During my counseling internship, I co-facilitated the intensive-outpatient program in the substance abuse department of a counseling center. The lead therapist was also my internship supervisor, and she is amazing. Literally, one the best therapists that I’ve ever encountered. I developed several group activities while working with this group, like the Valued Heart and the Cycle of Addiction group activities. However, one of my favorites was my supervisor’s Cost of Addiction worksheet. The goal of the activity was to have the members of the group really assess how much their addiction had cost them financially.
Many times, our group members would come in complaining about having to pay for group sessions or venting about other financial concerns that they had. My supervisor would point out that they could find money to support their addiction and ask them how much their addiction had cost them already. Most would shrug in response.
Cost of Addiction Activity
So, here is how it would work: All the members of our group knew that drugs and alcohol had cost them money, but they’ve never sat and calculated it all out and have a bottom line. So, my supervisor would say “let’s figure it out.” We would pass out the Cost of Addiction worksheet on clipboards, and everyone would pull out their cellphones and start calculating. (We had a few spare calculators for those that needed it, but most didn’t.)
The gasps of horror echo through the room for several minutes. We had group members ask: “I’ve already got a pretty high number. Can I just stop now?” “Nope. Keep adding.”
Many of our members lived in hotels or shelters and commented that they could have bought a house with cash. It’s a sobering thought of how quickly even a $100 a week can add up.
My supervisor would also ask members of the group to consider how much money they had “borrowed” from family members and never paid back or court fees to still be paid. Most of our group complained that they will never pay off the debt they own, but my supervisor would tell them “It’s like eating an elephant. One bite at a time. You do what you can when you can. Restoration needs to be part of your recovery plan.”
After everyone would complete their Cost of Addiction sheet, we would ask members to share and put their calculations on the whiteboard in the room. I believe it helps for members to see their not the only ones that have spent a lot of money on their addiction, but also to see that final number on a big board. We would actually keep the numbers up on the wall for several sessions as a reminder.
It’s one of the best group activities sheets to spur discussion in substance abuse groups and have members really consider how much they’ve lost financially, and I’ve included a Cost of Addiction worksheet in the Resource Library. Obtain the password by joining our newsletter- the green box at the bottom of this post!)
Have any other substance abuse group activities? Leave them in the comments and don’t forget to pin!