occupational therapy group treatment

11 Occupational Therapy Group Treatment Ideas

If you’re looking for occupational therapy group treatment ideas for your adult rehab patients (for any rehab setting), you’ve come to the right place!

With group therapy becoming more commonplace in long term care, subacute and acute rehab settings, we wanted to share our favorite functional group treatment ideas that will benefit each participant. 

First, When is Group Therapy Appropriate?

If you’re new to doing groups, you might be wondering, “When is group therapy actually appropriate?” This is one question I do hear a lot as group treatments in OT have become more commonplace after the Medicare PDPM changes in 2019.

Group therapy, defined by Medicare, is “the treatment of 2-6 patients, who are performing the same or similar activities and are supervised by a therapist or an assistant.”

Medicare guidelines state that “no more than 25% of therapy services delivered to SNF patients may be provided in a group therapy setting.” So if you notice your patients are scheduled for more than 25% of their minutes in group therapy, be sure to print out the above Medicare guidelines for your supervisor.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the group is engaged in a similar activity that is appropriate for each patient in the group. For example, if one patient is not cognitively appropriate for a high level home safety group, they shouldn’t be in that group. Or, if a patient never needs to do IADLs at home, they shouldn’t be in a cooking group.

This article from HealthPro Heritage covers even more group therapy best practices to help guide you during your group therapy planning. Some helpful tips from the article state that “Groups should be purposeful, planned and should encompass impactful treatment approaches that are meaningful to each participant. Likewise, it’s important that all participants are working towards a similarly desired end-goal.”

AOTA also has an excellent handout called “Considerations for Group, Concurrent, and Individual Therapy” that is worth printing out and keeping with you to reference when you’re new to doing groups.

In summary, ensuring your groups are client-centered for each participant, appropriate for each participant,  and are targeted to meet their individual goals is crucial for a quality group treatment session.

Okay, now that you’re fully up to speed on group therapy guidelines, let’s dive in to some group treatment ideas!

11 Functional Occupational Therapy Group Treatment Ideas

1. Discharge Planning Group

Discharge planning is one of the most important topics to address when patients are in short term rehab with plans to discharge home. Having a discharge planning group is a great way to ensure your patients are prepared to go home with the added benefit of group interaction and brainstorming from other group members. 

A few topics you might address with discharge planning include:

  • Equipment recommendations
  • Home set-up and safety
  • Caregiver support
  • Post-rehab therapy recommendations (do they need home health or outpatient therapy after?)
  • Recommended home exercise programs for post-DC

You can create a discharge planning checklist/handout for this group so you have an organized format, since there is a lot to cover!

2. Home Safety Group

This may go hand in hand with the above-mentioned discharge planning group, or it can be a group all in itself. A lot of important information can be covered in a home safety group. You might discuss home modifications, practice safety with walkers, wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment, and safety tips during ADLs.

You can also work on safety in the kitchen with functional mobility and reaching, as well as in the bathroom, bedroom and living room and while completing (or simulating) basic ADLs. Discussing what to do in an emergency once the patient is back home will also be helpful.

You can also create a home safety handout going over the main precautions that you cover in the group that your patients can study after the group.

3. Simple Meal Prep Group

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A very popular (and fun) group activity is a meal prep or cooking group, as long as each participant enjoys cooking at home and the activity ties into their goals. Meal prep groups are a great way to incorporate kitchen safety, standing tolerance, balance, fine/gross motor coordination, sequencing, and social interaction. If you’re fortunate enough to have a kitchen area, the ideas are almost endless. 

If you don’t have a kitchen area, you can make recipes like no-bake cookies, sandwiches or smoothies (if you can bring in a blender). A coworker of mine did this and it was a hit!

You could always just make a cup of coffee or tea. I’ve found meal prep groups are not only a patient favorite, but are also really great ways for patients to get to know one another.

4. Orthopedics Education Group

If you have a number of orthopedics patients, you may want to group them together for a few different reasons. Some of the most popular include:

  • Discussing their precautions
  • Reviewing joint protection strategies
  • Practicing the recommended adaptive equipment
  • Working on functional transfers

If you have a training apartment or ADL suite area, consider working on tub bench or shower transfers, bed mobility and bedside commode/toilet transfers during the group if possible.

Orthopedic precautions and home safety handouts are great for this type of group as well. If you aren’t able to have a separate home safety or discharge planning group, you can add this education component into this group as well.

5. Adaptive Equipment Education Group

If you have a mix of patients that will benefit from using adaptive equipment at home, you can create a group focusing on adaptive equipment usage and the benefits. Practicing using a hip kit, reachers, walkers, canes, wheelchairs and other recommended equipment is great practice to do in a group setting. 

If you’re brand-new to OT and need a guide on all of the types of adaptive equipment, be sure to check out our companion article, Our List of “Must-Know” Adaptive Equipment for OT Practitioners.

6. Fall Prevention Group

A fall prevention group can focus on fall prevention education both while in rehab and at home. It may involve discussing home safety, fall prevention tips during transfers, and safety during ADLs.

If the patients are higher level physically, you can also practice floor fall recovery during this group. If you have lower level patients that can’t do this, walking through the steps verbally and visually while working on problem solving with the group will also be really helpful.

7. Life Skills Group

A life skills group can incorporate any life skill that is important for the patients to be able to do when they get home. The options for this group are almost endless!

Some life skill group ideas include IADL retraining, such as medication management, money management, laundry tasks, light housekeeping, kitchen mobility, cooking, or gardening. Like the above meal preparation group, these activities can address so many deficit areas while providing fun and meaningful activities for your patients. 

8. Energy Conservation Technique Group 

If you have several patients with COPD or other cardiopulmonary illnesses affecting their activity tolerance, you can educate them on energy conservation techniques while they complete functional tasks. Here is a really helpful Energy Conservation handout from St. Joseph’s Healthcare to help you guide this session as needed. 

9. Stress Management Group

This group idea can be used with patients of any diagnosis who are experiencing any stress or difficulty during their rehab stay. As OTs, we’re well-equipped to address these needs, especially since high stress levels can negatively impact a person’s occupational performance.

Just a few ideas that can be done with this group are discussions on coping skills, breathing techniques, meditations, mindfulness training, body scanning, guided imagery, and pain management strategies. 

10. Health Promotion Group

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This group can be tailored to educate patients on their specific diagnosis with strategies to prevent further illness or injury after they go home. As an example, the group could be focused on patients affected by stroke and may include education on stroke prevention through lifestyle modification.

Stress management strategies (mentioned above) can also be included in this type of group.

11. A Holiday-Themed Group

Holiday-themed craft groups are tried and true treatments that are always really popular with patients. There are so many fun and engaging craft ideas based on the holidays that can be graded up or down based on the group.

Incorporating standing tolerance, balance, reaching, cognition and fine motor coordination during the activity will also provide a good challenge for the patients while addressing their deficits.

Be sure to check out Pinterest for every holiday-themed craft idea that you could ever possibly think of!


We hope you found these group treatment ideas helpful for the next time you treat in a group! What other occupational therapy group treatment ideas would you add to this list? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

This post was originally published on May 11, 2020 and updated on May 13, 2023.

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  • Pamela Spear March 29, 2023   Reply →

    Are there any guidelines for mental health OTs working on inpatient psychiatric units? There is only one OT working during the week and an OTA working on weekends with up to 16 patients on the unit. Are there general guidelines for ratio of practitioner to number of patient participants? Thanks for any guidance. There seems to be limited information about the matter.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L April 1, 2023   Reply →

      Hi Pamela, I’m not seeing any formal guidelines but you could contact your state OT association to see if they have any insight or recommendations since that is a really high ratio.

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