Recovery from addiction is different for everyone. Nonetheless, most people who seek help with sobriety can benefit from group therapy. Some may be uncomfortable at first with the idea of talking to a group of strangers, but studies have shown that there is power in numbers. More than 50 clinical trials have compared group therapy to individual therapy and found the two types of therapy offer equal results. Read on to learn why this form of support is so helpful and effective for addiction treatment.
What is Group Therapy?
Broadly defined, group therapy is any form of therapy involving two or more people that is focused on assisting attendees with their recovery. It is different from family therapy in that those attending do not have a previous connection or relationship. Group therapy sessions are typically conducted by a trained leader in a variety of settings ranging from outpatient recovery programs to hospital-based inpatient treatment centers.
There are different therapy groups for different needs. For instance, there are groups based on treatment preferences or stages of recovery. There are also specific women-only or adolescent-only groups.
Although 12-step groups also occur in a group setting, they are not considered group therapy. The reason for this is because they do not include a professional therapist leading the sessions. In fact, studies have even indicated that group therapy sessions can sometimes benefit from having two therapists leading the group. When there are two leaders, one may catch a non-verbal cue that the other therapist did not, especially when multiple interactions occur.
Types of Group Therapy
There are different types of group therapy available, with five main options to consider:
- Psychoeducational: This type of group typically centers on a specific condition like phobias, anxiety, or substance abuse. The focus will be on educating members about their specific conditions and determining strategies for coping with their issues and triggers.
- Skills Development: Focused more on mental health concerns, this form of therapy concentrates on guiding group members to healthy ways of coping and making positive choices.
- Cognitive Behavioral: This type of group therapy helps to change attendees’ thought patterns that contributed to harmful behaviors in the past. The goal is to develop new ways of thinking that will not lead to substance abuse or other dangerous activities in the future.
- Support: These groups concentrate on significant life changes, such as the death of a loved one, and provide members unconditional acceptance.
- Interpersonal process: Centered on a school of psychology known as psychodynamics, this type of group therapy strives to promote positive change through interpersonal group dynamics. Psychodynamics examines unconscious motivations to uncover a person’s behaviors or feelings.
Benefits of Group Therapy For Substance Abuse
Group therapy can be extremely valuable because it helps people realize they are not alone. Addiction can leave individuals feeling ashamed and isolated. Luckily, engaging with others living with addiction can help people realize that there are others who share their experiences. Group therapy also provides a safe space to talk.
The sense of connection that group therapy offers is also very valuable. Not only does the individual feel less alone, but social connection can also help them gain a sense of purpose and relieve feelings of stress. When a person feels connected to a group, they may maintain their sobriety out of respect for their fellow attendees and a desire to take the process of recovery seriously. Additionally, attendees can be encouraged by seeing how other group members progress in their own recovery processes.
Regular attendance in group therapy can help develop a person’s communication skills, both in terms of listening better and more clearly expressing their thoughts. Few people are as effective at talking and listening as they may think.
Group therapy also provides a broad range of feedback. Attendees will be given views and opinions that they may not get from others in their life. This can show them their own blind spots and biases.
Group therapy is a great space to practice new skills to help with recovery. For instance, distorted thinking is often linked to substance abuse, and group therapy provides a space to challenge this problematic way of thinking. Practicing these kinds of new skills can be challenging in normal life because of everyday stresses which cause most people to fall back into their regular habits. Group therapy is a safe space to practice and deal with any uncomfortable reactions.
Finally, group therapy gives the therapist an opportunity to view how the participants interact with each other. This process gives greater insights into a person’s actions without a filter. With individual therapy, the therapist only has the individual’s perceptions as a source of information. While most people in individual therapy do not intentionally want to deceive their therapist, the therapist is only getting the one filtered view of situations. Group therapy provides therapists with more information to help the person recover.
At Bridges of Hope, our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. We utilize therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices to provide superior patient care across Indiana.