The Trading Post (Peer Group Icebreaker)

Peer support meetings contain several components, but most are known for sharing experiences that may or may not be relatable. This icebreaker achieves the same goal, but more anonymously and creatively. Participants share their challenges and successes during the first thirty minutes of the meeting with trading cards.

First, set up two or three stations with markers or highlighters and index cards. Instruct everyone to grab an index card and at least one marker/highlighter.

Then, have everyone draw a self-portrait and write their names or nicknames (real or imaginary) on one side and write down a challenge and a success they experience since the last meeting on the back. Allow approximately 5-6 minutes for participants to complete their trading cards.

After cards have been completed, have everyone jump up and trade cards. The facilitator can kick off the trade by asking participants exchange cards with the person to their right or splitting the room into sections and have one side of the room trade with the opposing side. Once the trading begins, people can trade as many times as they want, but they have to read each card they get before making another exchange.

After about 10-15 minutes bring the activity to a close and have everyone share the success noted on the card they ended up with. After all participants have shared the achievements on the card they are holding, have participants share the challenge on the trading card. This time, open the floor for participants to share similar experiences and how they handled the problem. Encourage participants to share experiences where they may not have responded to the challenge at all and detail the outcome.

At times it is easier to share challenges when you know you are not the only person going through the experience. We're often more critical of ourselves, but more sympathetic toward others with similar difficulties. This icebreaker gives participants a chance to share challenges without having to recount the experience first-hand during the group, but receive support and different approaches to the problem. The activity involves a low level of anonymity as the names on the cards are not shared and removes the shame some may feel when asking for help.

Let the conversations flow!

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