Group Exercises for Adolescents: A Manual for Therapists, School Counselors, & Spiritual Leaders


Susan E. Carrell

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    I wrote the first edition of this book because I needed it so badly myself. When I began doing group therapy with hospitalized adolescents, I inherited two or three “exercises” from colleagues who preceded me. The difference in the way the teenagers responded when I used these structured activities instead of just allowing the group to generate its own agenda was dramatic. I discovered that the structure an exercise provided became a jumping-off place that enabled adolescents to disclose emotional material that was otherwise very difficult to unearth. I learned that if properly conceived, a group exercise would open emotional doors in a safe and nonthreatening way. It also became clear that group members had more fun and felt more at ease when an exercise was used. So I began trying to find more. It was not an easy task. I found few exercises in books that seemed right for the population with which I worked. Most were too immature because they were developed either for children or for low-functioning, chronically ill individuals. Few had the sophistication or relevance that would interest a savvy group of teens. My quest began in earnest. After several years, I had a collection that worked. Only I could never find it. The exercise I needed would be at home in my desk or had been loaned to a colleague and never returned. Or I would plan a certain exercise, only to have my disgruntled group announce that we had done that one three sessions ago. So I had to do something. I also was becoming convinced that other therapists needed and deserved the fruits of my collecting and creating.

    I learned that working with adolescents in groups was a whole different ball game than doing group therapy with adults. Resistance is often prevalent and powerful in adolescent groups. However, the need for peer approval and acceptance is equally strong. The challenge to the therapist is to overcome resistance and to harness peer acceptance for use in meeting therapeutic goals. I found the challenge energizing and intoxicating. That first edition, the second, and this third edition are offerings to those who, like myself, are irresistibly drawn to the wonder and excitement of working with adolescents in groups.


    My thanks and love to the people who made the third edition of this book possible:

    Kassie Graves, my editor, was constant in her vision for an updated and expanded version of the text. She directed an extensive review of the second edition, polling both academics and clinicians for input. The outcome of the survey was invaluable and resulted in the new “Living With School” and “Living With Spirituality” sections of this edition. The focus of new exercises was also influenced and enhanced by the review. The addition of a personal journal for each group member was Ms. Graves's inspiration as well.

    I was fortunate to have Jack Wiens as illustrator once again. His talent as an artist and his understanding of adolescence as a therapist made him the ideal collaborator. As always, I was blessed by his kind nature and wise character.

    And last, but by no means least, my love and heartfelt thanks to Winston Davis, my husband, for tolerating all the time-consuming aspects of writing this revision and for tolerating my crankiness when I felt overwhelmed. He is my true companion in this and everything else.

  • References

    Berkovitz, I. H., & Sugar, M. (1975). Adolescent psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, family psychotherapy. In M.Sugar (Ed.), The adolescent in group and family therapy (pp. 3–23). New York: Brunner/Mazel. (2010). Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from
    Brussat, F., & Brussat, M. A. (1996). Spiritual literacy. New York: Touchstone Books, Simon & Schuster.
    Carrell, S. E. (1991). Between teens groups. Unpublished master's seminar paper, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield.
    Carrell, S. E. (2001). The therapist's toolbox: 26 tools and an assortment of implements for the busy therapist. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Carrell, S. E. (2008). Escaping toxic guilt: 5 proven steps to free yourself from guilt for good. New York: McGraw-Hill.
    Ellis, A. (1974). Rational emotive therapy. In A.Burton (Ed.), Operational theories of personality (pp. 308–334). New York: Brunner/Mazel. (2010). Quotes by Bill Cosby. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from
    Grove, D. (1991, May). Healing the wounded child within. Seminar presented to professional therapists in St. Louis, MO.
    Heathfield, S. M. (2010). Inspirational quotes for business and work: Persistence and determination. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from
    Khurana, S. (2010). Harry Potter movie quotes. Retrieved March 1, 2010, from
    Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: Macmillan.
    Merriam-Webster. (2010). Altruism. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from (2009). Quotations about honesty. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from (2001). Identity. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from (2010). Helen Keller quotes. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from (2010). Alexander Graham Bell. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from
    Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
    Scheidlinger, S. (1991, April). Group treatment of adolescents in school, clinical, and hospital settings. Seminar presented to professional therapists at Menninger Institute, Topeka, KS.
    Wegscheider-Cruse, S. (1981). Another chance: Hope and help for the alcoholic family. Palo Alto, CA: Science & Behavior Books.

    About the Author

    Susan E. Carrell, RN, MS, LPC, is a therapist in private practice in Allenspark, Colorado. Previously, she was the Episcopal Chaplain for Missouri State University and Drury University. She was a substance abuse counselor for adolescents in an inpatient treatment facility and a psychiatric nurse clinician for hospitalized adolescents. She has been the owner and director of a state-certified alcohol and drug education program for youth. She also facilitated groups for high-risk adolescents in public high schools. She is author of Group Exercises for Adolescents: A Manual for Therapists (Sage: 1st ed., 1993; 2nd ed., 2000), The Therapist's Toolbox: 26 Tools and an Assortment of Implements for the Busy Therapist (Sage, 2001), and Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Visit her websites at,, and

    About the Illustrator

    Jack Wiens, MA, LPC, is a freelance artist who works in a variety of media. Jack is also a licensed professional counselor and presents workshops and classes on personal growth and self-care. Visit his website at

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