Addiction Treatment
Addiction Treatment

Group Therapy

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Medically reviewed: 07/10/2018
Last updated: 06/5/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Group therapy offers countless rewarding benefits for those recovering from addiction, such as reduced isolation and the opportunity for members to witness the recovery of their peers. Group therapy is a behavioral therapy commonly offered as part of addiction treatment at many inpatient and outpatient rehab centers.

Table of Contents

What is Group Therapy?

Generally, group therapy is any therapy delivered on a non-individual basis. In an addiction treatment setting, group therapy is often facilitated by licensed therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists who have backgrounds in helping people overcome addiction and substance use disorders. Group therapy often consists of a small number of people who share a common problem and who work together to find solutions that can change the dangerous, harmful behaviors driven by addiction.

What Types of Group Therapy are Available?

There are several different types of group therapy, some of which are based on professional treatment and some of which are not. These types include:

Skills Development

  • Skills development groups help you refine certain skills that help you overcome addiction, such as fighting cravings, avoiding triggers, practicing healthy stress management, and interacting with others.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you understand that your addiction is the result of learned negative thinking patterns and behaviors, and helps you change your thoughts and behaviors into those that are positive. CBT also teaches you how to resolve problems that may arise on behalf of negative thoughts and behaviors driven by addiction.

Interpersonal Process

  • Interpersonal process group therapy allows you to recreate your past in the here-and-now and reflect on life problems you may have neglected or escaped by using drugs and alcohol.

Support

  • Support groups provide a setting where members encourage and support one another to make healthy, constructive changes surrounding their addiction and related behaviors. Unlike other group therapies, support groups are often led and facilitated by peers in recovery, and not by professional therapists and counselors.

Psychoeducational

  • This group therapy teaches you about substance abuse and the process of recovery, with focus on helping you expand your awareness of the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.

All these therapies can be used to treat both substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. However, some therapies may be more ideal for certain addiction types than others. For instance, psychoeducational therapy is ideal for those overcoming drug use disorders since it teaches you about the medical and long-term health consequences of drugs and alcohol, while CBT can help change negative thoughts and behaviors surrounding both drug use disorders and behavioral addictions.

What Are The Benefits of Group Therapy?

Group therapy has therapeutic effects that can benefit nearly everyone who needs help recovering from addiction. Group therapy is effective at treating problems commonly associated with addiction such as shame, depression, and isolation.

Advantages of receiving group therapy:

  • Members can benefit from improved self-esteem and confidence as a result of helping others.
  • Newcomers to treatment can experience a sense of hope from listening to and working with other more experienced members.
  • The process of sharing can be a cathartic, rewarding, and therapeutic experience.
  • Experiences in group therapy can aid in self-understanding.
  • Members can identify with one another regarding shared experiences as they relate to addiction.
  • Groups offer positive peer support and pressure to abstain from drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Groups allow people suffering from substance abuse to witness the recovery of others.
  • Groups help members learn how to cope with addiction and related problems by allowing them to see how others cope with similar problems.
  • Groups offer members a family-like experience complete with support and nurturing they may be lacking in their real family lives at home.
  • Groups help members learn or improve social skills needed to help them cope with daily life without resorting to drug and alcohol abuse.

How Does Group Therapy Work?

Group therapy capitalizes on the social reinforcement that arises from peer discussion and support. Each type of therapy works in its unique way to help people overcome addiction.

Addiction can be incredibly isolating due to the way it affects your relationships. But group therapy helps you forge new relationships and reinstate your social life after losing friends and family due to addiction. Those in recovery who already have strong relationships with friends and family can also benefit from group therapy since they can bond with peers who are going through similar experiences related to overcoming addiction.

While group therapy does focus on encouraging members to change unhealthy behaviors, members can also benefit from being confronted by peers in a respectful, non-judgemental way about their substance abuse. Confrontation in a therapeutic setting can help you view your situation differently and come to new realizations surrounding your beliefs and opinions about addiction. This fosters a safe, comfortable environment in which you can openly discuss your past experiences about addiction so you can heal that much sooner.

Group therapy for addiction helps you gain invaluable knowledge and suggestions about how to effectively prevent relapse and fight cravings. If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, group therapy can help you overcome both mental illness and addiction at the same time.

Some group therapies like CBT may require you to attend a set number of therapy sessions to receive full treatment, while therapies like support groups are ongoing and can be attended indefinitely for life. Knowing the length of treatment as well as the costs associated with different group therapies is important when choosing a rehab center and developing your addiction treatment plan.

Is Group Therapy Successful in Treating Addiction?

Group therapy is highly beneficial to those recovering from substance use disorders and behavioral addiction. People who attend group therapy are shown to experience an increase in family stability and employment ability. These individuals also benefit from improved physical and mental health and experience a more focused recovery with a decreased chance for relapse. Group therapy is shown to decrease rates of criminal activity, risky behavior, substance abuse, and addiction-related death such as that caused by drug overdose.

Support groups are found to be just as effective at helping people overcome addiction as group therapies facilitated by healthcare professionals. However, there’s no guarantee that everyone will benefit equally from the same group therapy treatments. Some people may struggle with opening up and sharing — especially at the beginning of their recovery journey. Your doctor at rehab can recommend or help you choose the best group therapies for you or your loved one based on the unique circumstances surrounding the addiction.

Where Can I Find Group Therapy?

Professional and clinical group therapy programs are available at many addiction rehab facilities. Your health insurer may be able to cover some or all treatment costs, though you may also be eligible to receive free or low-cost rehab treatment.

Mutual support groups and 12-step programs like AA and NA are often available for free in every city and take place at churches, schools, and community centers where you can attend as many meetings as frequently as you like. However, support groups are also commonly available at rehab centers and included as part of many treatment programs.