Group Guidelines

Group size:  5-50

Purpose:  Participants set up their own guidelines to create safety and ownership. This can be a great ice breaker and way of starting out a program.  

Props Needed

  1. Large piece of paper or white board
  2. Markers

Activity Preparation

Prep time needed:  5 minutes

Prior to group draw a circle and in the middle of it write “Group Members”. Then separate the paper into four quadrants. Label Quadrant 1 “Do”. Label Quadrant 2 “Do Not”. Label Quadrant 3 “Are”. Label Quadrant 4 “Are Not”

Time needed

  • Directions: 2 min
  • Activity: 10 min
  • Debrief: 5 min

Set Up:  hang up paper so group members can get to it and fill out the quadrants.

Activity Directions:

  • Have the participants fill out the group guidelines

Facilitator script: “Hey everyone we are going to start group today by setting up group guidelines. We all know rules are made to be what?!? (most groups will shout back “Broken”) That's right broken. SO we aren’t going to establish rules we are going to establish guidelines because guidelines are meant to keep us on track. As you can see here (point to paper) Using the prompts in each quadrant, I would like you to fill this out with what you think will help keep our group on track. The prompts are Group Members Are, Are Not, Group members Do, Do Not. Once we get everything written down we will review it and see what you have come up with. I would like everyone to write at least one thing up there.

(Give participants a couple of minutes to complete the task) Ok has everyone written something up there? Great! Now lets see what you came up with. Can I get a volunteer to read what we have. (or if you prefer you can read it to the group)

Does anyone want to add anything or feel like we are missing anything? (make sure important things like confidentiality, safety, respect, no cell phones, and other general housekeeping items have been captured in a general way. If not then you might suggest the group add something)  


  • How do rules and guidelines differ? How are they the same?
  • What was it like to come up with the group guidelines?
  • Was there anything you wanted to suggest but talked yourself out of?
  • Is there anything that up there that you think should not be?

Recovery/Wellness Metaphor: Rules are meant to be broken is a common slogan amongst our population. Creating group guidelines allows the group to take ownership and buy into the process. Remember guidelines help keep us on track.

Role of Facilitator: Help support the group in making sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected. Make additional suggestions to the group if they miss out on key guidelines.


Where to Find It/How to Make it: We have found the large size post it note paper to be the most effective. Just make sure it doesn't bleed through on the wall. You might consider doubling up on the paper.