When working with groups I find that Freewriting using a set of 4-5 words is a good exercise to use, especially for the start of a session. For me, a good writing exercise inspires each member of the group to write what they want or need to write at that moment and this kind of Freewriting exercise does that.
With a group of inpatients I use 4 words and allow 2 minutes writing time per word. To avoid having to look at my watch, which might be off-putting, I time 2 minutes by how much I write – 1″ of writing on a page of A4 takes me about 2 minutes. This method of timekeeping has the added adantage of allowing extra time for sudden distractions such as a loud aeroplane passing overhead.
I like to use themed sets of words as Freewriting prompts. With people who are well enough themed word sets can bring out writing in the form of a story – either a personal story or from the imagination.
Here are some example word sets that have worked well in my groups:
Snow, cave, mountain, river
Sea, wave, ship, wind
Rain, thunder, singing, music
Suitcase, sea mist, sandcastle, souvenir
Garden, cottage, window, bridge, castle
Red, blue, white, green, yellow
Square, triangle, circle, box, star
Take care over the words you choose. I prefer words that can be interpreted in more than one way. Two words that have not worked so well for me are: mirror [not everyone likes what they see when they look in a mirror] and orange [for one patient this brought back memories of being bullied at school because of the colour of her hair].
Let me know what you think, Carol.