Why do we do group therapy at St. Joseph Villa? Group therapy provides an environment where our patients can participate in fun and dynamic therapeutic activity. Groups provide a break from the routine and sometimes healthy competition in an atmosphere of encouragement.

Group Therapy Benefits:

  • Patients enjoy the camaraderie of participating with others during therapy.
  • Encouragement from other patients. Often patients are able to accomplish things they think weren’t possible just because another patient encouraged them.
  • It allows therapists to develop new treatment approaches and use their creativity in ways that one-to-one therapy does not encourage.
  • It allows us to deliver more therapy to our residents with lower reimbursement models while controlling cost per minute. Financially, groups improve productivity, reduce cost per minute and raise margin per minute.

Group Therapy Ideas 

All Disciplines:

  • Therapy Jeopardy Game. Each patient takes a turn choosing a card, and the entire group does the activity or answers the question on the card.
  • Obstacle course. This group incorporates ambulation, stairs, pool noodles, reaching for hidden objects and various other dynamic tasks.
  • Seated/Standing Yoga. We use one of several YouTube videos that are available. We often use this group on Saturdays and hold it in a quiet lounge area away from the hustle of the therapy gym. As we do this group, we educate our patients on relaxation techniques in the home environment and give them links to access the same videos at home. The YouTube link is “Actively Aging with Energizing Chair Yoga – Seniors Get Moving with Sherry Zak Morris.” (This group is great for either discipline or combined disciplines.)

Note: sometimes it is more practical to do individual discipline groups.

Occupational Therapy:

  • Cooking groups that include a mix of sitting and standing with tasks such as food prep, dishwashing, and retrieval of items from the cupboard, oven or refrigerator.
  • Musical chairs with dressing tasks that incorporate standing tolerance and standing balance.

Physical Therapy:

  • We have a bright red exercise ball that has different exercises written on it. We toss the ball between residents and do the exercises written on the ball as a group.
  • Corn hole and ladder golf can also be a fun seasonal group game.

We have a binder of group therapy ideas that we keep in our therapy gym where it is easily accessible to everyone.

Overcoming Challenges

  • Scheduling and transporting everyone at the same time.

It is essential to notify the nursing staff of the time of the group so the patients can be ready to go. We also take time to notify the patients the morning of the group so they are mentally prepared.

  • Setting the expectations.

Our therapists will tell our patients at the time of evaluation that their course of therapy will likely include group therapy. This allows the patient to ask appropriate questions and the therapist can educate on the rationale of group therapy.

  • Making groups that are applicable for all functional levels.

Our groups usually include a mix of seated and standing activity and therefore can be modified to each resident’s needs. We change our groups as our patient’s functional abilities advance.

  • Choosing the right therapists.

Some therapists are more extroverted and work well in a group with other therapists and patients and can exhibit the enthusiasm necessary to engage a group. Choose therapists who will own this part of your therapy program and let them fly! We have two primary therapists who run our groups and have developed a flawless routine.

 Success Story

We had a resident admit following a TKR revision. She demonstrated emotional, cognitive and behavioral challenges. She was resistant to participation in therapy with the traditional TKR protocol.  We decided to incorporate all the components of a daily therapy session into a group and invited her to participate. Initially, she complained and attempted to refuse each activity. Soon the other patients in the group began to encourage her and led her by example. She took her turn to ambulate through the obstacle course, and when she turned the corner she was met with applause. This one group changed her confidence level and her willingness to participate in all aspects of her plan of care.

View poster: Group Therapy: Putting the FUN in FUNctional (PDF format)

By Haylee Rollins, COTA,  Kelsey Martindale, DPT,  Lisa Brook, PT/DOR and Mina Jelen, PTA
St. Joseph Villa, Salt Lake City, UT