Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

People are often wary of group therapy at first. The thought of talking about your problems with a bunch of strangers can be intimidating. However, many people are pleasantly surprised by how much they end up liking group therapy and how much they get out of it. Group therapy has become a staple in most quality addiction treatment programs. This is partly because it’s an effective way of treating more clients at less cost. Many studies have found group therapy is just as effective as individual therapy for many conditions including substance use disorders and most co-occurring mental health issues. Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery allows clients to benefit from more hours of treatment at less cost but there are also ways clients can benefit from group therapy more than individual therapy.

What is Group Therapy for Addiction?

Addiction group therapy is a particular form of counseling that is practiced in treating behavioral disorders, including substance use disorder. It typically requires regular sessions where one or more therapists will work with numerous patients who are being treated for substance abuse. Many individuals can benefit from peer support throughout addiction group therapy.

Members in addiction group therapy will take turns discussing their feelings, struggles, and goals. Addiction group therapy can be tailored to a particular recovery topic, like how to identify and avoid triggers, or how to handle other complicated interpersonal relationships.

Addiction Group Therapy Settings

Forms of addiction group therapy are usually offered in a variety of settings which include:

  • Community centers
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health clinics
  • Private practice settings

Working in Groups

You more than likely have a lot of questions before entering a group therapy session. What should I share? How much should I open up about? Will anyone have addiction stories like mine?

It’s completely normal to have these feelings before any addiction therapy services, and it’s essential to feel comfortable during any counseling session. Always remember that you’re not the only one who is opening up and asking these same questions. By sharing your story, you’ll start to understand the roots of your addiction and the causes behind it.

At first, the other group members will be strangers to you, but after multiple sessions, you’ll begin to see them as friends and some of the best support you have. As you can see, the impact of group therapy can make a huge difference in your recovery.

What to Expect During Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Group therapy sessions may be open or closed – meaning new members may join at any time (open) or the group membership remains the same from beginning to end (closed). Open groups may be ongoing, with no specific start or end date, while closed groups are often designed for a predetermined number of weeks or months. Therapy groups in the outpatient setting are often closed groups, while inpatient and residential groups are more likely to be open groups.

Therapy groups may be led by a single therapist (or counselor) or co-led by two therapists. Therapists should be licensed and have training in and experience doing group therapy. The role of the therapist is to set and reinforce group rules and guidelines, lead the group process, and ensure the atmosphere is cohesive, healthy, safe, and productive for all participants. The therapist will ask questions, encourage participation, give feedback when appropriate, and observe how participants interact in the group. The primary goal is to help all participants benefit in a way that moves them closer to reaching their individual treatment goals.  

Types of Group Therapy Models Used

A model of 5-group therapy is both a useful and common form of substance abuse treatment. This type of group is led by a group of licensed therapists and includes the following five kinds of groups:

  • Psychoeducational groups concentrate on anger management and feelings, prevention, conflict resolution, trauma, culture, health and wellness, and family roles.
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups concentrate on anger/feelings management, relapse prevention, early recovery, conflict resolution, and building new skills.
  • Skills development groups concentrate on identical factors as the cognitive-behavioral group, along with meditation, life skills training, and relaxation training.
  • Support groups concentrate on trauma, culture, spirituality, gender-specific topics, relapse prevention, and gender-specific topics.
  • Interpersonal process group psychotherapy concentrates on humanistic/existential topics, psychodynamics, trauma, and different forms of abuse.

Length of Treatment with Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

In general, the type and length of group therapy that is recommended to a client depends on the member’s motivation to participate in the treatment and their stage of recovery.

  • Substance abuse treatment programs often require members to attend a certain number of minimum sessions (e.g., 6 sessions) over a 3-month period. But one full year of sessions may also be recommended.5 Most of these types of meetings are outpatient forms of treatment where members are responsible for attending.
  • There are also 4–6 week daily treatment programs for clients who need this type of intensive therapy due to the severity of their substance abuse. These types of sessions are usually a part of inpatient treatment programs.

Furthermore, when a client reaches a particular stage of the recovery process, they may also be encouraged to join a particular group. The length of treatment may vary depending on how long a client takes to progress from one stage to the next.

Benefits of Group Therapy for Addiction

While there are arguably numerous benefits of group therapy for substance abuse, it’s important to note that it’s not always the right approach for every individual. Some who are battling with substance dependency, especially in the throes of it, may not feel ready yet to share their story or participate in group therapy. It’s always best to discuss the best approach regarding a specific situation with a licensed therapist or addiction specialist.

Groups, especially when aligned with a common goal, can act as a support network and a sounding board. As a team, other members can help provide feedback and ideas for improving a difficult situation or life challenge, while holding you accountable along the way.

Group therapy has a number of advantageous elements that equal or surpass individual therapy, such as the ability to: 

  • Offer members education about the recovery process.
  • Provide support and motivation from peers to maintain recovery goals.
  • Give members the opportunity to observe issues encountered by others in recovery and observe their methods of problem-solving.
  • Empower group members by encouraging them to offer assistance and feedback to other members.
  • Teach healthy coping skills to manage daily stressors without resorting to substance use.
  • Boost structure and routine in the lives of group members.
  • Build a sense of optimism, self-worth, and belief in the group members.
  • Develop relationships between group members that can be used outside of sessions for support and encouragement.
  • Effectively treat many individuals simultaneously with one therapist, allowing those clients quicker access to therapy.
  • Utilize therapeutic tools (such as challenging irrational beliefs and confronting poor decision-making) to modify behaviors.

You are Not Alone

It’s common for people with substance use disorders to feel isolated, depressed, and ashamed. Many addictions stem from a history of physical or sexual abuse, which victims may have hidden for years or even decades. Others may have done things they were ashamed of as a result of their addiction. Whatever the case, shame is isolating. It can make you feel alone and worthless. People participating in group therapy are often relieved to discover they aren’t alone. Others have had similar experiences and they can finally talk about it.

Group therapy is a very effective addiction treatment. Humans are social animals: We live in groups, we work in groups, we play in groups. Groups diminish feelings of aloneness and allow participants to observe the successful recovery of others, and these outcomes are important to the patient’s recovery. An experienced therapist ensures that the group offers comfort and guidance to each member, allows uncritical self-expression while members offer feedback and coaching, supports healthy relationships, provides positive peer reinforcement and teaches new social skills.

Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Group therapy has long played an essential role in the treatment of substance use disorders. While it might seem frightening, challenging, and even painful to participate at first, most members realize that group therapy is beneficial. If you or a loved one suffers from substance abuse, now is the time to get them back to a healthy lifestyle. Our treatment specialists here at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center have the tools and experience to help end addiction for good. Whether it’s your first time in treatment or you just need some questions answered, contact us today for a free consultation.

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