You will need about ten pieces of 3 x 5-inch cardboard, each marked with one of the items to be ranked (e.g., Medication, Individual Therapy, Occupational Therapy). You need to write in large enough letters so the group members can see them from a short distance. Consider adding another two to three empty pieces of cardboard and a marker, if the members would like to create additional items.

When my group did this task they ordered the pieces according to their ranking on the floor. With a bit of extra preparation you can upgrade the project. You can glue Velcro strips to a standing board and patches to the backside of the cardboard pieces, and that would allow the group to perform the ranking task on the board instead of on the floor.

Items to be Ranked

The importance of the items to be chosen is not in their content, but in their relevance to the group members. The topic must be one that has the potential of fostering different opinions and a passionate discussion.

My coleader and I led; we chose "elements that help recovery on the unit" as a topic for the ranking task. These included: individual psychotherapy, weekly meetings with the psychiatrist, medication, occupational therapy, talks with the nursing staff, group therapy, talks with other patients, a structured daily routine, being in a safe environment, and morning talks (not psychological).

Additional Topics

• Characteristics of a good friend (loyal, cheerful, etc.)

• Life goals (family, individual happiness, etc.)


1. Introducing the task: The true nature of the task is not readily disclosed by the group leaders in order to avoid creating any confounding variables thus altering the task at hand. Instead of disclosing that the task is intended to experience assertiveness and negotiation in a live manner, the task is described in terms of the topic chosen for ranking.

Another way would be to state that you want to introduce a new topic, but first you want to begin with a task that will lead to the chosen topic, thus initially withholding the title of the topic. In our case we told the group that we wanted for them to have a better idea of what is most important in the "process of recovery."

2. The actual task: Spread out the items in a random order on the floor in the center of the room (or on a board), and tell the group that their task is to rank the different elements in order of importance in an agreed upon manner.

You may want to give a time limit for the task. In our case we told the group they had twenty minutes to complete the task, leaving forty minutes for the following discussion. Try to avoid answering questions by group members that relate to how the task should be done. The only thing the group needs to understand is that they have to complete the rankings as a group. Say only as much is needed to get the activity started.

3. Follow-up discussion: The discussion begins once the allocated time is over, or if the group was able to complete the task before the time limit. In our case we followed the task by several leading questions that we deemed relevant, yet different questions might be useful depending on the group characteristics.

First, we discussed what the actual concept of the task was seeking. We further explained that the task was actually an introduction to our next topic, and asked the members to guess what they thought that topic could be. Then we disclosed that our topic is negotiation skills, and that the task is also relevant to most of the interpersonal skills that the group members accounted for when guessing the topic.

Next, we asked each member to share with the group their experience during the task in terms of their personal experience and their observations and reflections regarding the group process. During this phase additional questions were asked of individual group members. These were aimed at getting a better understanding of the roles each member took, the relevance of the role taken to other experiences in the group and in life, and reactions to behaviors of other members (cognitive, emotional, and behavioral). Finally, we asked in what ways the task could have been handled more effectively without evoking as much heated debate.

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