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6 Types of Activity Groups

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Term Definition Key Element to Therapeutic Approach/Environment Role of the Therapist Example
Evaluation Group This type of group exists only to allow the OT to observe the member’s behavior within a certain setting.

The group is designed to allow the OT to assess the member’s skills and limitations regarding group interaction. No changes to the person’s behavior is made during the evaluation.


The OT uses a short term activity to observe the person’s interpersonal skills and response to the activity. Specific areas of function are evaluated as  determined by the frame of reference that is being applied.

Intervention is not planned during this evaluation process.

Role of OT is to select and familiarize members to group’s purpose and select activities that require collaboration and interaction. The OT does not intervene, only observes.

As an observer, the OT documents the group member’s behaviors and interactions in order to determine their functional levels.

• An OT observes a group of autistic teens while they complete an art project.
– The OT is watching the group to assess each teen’s level of social skills and their type of interaction.
Task-Oriented group The intent of this group is to provide a shared work experience where  the members can be assisted in becoming aware of their needs, values, ideas, and feelings through the performance of a shared task.

The members explore their thoughts and feelings while focusing on the problems which emerge in the process of choosing, planning, and implementing a group activity


The goal is for the group member to develop new behaviors while working with the other group members to complete a specific task.

This group has a specific end goal e.g., a project or service that that the group members complete together. Their self awareness is increased while developing positive interpersonal skills and behaviors.

The OT is very involved at first, then the involvement tapers off. Throughout , the OT remains the leader of the group.

Initially the OT’s role is very active- assisting with activity selection, facilitating discussion, giving feedback/support, assisting members in exploring relationships between thoughts, feelings and actions, and encouraging experimentation with new behavior patterns.

The main goal of the OT is to support the group members and specifically encourage them to change their behaviors. Discussions are therefore focused on feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are experienced during group interactions.


The activity/task has a tangible outcome (end product or service) – any activity or process directed toward creating a service or end product.

• A cooking group is an example of a task-oriented group that is used frequently by occupational therapists. In this group, patients work co-operatively on various aspects of the task such as planning a menu, shopping, preparing the food, serving and dining. Each aspect of the task-oriented group is focused on the end product. The tasks in the group necessitate co-operative behavior and create cohesiveness among the group members.

• A group of patients at an assisted living community work together to plant a garden. The goal of the group is to encourage exercise and outdoor activity. The OT spends time discussing the project with each group members and reinforces positive behaviors and interactions.

Developmental Group The purpose is to teach and develop the group members’ interaction skills. There is a continuum of groups consisting of parallel, project, egocentric cooperative, cooperative, and mature groups.


Each of the types of groups listed under the Developmental Groups Category builds upon the previous group.

Each type of group adds another level of self awareness for the group participants.

The role of the OT decreases with each type of group as the members develop more leadership and interpersonal skills. Refer to Developmental Group worksheet for examples.
Thematic Group Designed for the purpose of assisting members to learn the skills, knowledge and/or attitudes needed to perform a specific activity. The focus is on assisting the group members to acquire these skills by encouraging the members to carry out the specific activities independently, within a simulated setting in the areas of independent living, leisure and work. The assumption is that teaching a specific activity within the group can enhance the member’s ability to engage in the activity outside of the group. Learning is facilitated by practicing and experiencing the needed behavior with reinforcement of the behaviors.

This type of group is extremely focused. Purposeful activities are used to help the members gain the necessary skills. All activities in the group are designed around being able to complete a singular task.

In the simulated setting of the clinic, members can receive feedback and support in a safe environment. 

The OT selects, structures and grades the activities needed to teach the necessary skills, provides direction and support, and a safe environment.

Leadership style may range from a highly structured directive leader to that of being a resource/advisor. 

There is no focus on member interaction. The OT does not pay attention to inter/intra personal conflicts unless it interferes with the activity.

Suitable activities – simulated, clearly defined, structured activities that directly relate to the skills being acquired.
• A cooking group for adults with intellectual disabilities, to learn basic cooking skills.
• A group of new amputees learn together how to get in and out of a wheelchair.
Topical group



The group activity is a verbal discussion on an activity that members are engaged in or will become engaged in, in the future. The discussions aim to enable the group members to engage in their activities which occur outside of the group, more effectively.

Education, skills training, problem solving, and expectations are all important themes for this type of group.


There are two types of Topical Groups:

1. Anticipatory topical groups include activities in which members will be involved in when they are discharged. The focus is on what the patient needs to be prepared for in the future. Potential problems or issues can be discussed with members in a pre-discharge group.

2. Concurrent topical groups focus on activities which the member is already carrying out in the community. The focus is on education and training that is immediately helpful. The goal of this group is to share experiences, and provide suggestions and support.

The OT facilitates group discussion while maintaining focus on the activity. The OT helps the members to plan ahead, anticipate issues, brainstorm and problem solve and provides feedback/support.

The OT shares leadership with the members/role model. 

Anticipatory group activity – An outing for the group to identify community resources the members may need for the future.

Concurrent topical groups – An outpatient parenting group that focuses on parenting skills e.g. appropriate age- related toy selection or discipline

• A group is offered for patients who are diagnosed with cancer. The leader works to educate the group on the resources available to them, including emotional, financial, spiritual support. The group members share experiences and help each other cope with the specific demands of the diagnosis.

• An OT® working in a behavioral health facility with adolescents who have eating disorders runs a support group for the adolescents and their families. One of the goals of the group is for the families to learn how they can foster a relapse prevention strategy in the home environment. The OT® engages the group in meal planning exercises for selecting healthy food options and portions, as the activity for this group.

Instrumental Group This type of group is maintenance focused. It helps members function at their highest level, for as long as possible.

All activities are centered around keeping the person at the highest level of health and functionality. 

No major change is anticipated or expected. There is no need to try to change the person’s behavior during this group. It is all about maintaining what has already been accomplished. The OT provides unconditional positive regard (accepting and respecting others as they are without judgment or evaluation), support and structure to create a safe, structured and comfortable environment. 

The OT selects and designs activities that will meet the member’s health needs and maintain their  highest level of function.

Non-threatening and non-demanding activities which are interesting and enjoyable. Activities which members can complete with structure and assistance of the therapist as needed.

• A group of long-time recovering addicts may meet on a periodic basis to maintain their sobriety and accountability.

• Seniors Only exercise group to maintain range of motion, circulation and promote social interaction.




Evaluation Group


Assessment Assessment of skills and limitations through observation
Task-Oriented group


Awareness Self-awareness and awareness of others through task and interactions with group members
Developmental Group


Interaction  Interactional skills develop in a specific sequence
Thematic Group


Learning Learn skills for specific activity
– learning is facilitated by practicing and experiencing needed behavior
Topical group


Independence Goals and skills for independence in community
Instrumental Group


Maintenance  Maintain level of function and wellness



Occupational Therapy and Psychosocial Dysfunction
By Susan Cook Merrill