Millions of people are currently battling substance abuse disorder, also known as addiction. It is a struggle people have had for centuries. There are several ways to treat substance abuse disorders, including 12-step programs, rehabilitation programs, and community-based treatment. Individual and group therapy are primary components of these treatment options.
There are many benefits of group therapy for addiction. It is beneficial for people who struggle with addiction to have a support community that truly understands what they are going through. Group therapy allows for that sort of community to develop. Along with the social benefits and the benefits on the road to recovery, group therapy is also a more accessible and affordable option for many people. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are popular sources for the group therapy format.
What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a form of therapeutic treatment used for a variety of personal afflictions, from anxiety disorders to post traumatic stress disorder. Some of the more commonly known forms of group therapy are AA or NA. Both groups address substance abuse disorders. Group therapy that is used to address substance abuse disorders and addiction is best navigated by a professional therapist.
The best way for people to benefit from group therapy is to have an experienced leader in charge of the group. This not only helps keep the group on track, but it also helps everyone in the group to get the best therapy experience. People struggling with addiction frequently use a form of group therapy to help them in their recovery, and it has been shown to be helpful, especially when used in addition to a 12 step program.
Group therapy is good for a person’s recovery. It is also cost-effective, making it a great option for people who may not be able to afford residential rehabilitation facilities or other treatments.
There are several types of group therapy out there. Some of the most common are support groups that provide a family-like atmosphere. There are others like ‘cognitive-behavioral’ group therapy, which focuses on trying to change the thinking patterns that ultimately led to the addiction. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), 2005. Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment.Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading No matter the type, group therapy should be led by a professional, preferably one with practice leading a group therapy session as opposed to individual therapy.
“You Are Not Alone”
Different Types of Group Therapy
There are several different types of group therapy, each structured differently to provide the best therapeutic value to their members.
These are just a few of many forms of group therapy:
Psychoeducational groups. These groups are based on educating their members. The idea is that knowing about the condition you are struggling with will help on the recovery journey.
Skills development groups. Skills development groups teach their members new coping skills and methods to help make life with abstinence easier.
Support groups. Support groups are just what they sound like. They function on the lack of judgment and unconditional support of their members. MediLexicon International. (2020). Group therapy: Definition, benefits, what to expect, and more. Medical News Today. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading
The benefits of group therapy over individual therapy can vary. While individual therapy allows for privacy that may help with a person’s comfort level, group therapy provides a structured social support system that can be very effective in helping people cope with their addiction.
Wendt, D. C., & Gone, J. P. (2017). Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: A Survey of Clinician Practices.Journal of groups in addiction & recovery,12 (4), 243–259. … Continue reading The benefits and challenges of group therapy allow room for people to develop personal relationships that overall help those involved to grow and become more self-sufficient.Tracy, K., & Wallace, S. P. (2016). Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.Substance abuse and rehabilitation,7, 143–154.https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S81535
Individual therapy often lacks those benefits. It could be helpful to combine individual and group therapies to get the best of both worlds, a structured and steady support system of group therapy along with the comfortability and individual focus of individual therapy.
There are several benefits to group therapy including understanding the social effects of addiction, accountability to other group members, and providing a social support system, among others. These benefits can help to change the course of a person’s substance abuse disorder treatment.
Seeing the Social Effects of Addiction
Struggling with addiction can have major impacts on a person’s social life. People who have been friends before the struggles with addiction may stop coming around, or the people around may not support the need for recovery. Group therapy gives people a sense of community. As social creatures, humans need a community to depend on and relate to. Ginsberg, R. (2018). Group therapy and support in addiction treatment.Integrative Addiction and Recovery, 463-485.https://doi.org/10.1093/med/9780190275334.003.0028 People with addictions often rely on a peer group that has the same struggle, which can cause people trying to recover from addiction to relapse. Group therapy offers a social group that supports the abstinence from substances needed for recovery to take place.
Additionally, group therapy provides a safe place for people with addictions to socialize. Being able to socialize without judgment or pressure to abuse substances can help a person’s recovery in the long run. The support structure provided by a group therapy setting can also reduce the feeling of isolation common for people with substance abuse disorders. Stinchfield, R. A. N. D. Y., Owen, P. L., & Winters, K. C. (1994). Group therapy for substance abuse: A review of the empirical research.Handbook of group psychotherapy, 458-488. … Continue reading
Having this supportive structure can reduce the occurrence of isolation related depression which, in the long run, helps people struggling with substance abuse disorders to abstain from the substance they are addicted to. The road to recovery is long, and it is good to have friends that understand and relate to the journey.
Group Therapy Requires Accountability
Group therapy provides a platform for accountability. People taking part in group therapy are often more successful at maintaining sobriety because their peers are holding them accountable. The structure of group therapy relies on people working together and focusing on helping each other, which ultimately keeps the group members focused on recovery.
With the consistency provided by group therapy, people rely on each other, creating a trusting and open atmosphere where they are more likely to speak up if they are having problems with staying abstinent. The support of the group gives people room to make mistakes and fix them rather than make a mistake and continue down the rabbit hole of addiction.
The group therapy atmosphere lends itself to creating social connections that people with substance abuse disorders need. Keeping each other accountable is a strong argument for having group therapy as part of the treatment regimen for substance abuse disorders and addiction.
Group Therapy Encourages Support
Group therapy provides a much-needed system of support for people who struggle with substance abuse. Along with decreasing the sense of isolation that many have issues with group therapy also allows for other avenues of support. Seeing other people succeed with their sobriety and achieve their goals can be an uplifting and encouraging experience, especially for someone who is just starting their recovery journey.
Group therapy is based on sharing experiences and issues. This allows members to look at their problems and life situations from a different perspective. When one person in the group succeeds at a task or reaches a milestone in their sobriety, the whole group gets to see what that success looks and feels like. Ultimately this can lead to strong bonds between group members that help to uplift the group as a whole and encourage the people that may be struggling the most.
Group Therapy Provides Friendship
Friendship is essential. Group therapy allows people with substance abuse disorders to find like-minded people. This allows them to see how others deal with their personal struggles and develop tools of their own to use when problems pop up. Friendship can be a strong bond that often feels like family – and can be a replacement for family support if there isn’t any. Group therapy gives people a new avenue for finding friends that understand addiction. It can be difficult for people struggling with addiction to find friends that will truly support them throughout the journey of recovery.
Group Therapy Provides a Safe Space
People need a place they feel safe and heard to share their problems and struggles. Group therapy establishes that space and provides a positive atmosphere for people to discuss their issues. Along with people that don’t judge you, group therapy often offers alternative solutions or fresh ideas that can help people move past the issues they are dealing with. Having space to be yourself is important while going through the recovery process. Substance abuse often becomes a ruling factor in a person’s life, and it is important to recover a sense of identity that is not tied to substance abuse.
Group Therapy Encourages Learning
Group therapy puts people in a position to learn from each other. Sharing some of the most intimate and difficult experiences in another person’s life can help to add perspective. People that take part in group therapy have an inherent support system in place. They learn from each other’s mistakes and past and help each other move forward with new ideas and teamwork. Groups can become like a family, helping each other whenever they need it.
You Are Not Alone
The key benefit to group therapy is no one is alone. Group therapy makes people develop connections just by the way the group functions. The isolation and grief that comes with struggling with addiction can be suffocating, and group therapy provides a relief from that. It is very important for people in recovery to have a support system, whether it’s family or friends.
Being alone while going through something as difficult as recovering from a substance abuse disorder can be devastating to the recovery effort. Without support, it is easy to get washed away by the uncertainty of recovery. Abstinence is difficult even with support, and without it, recovery can seem daunting, if not impossible. Having a whole group of people going through the same struggles, even at different points of recovery, can bolster the feelings of loneliness and help keep people’s spirits up. Group therapy not only brings people together, but also helps people grow together.
As with all things, there are both benefits and limitations to group therapy. For group therapy to be effective, it must be a group led by a trained professional. Groups without trained professionals leading them may not have a positive effect on the participants. Group therapy has been accepted in professional circles as a common and useful part of a substance abuse treatment program. Group therapy also needs commitment. There needs to be a willingness to share with others, confront your own difficulties, and learn how to communicate your needs and feelings. Without those things, group therapy would not be as effective as it could be.
Seek the Benefits of Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery
Overall, the benefits of group therapy can help people make the most of their recovery journey. By actively participating in group therapy, you can benefit from a community that understands the struggles you are dealing with and provides needed support and resources.
A former professional and one-time World Champion athlete, David hurt his back in competition and subsequently developed an addiction to his prescribed pain medication. After completing his own stay in treatment, David discovered both meaning and purpose in helping others find recovery and walked away from a prestigious J.D./M.B.A program to focus on psychology full-time. After completing his Master’s in Psychology, he began pursuing his Doctor of Social Work degree from The University of Southern California.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), 2005. Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment.Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41. Retrieved May 6, 2022, fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/
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