Picture This

Group size:  5 – 50

Purpose:  To explore the differences in communication: what is heard, and what is said.

Props Needed

  1. Blank drawing paper.
  2. Pens, Pencils, Markers.
  3. If desired, can use art supplies – water paints, glitter, stickers, etc.

Activity Preparation

  1. Prep time needed: 5 minutes
  2. Assemble supplies – paper and drawing/art supplies and have available to distribute to participant
  3. Table or clip board or sturdy surface for participants to draw/color
  4. Allow enough space between participants so when they are drawing they cannot easily see one another’s drawings – or have extra props to create a little barrier in-between participants.


Time needed

  • Directions: 5 minutes
  • Activity: 40 minutes (depending on size of group)
  • Debrief: 10 minutes

Set Up

  1. Tables and chairs – may be set up in classroom style or in a circle
  2. Place drawing paper and art supplies on tables enough for each participant

Activity Directions:

  • Determine where in the discussion to introduce this activity.
  • Have group pair up.
  • Have each partner draw a simple picture.
  • Then have partner A guide partner B to drawing the same picture that partner A created.
  • Partner B is not allowed to see partner A’s picture until after they are finished drawing their rendition.

 Facilitator script“Let’s gather around for this next activity. You may have noticed the paper and art supplies. Today we are going to explore differences in communication. And the way we will explore communication is through drawing.  You might notice your reaction as I mention that we are going to draw today. We are not art critics, but we are using art as a symbolic way to explore communication – giving information to and receiving from others.

“You will need a couple of blank pieces of paper – one to draw on for this first part, and you will need another blank piece of paper for the second part of our activity.

In this first part I want you to draw something. Your drawing can be anything that comes to mind. For example, it can be person, place, animal, pet.  It can be a place of serenity. A place that you like or remember. A place you have been to or want to go to. Something symbolic of your present or your past. It can be shapes or symbols. It can be anything at all. Be as simple or expressive as you choose.

Focus your attention on your drawing. I also want you to have enough space between one another so you don’t see one another’s drawings. If you need to move around the room to give more space in-between you and another, that is fine. We will take 15 minutes for this first part.”

Instructor Note: When 15 minutes has gone by, then interrupt.

“For this second part, you are going to partner up with someone. DO NOT let your partner see your drawing. Be sure to have another blank piece of paper to draw on.”

Instructor Note: Allow participants to find a partner and be seated together.

“Now without showing your picture to your partner you will describe your drawing to your partner. You are to use words to describe your picture – but you cannot use the name. For example, if you have a mountain on your picture, then you will describe the shape without using the word mountain. If you have a fish on your drawing you will describe the shape, but you cannot use the word fish or words associated with a fish like this is something that swims in the ocean. You will also communicate where your partner is to draw the object(s) on the paper.

“Decide who will be the communicator and who will be the receiver. We will take 10 minutes for the first round, and then we will switch roles, and the communicator will become the receiver and will draw your partners picture.”

“Okay everyone. Let’s gather back around in the entire group. Share your original drawing with your partner and let’s see how close the pictures align.”


  • What did you notice about yourself when given the activity instructions?
  • Did you notice any judgement of yourself or others?
  • What did you experience about yourself or your partner, when
    • giving instructions to your partner?
    • receiving instructions from your partner?
  • What did you learn about yourself – are you a better communicator or receiver?
  • What might get in your way of clear communication – either giving or receiving?
  • What will you do to improve the area that represents a challenge – communicator or receiver?

Recovery/Wellness Metaphor: This is a great activity to explore different ways of communication, filters, perceptions, words. Also, a way to support that there are many ways to communicate, differences in approach or words, how they are interpreted or perceived – just like there are different ways into wellness and recovery. Sometimes we can choose to adapt to see or experience things different, and to value the journey of others as unique, and sometimes we have to know how to stay in our own lane.

Role of Facilitator: Allow participants to come up with their own drawing. Some may struggle with deciding what to draw, or may want specific directions/guidance. Resist this to allow them to find their own drawing.  

Where to Find It/How to Make it: Art or office supply store.