Substance Abuse Recovery Games


Using games in the mix of your substance abuse recovery program can help get patients engaged. Games can get recovery patients to open up when they've been otherwise intimidated or shut down during group sessions. Counselors can use games to get to know their patients. Games can also be used as alternative methods for delivering useful information.

Make Believe

Both adults and teens with substance abuse problems need to establish or re-establish goals for their lives. It may be even harder for adults to establish dreams. The loss of hope may be one of the reasons that they started using drugs in the first place. For one session, ask everyone in the group to pretend to be successful in a career field that they have always dreamed about. On a piece of paper, let them create the character by telling how people in that field talk, dress and how they live and interact with others. Ask volunteers to do a little role playing and tell the group what it took for them to find success. This will help them take those first steps into realizing they are in control of their lives.

Board Games

Researchers at the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University developed a board game called Downward Spiral that explores the consequences of addiction. It takes a unique spin on Monopoly. However, every roll of the dice affects the player’s health, friendships, family, self-esteem and finances. Just like real life, the players are trying to stay alive without losing everything.

Idea Ball

One of the toughest things for a recovering addict to do is face peer pressure, stress -- and learning how to deal with the uncertainties of life without drugs or alcohol. Play a brainstorming game to help group members identify ways to cope with peer pressure, withdrawals and stress. Pass a ball around the room. If the ball is thrown to you, say the first idea that comes to mind. Make a list on a blackboard or large sheet of construction paper. Both adults and teens will eventually come in contact with those old friends who may try to tempt them into using drugs again -- or the stresses of life could make them want to escape through drugs. This game is a fun way to uncover different ways to face these demons.

Word Association

Word association games may help uncover the subconscious triggers that are either holding back a patient's recovery or those emotional triggers that leave him craving for an escape through drugs. Identifying these triggers is the first step to helping the patient take control of their effect on him. The counselor can do this in a group or one-on-one. Make a list of words like "family, recovery, responsibility, stress, depression, fear." Present them to the patient either verbally or by using flashcards. The patient says the first thing that comes to mind. Record the patient's responses. After the quiz, discuss the patient's responses and try to help them uncover personal pain and regrets and wishes that could be the root cause of their addiction. You can also use flashcards with pictures on them to play this game.