with ‘coming out’ about being ‘alcohol-free’.
My whole approach to sobriety is around our mindset, I believe that living alcohol-free should be seen as a positive lifestyle-choice that we make for ourselves, rather than feeling like we have been deprived and have to get by on willpower because we have had something special taken away from us.
I recently completed the manuscript for my second book – How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days, which is a one-chapter a day roadmap to becoming alcohol-free and I am excited about the release at the end of this year.”
-Simon Chapple, August 7, 2020
Can you relate to any of the following statements about alcohol?
“I can’t have fun without it. Imagine going to a party without drinking!”
“It makes me feel less anxious or depressed.”
“It helps me sleep.”
“I can’t relax without it.”
“It makes me entertaining to be around.”
“It fits the lifestyle of my boozy friends.”
“I like the taste.”
“It’s cool and sophisticated.”
“I’m not confident enough to talk to new people without it.”
“It helps me deal with all the problems that life throws my way.”
“It stops me from worrying, especially about how much I’m drinking.”
-Source: The Sober Survival Guide, pg. 6
Maybe you’ve questioned your drinking habits or wondered if you have a problem with drinking. Maybe you’ve thought about quitting, but can’t imagine a life without alcohol. You may, at times, wonder if you’re an alcoholic, but are quick to dismiss the idea because you haven’t hit “rock bottom” and you can’t relate to the 12-step concept of being utterly powerless over a disease.
Simon Chapple is not an alcoholic, nor is he in recovery; he is a person who doesn’t drink. In his book, The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple explains that he doesn’t deem it necessary to carry a label for the rest of your life (as many in AA and NA do). “Remember that you hold the power to be who you want to be, and you can choose what labels you use for yourself” (pg. 11).
In The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple shares about his personal journey as a heavy drinker to discovering sobriety and living an alcohol-free life. He discusses alcoholism and the stigma surrounding certain labels (i.e. “alcoholic”) in the first part of the book, which “sets the scene for you to explore what an alcohol-free life might look like for you” (pg. 21). You are also given the opportunity to examine your relationship with alcohol along with your beliefs about drinking.
The second part of the book serves as a practical handbook for anyone who wants to stop drinking; it includes helpful tips for navigating everyday life situations that could trigger a desire to drink. Some of the problems and challenges you may face include stress, accountability, special events/parties, boredom, sleep, and sober sex, among others.
Throughout the book, Chapple encourages the reader to examine their core beliefs about drinking by asking thought-provoking questions. These questions can serve as journaling prompts for the person who is wondering, “Am I an alcoholic?”
The Sober Survival Guide is an easy read with clearly-presented information. The book has a non-judgmental feel to it, unlike much of the 12-step literature that suggests your drinking is related to character flaws. (The language and concepts of AA can be off-putting and difficult to relate to for individuals at the lower end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum.)
Furthermore, The Sober Survival Guide empowers the reader to make changes; you don’t have to admit powerlessness over a disease and turn your will over to a higher power to quit drinking. Chapple’s message is hopeful and inspiring; plus, many of his strategies are based on evidence-based practices, including CBT and mindfulness.
If you are currently questioning whether or not your drinking habits are “normal,” The Sober Survival Guide will provide answers. This book will lift you up and inspire; as you read through the chapters, you may also feel an enormous sense of relief. Furthermore, you will be equipped with a wealth of effective strategies if you do choose to cut down or quit drinking. (Quitting drinking is not easy, but 100% doable, providing you put in the effort and have supports.)
I recommend reading The Sober Survival Guide if you’ve ever wondered if you’re an alcoholic. (You may not see yourself as a “problem drinker,” but you sometimes experience problems related to your alcohol use.) I also recommend this book if you’ve already made the decision to quit or cut down on alcohol. And if you’re a heavy drinker, but are unsure if you want to stop, The Sober Survival Guide has the power to motivate and inspire. Friends and family members of a heavy drinker will also benefit from this book.
Additionally, The Sober Survival Guide is recommended for anyone working in the mental health field. If you have a client who is worried about their drinking or unsure if they have a problem, this book offers answers while providing a refreshing perspective on alcohol use. (It’s proven that people are better equipped to make sustainable change when presented with a variety of options instead of just one. Don’t contribute to the myth that AA is the only way to get sober!)
Is there anyone who should not read this book? In some ways, The Sober Survival Guide oversimplifies addiction; it does not take into account the complex relationship between trauma and substance use. Some of the techniques described in the second part of the book are not trauma-informed. Additionally, if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (i.e. major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.), your recovery requires a co-occurring approach in order to treat both the addiction and the mental disorder. Lastly, if you have a severe addiction and are physically dependent on alcohol, it’s likely you’ll require extensive, ongoing treatment in order to fully recover; the tips in the book aren’t sufficient (which is noted by the author).
In sum, if you’re tired of the role alcohol plays in your life, consider reading The Sober Survival Guide! You have nothing to lose, but much to gain.
For Simon’s newest book (Kindle version), How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days: Stop Drinking and Find Freedom, which is set to be released by the end of this year, click here! Check back for an exclusive review on Mind ReMake Project prior to the release date.
Journal Prompts from The Sober Survival Guide
Chapple recommends journaling as a tool for reflection and change. The following prompts are based on material from The Sober Survival Guide. (Download a printable PDF version below.)
✒ What are your drinking habits now? How much? How often? What drinks do you have? What were your drinking habits one year ago? What were your drinking habits five years ago? (Compare your answers. Are you drinking more now than you were before?) (pg. 29)
✒ Calculate the time (per week) you spend drinking alcohol. Consider calculating the time spent planning to drink or recovering from the effects of alcohol. (pg. 147)
✒ List the reasons your life is better because of alcohol. Next, challenge each reason. (pg. 44)
✒ Does labeling yourself as an “alcoholic” or “addict” help or harm you? Why? (pg. 10)
✒ Do you believe you have to hit “rock bottom” to recover? Why or why not? (pg. 41)
✒ Have you ever hit “rock bottom”? Describe the incident in detail. If you haven’t had a “rock bottom” experience, what do you think it would look like? (pg. 41)
✒ What are your current beliefs surrounding alcohol? For each belief you list, write a challenging statement. (Example: “I fail at everything I do – I doubt I can [quit alcohol].” Challenge with “If I don’t try, I won’t ever know. I’ll approach this with an open mind and a sense of curiosity.”) (pg. 38)
✒ Record your current feelings surrounding drinking. (pg. 58)
✒ List specific fears you have about quitting drinking. (Examples: What if my friends think I’m boring sober? What if I fail? What if I can’t have fun anymore?) (pg. 79)
✒ Create a cravings log. List the times of day you experience cravings and what is happening at those times. (pg. 78)
✒ List the pros and cons of drinking. (pg. 77)
✒ List some of the reasons you want to stop drinking. Write about how you want your life to change. (Be specific!) (pg. 25)
✒ List the ways alcohol has negatively impacted your health. Include health concerns you may not have experienced yet. (pg. 28)
✒ List all of the occasions or special events you’ve put alcohol ahead of and reflect on your answers. (pg. 33)
✒ List all of the people, situations, and events you’ve neglected in favor of drinking. Then, for each item, write how the same situation/event would have looked like if you hadn’t been drinking. (pg. 36)
✒ List your justifications for drinking. (Examples: “I work hard; I earned this drink.” “It’s just a beer, not hard liquor.” “I never drink alone.” “I only drink on weekends.”) (pg. 32)
✒ Review your list of current beliefs surrounding alcohol. Assign an emotion to each belief. (Example: “Without drinking each day, I’ll never be happy.” The underlying emotions are worry and sadness.) Next, replace each belief with a truthful statement, something that could become. (Example: “I am happy because [insert reason(s) here], but I have a hard time not drinking every day. So I’m working on this to become stronger.”) (pg. 47)
✒ Write a “breakup” letter to alcohol. (pg. 55)
✒ List all the things you want to do or experience once you are alcohol-free. (pg. 69)
✒ Create a list of ways you can celebrate your success. (Be sure to calculate how much money you’ll save by quitting drinking.) (pg. 84)
✒ Create a sober bucket list. (pg. 148)
✒ List everything you may lose if you start drinking again. (pg. 83)
✒ Create a personal accountability statement. (pg. 83)
✒ List ways you can respond to others when they ask why you’re not drinking. (Examples: “I’m driving.” “Not now, no thanks.” “Not tonight, maybe another time.”) (pg. 74)
✒ When you have an upcoming event that’s potentially triggering, visualize what you will do, say, etc. Write your detailed vision in your journal. (pg. 97)
✒ Create a list of coping skills for when you’re experiencing a low mood. (pg. 116)
✒ Create a gratitude list. (pg. 117)
✒ Create a daily thought log. What are some of the thoughts you have about drinking throughout the day? (pg. 120)
✒ If you experience a lapse or relapse, describe what happened. Pinpoint the exact moment you decided to drink. (pg. 66)
✒ Review what you wrote (in the previous entry) about your lapse or relapse. Identify the triggers you experienced. (pg. 78)
✒ Write a statement of commitment to an alcohol-free life. (pg. 168)
Bonus Material: Checklist for the Problems and Challenges You’ll Face
Crazy things are happening all around the world at the moment. The pandemic, lockdowns, riots… In times like these, it’s crucial that you keep your mind sharp and healthy. But in many places, gyms have not reopened. And not everyone has the luxury of owning a home gym.
If you lack access to a gym (home or otherwise), fear not! You will be amazed at how fit you can get with little (or no) equipment if you put your mind to it! This article reviews ways you can workout at home (minus the weights and fitness machines).
Both of the above workout programs can be easily modified to be less difficult or more challenging. Below, I will explain how you can experiment to adjust the difficulty of your workout program and ways you can experiment if you are getting bored. Sometimes, changing things up is necessary to maintain motivation.
Reduce or increase rest times. Reducing or increasing rest times will make the workout harder or easier.
Increase or decrease the reps and sets. The amount of reps refers to how many times you repeat the same motion for one set. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as five reps. The amount of sets refers to how many times you repeat a number of reps. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as one set. You can do multiple sets of the same exercise after you take a short rest.
Increasing the amount of reps and sets makes the workout harder while decreasing makes it easier.
Adjust the way you do certain exercises. Most exercises can be made harder or easier. For example, pushups can be done on hands and toes, the traditional way, but can also be performed on hands and knees. Alternatively, they can be done with your feet raised on a bench, making them harder.
Squats can be done with or without weights. If regular squats are too easy, you can perform single-leg squats to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Add or decrease the number of exercises. You can also add or remove exercises from your routine to alter the level of difficulty. Exercises should be added as your level of training advances.
Consider adding the following exercises to a workout program:
The exercises listed above are just a few examples to add to your workout in order to make things trickier or for a nice change of pace if things get boring. Don’t hesitate to add your own exercises; get creative! Just be sure to perform any exercise with the correct form in order to prevent injuries.
Why Are These Workouts Effective?
The workout programs in this article are compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises or movements that target multiple large muscle groups at the same time. (For example, squats are compound exercises that target the legs in addition to the back and abdominal muscles, among others.) With compound exercises, you get more “bang for your buck.” The core of any training program should always consist of compound exercises.
High-intensity interval training. This means your heartrate increases and stays elevated for prolonged periods of time. We accomplish this with exercises of a certain level of intensity and by keeping rest periods between the exercises relatively short.
Strength, endurance, and mobility combined into one workout. With these workouts you will become stronger because you use your own body weight as resistance and your endurance will increase because your heartrate goes up with this high-intensity interval training style. Your mobility will increase as well because you will be utilizing a full range of motion.
Easy, even for individuals lacking prior experience.
Easily adjustable workout routines. Multiple ways to adjust the templates to make your own workout more challenging or less difficult.
Convenience and value. No equipment or gym memberships required; a cheap and easy path to fitness. Both exercise programs require little time and can be performed at home. No drive to the gym. What’s not to like?
In comparing the workouts, the biggest differences between the beginner and intermediate programs are the amount of exercises, the difficulty level, and the overall volume. Rest times are initially the same because everyone’s cardiovascular health is different, but should be adjusted for each individual.
Keep in mind that the workout programs are templates only; they provide general guidelines that can be adjusted for fitness and training level as well as individual differences. For example, one person may struggle with pushups while another has difficulty with squats. Prior experience and recent injury or illness should be taken into account. You can reduce or increase reps/sets or perform alternate versions of an exercise, such as performing pushups on hands and knees if the traditional pushup is too hard.
The common stigma that you need a lot of fancy equipment or heavy lifting to stay in shape is not necessarily true. While exercises that utilize body weight only may not lead to bulging muscles, they will lead to fitness and you being in great shape as you lose fat and gain strength.
Getting in a quality workout with the current lockdown regulations is challenging, but with some knowledge and determination it can certainly be done!
Author: Kevin Mangelschots, Writer & Occupational Therapist
Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and writes about general health with a specific focus on mental health and self-improvement on his blog, healthybodyathome.com.
Initially, the idea of group therapy terrified me. What if I couldn’t “control” the group? What if a client challenged me? What if I couldn’t think of anything to say? What if everyone got up and walked out? (That last one actually happened, once, by the way.)
What made group counseling especially intimidating was that if I “messed up,” an entire group of people [as opposed to one person] would witness my failure.
Group facilitation wasn’t always comfortable and I made many (many!) mistakes, but I grew. I realized it’s okay to be counselor and human; at times, humans say dumb stuff, hurt each other’s feelings, and don’t know the answer.
By letting go of the need to be perfect, I became more effective. Group facilitation is now one of my favorite parts of the job.
This resource guide provides practical information and tools for group therapy for mental health practitioners.
Group Therapy Guidelines
Group therapy is an evidence-based treatment for substance use and mental disorders. An effective group calls for a skilled clinician to meet treatment standards. Professional associations, such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association, develop best practice guidelines based on scientific data and clinical research.
Are you a therapist, social worker, or peer support specialist who provides group counseling? Click here for guidelines from the American Group Psychotherapy Association.
Want to learn about current best practice in group work? Click here for the revised guidelines from the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW).
Additionally, SAMHSA promotes research-based protocols and has published several group therapy guides for best practice, including TIP 41: Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy – Quick Guide for Clinicians, and Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy Inservice Training (a training manual), in addition to group workbooks/facilitator guides for anger management, stimulant use disorder, and serious mental illness.
Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The book itself is small in size but packed with helpful information and creative ideas. As a new counselor lacking in clinical skills, I supplemented with activities to engage the clients. Group Exercises for Addiction Counseling never failed me.
A more recent discovery of mine. This guide provides detailed instructions accompanied by thought-provoking discussion questions for each intervention. I was impressed with both the quality and originality; an instant upgrade to “house-tree-person.”
You only have to Google “icebreakers” and you’ll have a million activities to choose from. I’m not listing many, but they’re ones clients seem to enjoy the most.
My favorite icebreaker activity involves passing out blank slips of paper to each group member and instructing them to write a “fun fact” about themselves, something no one else in the group would know. I provide them with examples (i.e. “I once had a pet lamb named Bluebell” or “I won a hotdog eating contest when I was 11 and then threw up all over the judges’ shoes”).
Depending on the crowd, you may want to tell clients not to write anything they wouldn’t want their peers to know. (I adopted this guideline after a client wrote about “sharting” himself.) Once everyone has written something, have them fold their papers and place in a container of some sort (a gift box, paper bag, plastic bowl, etc.) Group members take turns passing around the container (one-at-a-time) and picking a slip to read aloud. They must then guess who wrote it. (I give three guesses; after that, I turn it over to the group.)
A similar but more structured activity is to write out questions ahead of time and have clients take turns drawing and answering the questions. Questions can be silly, thought-provoking, or intending to illicit a strong emotional response (depending on the audience and goals for the group).
“People Search” involves a list of traits, feats, talents, or experiences. Each client receives the list and is given x amount of time to find someone in the group who is a match; that individual will then sign off. The first person to have their list completely signed sits down; they win. I typically let clients continue to collect signatures until two additional people sit down.
(Prizes optional, but always appreciated.) During the debriefing, it’s fun to learn more (and thereby increase understanding and compassion).
“First Impressions” works best with group members who don’t know each other well. It’s important for group members to know each other’s names (or wear name tags). Each group member has a sheet of paper with various “impressions” (i.e. judgments/stereotypes).
For example, items on the list might be “Looks like an addict” and “Looks intelligent.” Clients write other group members’ names for each impression. In addition to enhancing a sense of community, this activity provides an avenue for discussing harmful stereotypes and stigma.
Affirmations groups can be powerful, generating unity and kindness. The effect seems to be more pronounced in gender-specific groups. There are a variety of ways to facilitate an affirmations group, ranging from each person providing an affirmation to the client on their right to individuals sharing a self-affirmation with the group to creating a self-affirmation painting.
Another idea is to give each client a sheet of paper. (Consider using quality, brightly-colored paper/posterboard and providing markers, gel pens, etc.) Clients write their name on it and then all the papers are passed around so each group member has the opportunity to write on everyone else’s sheet. Once their original paper is returned to them, they can read and share with the group. This can lead to a powerful discussion about image, reputation, feeling fake, etc. (Plus, clients get to keep the papers!)
Most Likely & Least Likely to Relapse
“Most Likely to Relapse/Least Likely to Relapse” works best with a well-formed group and may require extra staff support. It’s good for larger groups and can be highly effective in a therapeutic community.
Clients receive blank pieces of paper and are tasked to write the names of who they think is most likely and least likely to relapse. After writing their own name on the sheet, they turn it in to staff (effectively allowing staff to maintain a safe and productive environment). Staff then read each sheet aloud (without naming who wrote it). If they choose, clients can share what they wrote and provide additional feedback. (Most do.) Clients selected as “most likely” (in either category) have the opportunity to process with other group members and staff.
Access more group therapy worksheets and handouts here.
In need of fresh material? It can be easy to fall into a rut, especially if you’re burnout or working with a particularly challenging group. The following three PDF downloads are lists of ideas for group topics.
Practical Tips for Psychoeducation & Process Groups
As a group facilitator, consider incorporating some sort of experiential activity, quiz, handout, game, etc. into every session. For example, start with a check-in, review a handout, facilitate a discussion, take a 5-minute bathroom break, facilitate a role-play, and then close the group by summarizing and providing clients with the opportunity to share what they learned.
If an experiential or interactive exercise isn’t feasible, provide coffee or snacks; sitting for 45 minutes is difficult for some, and 90 minutes can be unbearable.
Another idea is to have a “fun” or “free” group in the curriculum. Ideas include going bowling, having a potluck, Starbucks run, game group (i.e. Catchphrase, Pictionary, etc.), escape room, nature walk, etc.
Dealing with Challenges
Clients are not always willing therapy participants; some are court-ordered to attend or there to have privileges restored. Some attendees may be there “voluntarily,” but only to save their marriage or keep a job, not believing they need help. In residential treatment, clients attend mandatory groups as part of the daily schedule — participate or you’re out.
Even when attendance is truly voluntary, a group member may be in a bad space. Maybe they’re stressed about the rent or just got into a fight with their significant other. Or what if the AC is broken and the group room is 80 degrees? What if a client has unpleasant body odor or bad breath or an annoying cough?
Multiple factors combine and it’s suddenly a sh**show. (I’ll never forget the client who climbed onto a chair to “rally the troops” against my tyranny.) Anticipating challenges is the first step to effectively preventing and managing them.
Click here for a helpful article from Counseling Today that addresses the concept of client resistance.
Tips for Dealing with Challenges
1. If possible, co-facilitate. One clinician leads while the other observes. The observer remains attuned to the general “tone” of the group, i.e. facial expressions, body language, etc.
2. Review the expectations at the beginning of every group. Ask clients to share the guidelines with each other (instead of you telling them). This promotes a collaborative spirit.
3. After guidelines are reviewed, explain that while interrupting is discouraged, there may be times when you interject to maintain the overall wellness and safety of the group. (Knowing this, a client is less likely to get angry or feel disrespected when/if it happens.)
4. If you must interrupt, apologize, and explain the rationale.
5. Avoid power struggles at all costs, especially when a client challenges the benefits of treatment. (The unhealthier group members will quickly side with a challenger, leading to a complaint session.) Challenging the efficacy of treatment (or you as a clinician) is often a defense mechanism. Sometimes, the best response is simply “okay,” or none at all… and keep moving. You can also acknowledge the client’s perspective and ask to meet with them after group (and then get back on topic). If the group is relatively healthy, you may want to illicit feedback from other group members.
6. If a client becomes angry or tearful, give them time to vent for a moment or two (don’t “Band-Aid”); they may be able to self-regulate. (If they do self-regulate, share your observations and offer praise.)
7. If a client’s anger escalates to a disruptive level, ask them to take a break. At this point, their behavior is potentially triggering to other group members. Don’t raise your voice or ask them to calm down. Direct them step out and return when they’re ready. You may have to repeat yourself several times, but remain firm and calm, and they will eventually listen.
8. If a client is disrespectful (cursing at you or another client, name-calling, insulting, etc.) while escalated, let them know it’s not okay, but don’t attempt to provide feedback. (A simple, “Hey, that’s not okay,” will suffice.) Bring it up with the client later when they’re able to process.
9. Once the disgruntled client exits the room, acknowledge what happened and let the group know you will follow up with the client. If another client wants to talk about it, ask them to share only how it made them feel, but stress that it’s not okay to talk about an absent group member. (“How would you feel if we talked about you when you weren’t here?”) Strongly suggest that they wait until the person returns (and is open) to have a group discussion.
10. After a major blow-up (and once everyone is calm), it can be beneficial for the group to process it with the person who escalated. Group members can empathize/relate, share their observations and/or how it made them feel, and offer feedback.
11. If other disruptive behaviors occur in group (side conversations, snoring, etc.) address them in the moment (without shaming, of course). Point out the behavior and explain how it’s disruptive to the group. Refer back to the group guidelines. Ask group members to comment as well. If you let a behavior persist, hoping it will eventually stop, you’re sending the message that it’s okay, not only to the person who is disruptive, but to the entire group. This impacts the integrity of the group and opens things up for additional disruptive behaviors.
12. For clients who monopolize, who are constantly joking, or who attempt to intentionally distract by changing the topic, point out your observations and encourage group members to give feedback.
13. If, on the other hand, clients seem disengaged or unmotivated, seek out their feedback, privately or in the group, whichever is clinically appropriate.
14. If there’s a general level of disengagement, bring it up in the group. Remain objective and state your observations.
15. Anticipate that at times, people may not have much to say. (And while yes, there’s always something to talk about, that doesn’t mean someone is ready to or has the emotional energy to.) Maybe they’re distracted or tired or feeling “talked out.” It’s good to have backup plans: watch a psychoeducational film, take a walk in the park, listen to meditations or music, provide worksheets, education reading material, or coloring sheets.
16. Always keep in mind a client’s stage of change, their internal experiences (i.e. hearing voices, social anxiety, paranoia, physical pain, etc.), external circumstances (i.e. recent medication change, loss of housing, conflict with roommates, etc.), and history of trauma. What looks like resistance may be something else entirely.
Adverse Outcomes in Group Psychotherapy | Roback, H. B. (2000). Adverse outcomes in group psychotherapy: Risk factors, prevention, and research directions. The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 9(3), 113–122.
Differences that Make a Difference | Change-Caffaro, S., & Caffaro, J. (2018). Differences that make a difference: Diversity and the process group leader. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 00: 1-15.
Group Interventions| Ezhumalai, S., Muralidhar, D., Dhanasekarapandian, R., & Nikketha, B. S. (2018). Group interventions. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), S514–S521.
Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorders | Wendt, D. C., & Gone, J. P. (2017). Group therapy for substance use disorders: A survey of clinician practices. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 12(4), 243–259.
Therapists have their own unique (and purposeful) language. We may use clinical jargon when talking to other clinicians, but when we’re with our clients (and most likely, with other significant people in our lives), we are focused and thoughtful. We speak therapist.
Therapy is a tool for self-discovery; as therapists, it’s important to know how to effectively employ this tool. (For example, a hammer, while a useful tool, would not be effective if someone used the handle to pound a nail instead of the head.) What we say and how we say it is powerful: open-ended questions, reflections, clarifications, etc.
The following is a list of questions/phrases I find myself using in individual therapy and group sessions to explore, empathize, empower, and motivate change, including a few versions of the “miracle question” (a question used in therapy that asks the client to imagine what their life would look like if, miraculously, all of their problems disappeared and everything was perfect).
Click below to access a printable PDF version of this list.
The following is a list of movies about addiction and mental disorders that are appropriate to show in treatment settings. This post includes movie summaries and downloadable PDF handouts with questions for discussion.
Please note that some of the films on this list are graphic and may not be appropriate for children or adolescents.
Hint: The handouts contain spoilers; do not provide until after the movie ends.
Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), R-rating for language and drug use
Summary: Julia Roberts plays a mother, Holly, whose 19-year old son, Ben, surprises her by returning home for Christmas. Ben is newly in recovery; his addiction has placed a tremendous strain on the family in the past. Ben’s younger siblings are happy to see him, but Holly, fearing that he is not ready, is apprehensive.
That evening, the family attends church. When they return, they find their home burglarized and the dog missing. Ben blames himself, believing someone from his past took the dog to get his attention; he leaves to look for the dog. Holly goes with him, but they’re later separated, and Holly attempts to track Ben. Eventually, she ends up at an abandoned barn where she finds her son on the floor, unresponsive. The movie ends with her administering Narcan to Ben.
127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes), R-rating for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality, and suicide
Summary: Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a young woman with borderline personality disorder, who is sent to a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt in the late 1960s. She befriends Lisa (Angelia Jolie), who carries a diagnosis of sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder). Initially, Susanna is in denial about her mental condition and is not open to treatment. However, she reaches a turning point after a tragedy.
123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes), PG-13 rating for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language, and brief violence
Summary: Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) starts a chain reaction of goodness for a social studies project with a plan to change the world for the better. In this film, Trevor is a high school student whose mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), struggles with alcoholism and whose father is abusive. He rises above unfortunate circumstances with the kindhearted idea to do a good deed, but instead of requesting payback, asking the receiver to “pay it forward” to at least three people – and on and on. While the movie has a bittersweet end, the message is uplifting and powerful.
Summary: Charlie is an unpopular high school freshman, a “wallflower,” who is befriended by two seniors, Patrick and Sam (Emma Watson). The movie is about their friendship and Charlie’s personal struggles with the recent suicide of his friend and his own mental illness. Throughout the film, Charlie has flashbacks of his aunt, who died in a car accident when he was 7. It’s eventually revealed that Charlie’s aunt molested him; a sexual encounter with Sam triggers Charlie’s repressed memories. Charlie has a mental breakdown.
Other great resources for using clinical films as therapeutic interventions include the book Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathy, 4th ed. (by Danny Wedding and Ryan M. Niemiec) and the site Teach With Movies.
(Updated 10/16/22) If you’re a counselor or therapist, you’re probably familiar with Therapist Aid, one of the most well-known sites for providing no-cost therapy worksheets. But Therapist Aid isn’t the only resource for free clinical tools! This is a list of over 200 sites with free therapy worksheets and handouts.
See below for links to websites with free therapy worksheets and handouts for clinical use and self-help.
Click here for therapy worksheets, handouts, and guides posted on this site. Access additional free printables by joining Mind Remake Project’s Facebook group, Resources for Mental Health Counselors & Social Workers. 🆕
Stress Management – Patient Handouts | A collection of handouts on stress management; some of the other sections, including “General Health and Wellness” and “Nutrition” have links to handouts as well (Source: UMASS Medical School Department of Psychiatry)
Attitudes and Behaviour | 9-page PDF packet on criminal thinking (Source: Carleton University, Criminal Justice Decision Making Laboratory & Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)
Motivation To Change | 16-page PDF packet on motivation to change criminal behavior (Source: Carleton University, Criminal Justice Decision Making Laboratory & Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)
Peers & Relationships | 12-page PDF packet on how associates impact criminal behavior (Source: Carleton University, Criminal Justice Decision Making Laboratory & Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)
(Updated 8/29/22) This is a list of free marriage and relationship assessment tools to use with couples in marriage and family counseling for assessing relationship satisfaction/expectations, attachment styles, communication, domestic violence/sex addiction, and more.
Danger Assessment Screening Tool | Clinicians can download a PDF version of this assessment, which helps predict the level of danger in an abusive relationship; this screening tool was developed to predict violence and homicide.
(Updated 8/21/22) This is a list of over 200 free printable workbooks, manuals, toolkits, and self-help guides for children, adolescents, and families. This post is divided into two sections: printable workbooks and resources for providers and printable workbooks and resources for families.
Please repost this and/or share with anyone you think could benefit from these free printable workbooks, guides, and other resources!
Disclaimer: Links are provided for informational and educational purposes. I recommend reviewing each resource before using for updated copyright protections that may have changed since it was posted here. When in doubt, contact the author(s).
The Adolescent Coping with Stress Course: An Eight-Session Curriculum Developed for the Prevention of Unipolar Depression in Adolescents with an Increased Future Risk | Source: Kaiser Permanente for Health Research (Find more information here)
The Adolescent Coping with Stress Course: A Fifteen-Session Class Curriculum Developed for the Prevention of Unipolar Depression in Adolescents with an Increased Future Risk | Source: Kaiser Permanente for Health Research (Find more information here)
Growing Up Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender | Source: Department of Education and Skills and the Health Service Executive through the Social, Personal and Health Education Support Service in conjunction with GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) and BeLonG To Youth Services & Professional Development Services for Teachers, 82 pages (Find more information here) 🏳️🌈
Anxiety Toolbox: Student Workbook | (Printable Workbook) Source: Based on the Anxiety Toolbox curriculum at Counseling Services of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with modifications by the Broene Counseling Center of Calvin College, 42 pages (2017)
COPE | Source: West Carolina University Counseling and Psychological Services
Youth Transition Workbook | (Printable Workbook) Source: Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network, The Rhode Island Transition Council, & The Rhode Island Department of Health Youth Advisory Council, 68 pages (2017)
Effective coping skills make it possible to survive life’s stressors, obstacles, and hardships. Without coping strategies, life would be unmanageable. Dr. Constance Scharff described coping mechanisms as “skills we… have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.” Healthy coping strategies promote resilience when experiencing minor stressors, such as getting a poor performance review at work, or major ones, such as the loss of a loved one.
Like any skill, coping is important to practice on a regular basis in order to be effective. Do this by maintaining daily self-care (at a minimum: adequate rest, healthy meals, exercise, staying hydrated, and avoiding drugs/alcohol.)
As an expert on you (and how you adapt to stressful situations), you may already know what helps the most when life seems out-of-control. (I like reading paranormal romance/fantasy-type books!) Maybe you meditate or run or rap along to loud rap music or have snuggle time with the cats or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Having insight into/awareness of your coping strategies primes you for unforeseeable tragedies in life.
“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
Virginia Satir, Therapist (June 26, 2019-September 10, 1988)
Healthy coping varies greatly from person to person; what matters is that your personal strategies work for you. For example, one person may find prayer helpful, but for someone who isn’t religious, prayer might be ineffective. Instead, they may swim laps at the gym when going through a difficult time. Another person may cope by crying and talking it out with a close friend.
Note: there are various mental health treatment approaches (i.e. DBT, trauma-focused CBT, etc.) that incorporate specialized, evidence-based coping techniques that are proven to work (by reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing) for certain disorders. The focus of this post is basic coping, not treatment interventions.
On the topic of coping skills, the research literature is vast (and beyond the scope of this post). While many factors influence coping (i.e. personality/temperament, stressors experienced, mental and physical health, etc.), evidence backs the following methods: problem-solving techniques, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques, reframing, acceptance, humor, seeking support, and religion/spirituality. (Note that venting is not on the list!) Emotional intelligence may also play a role in the efficiency of coping skills.
A sport psychology study indicated that professional golfers who used positive self-talk, blocked negative thoughts, maintained focus, and remained in a relaxed state effectively coped with stress, keeping a positive mindset. Effective copers also sought advice as needed throughout the game. A 2015 study suggested that helping others, even strangers, helps mitigate the impact of stress.
Examples of coping skills include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, talking to a trusted person, journaling, cleaning, and creating art. However, the purpose of this post is to provide coping alternatives. Maybe meditation isn’t your thing or journaling leaves you feeling like crap. Coping is not one-size-fits-all. The best approach to coping is to find and try lots of different things!
The inspiration for this post came from Facebook. (Facebook is awesome for networking! I’m a member of several professional groups.) Lauren Mills sought ideas for unconventional strategies via Facebook… With permission, I’m sharing some of them here!
Unconventional Coping Strategies
Crack pistachio nuts
Fold warm towels
Smell your dog (Fun fact: dog paws smell like corn chips!) or watch them sleep
Peel dried glue off your hands
Break glass at the recycling center
Pop bubble wrap
Lie upside down
Watch slime or pimple popping videos on YouTube
Sort and build Lego’s
Write in cursive
Observe fish in an aquarium
Solve math problems (by hand)
Use a voice-changing app (Snapchat works too) to repeat back your worry/critical thoughts in the voice of a silly character OR sing your worries/thoughts aloud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”
Listen to the radio in foreign languages
Go for a joy ride (Windows down!)
Watch YouTube videos of cute animals and/or giggling babies
Walk barefoot outside
Draw/paint on your skin
Play with (dry) rice
Do (secret) “random acts of kindness”
Play with warm (not hot) candle wax
Watch AMSR videos on YouTube
Recite family recipes
Find the nicest smelling flowers at a grocery store
Use an app to try different hairstyles and/or makeup
People-watch with a good friend and make up stories about everyone you see (Take it to the next level with voiceovers!)
Wash your face mindfully
Buy a karaoke machine and sing your heart out when you’re home alone
On Instagram, watch videos of a hydraulic press smash things, cake decorating, pottery/ceramics throwing, hand lettering, and/or woodwork
Shine tarnished silver
Create a glitter jar and enjoy
Tend to plants
Color in a vulgar coloring book for adults
Click below for a PDF version of “Unconventional Coping Strategies.” This handout can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain.