Group Therapy

Group therapy is a largely beneficial treatment for addicted individuals going through recovery. There are many different types of group therapy that can all be used to treat addiction and support recovery. And, according to SAMHSA, “Group therapy can provide a wide range of therapeutic services, comparable in efficacy to those delivered in individual therapy.”

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a behavioral treatment used to help individuals stop displaying addictive behavior and start learning new coping skills. SAMHSA states that “all groups can be therapeutic,” but specific types of groups run by a licensed therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist are often used to treat addiction in professional and non-professional settings. Others may not be led by clinicians but are types of group therapy all the same.

These groups often consist of a small number of individuals who all share a common problem (in this case, addiction) and work together to find better solutions for all involved to end dangerous and harmful behavior caused by addictive, compulsive behaviors.

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What Types of Group Therapy are There?

There are actually 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 
    • “Coping skills training groups… attempt to cultivate the skills people need to achieve and maintain abstinence.” These skills might include fighting cravings, avoiding triggers, interacting with others, stress management, and a number of other important abilities that individuals should have in order to recover from addiction.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy groups help patients realize that their addictions are the result of a learned behavior and focus on changing that behavior into more positive actions. Also changing the way people think and feel about addiction is a large portion of CBT in group form, and patients are taught problemsolving strategies to help with their recoveries.
  • Interpersonal Process
    • Individuals are given knowledge about the way people function in interpersonal process group therapy in order to facilitate better behavior and to “promote change and healing.”
  • Support 
    • Support groups build up individuals as part of a whole, encouraging and supporting each other through group interactions. Unlike the other types of therapy mentioned above, support groups are not led by a professional therapist or counselor but by another recovering addict.
  • Psychoeducational 
    • “The major purpose of psychoeducational group is expansion of awareness about the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of substance abuse.” Once patients are able to comprehend how addiction affects their body and mind, they are able to better understand why they became addicted and make the changes in their lives necessary to recover.

These different methods can be used to treat different types of addictions. For example, the psychoeducational method is particularly effective for substance abuse and addiction because the program focuses on how the choice to abuse dangerous substance’s changes one’s life as well as the way one’s mind works. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy can be quite beneficial for substance abusers as well as those who suffer from sex addiction, compulsive buying disorder, or other types of behavioral addictions.

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How Does Group Therapy Work?

According to the NIDA, “Many therapeutic setting use group therapy to capitalize on the social reinforcement offered by peer discussion and to help promote drug-free lifestyles.” These programs work based on several different methods, the details of which are listed above. But many types of group therapy work in much the same way to help individuals recover from addiction.

Group Therapy

In group therapy patients can discuss feelings with others facing similar issues.

  • Patients in group therapy are able to receive a great deal of help from peer discussion and support. 
    • Addiction can be incredibly isolating, especially because of the way it affects an individual’s personal relationships. Allowing these individuals to be able to forge new relationships through group therapy can reinstate the social network of someone who has lost a number of their friends and family members due to their actions associated with drug addiction and/or behavioral addictions.
    • In addition, even those who still have friends, family, and other individuals in their lives who support their recoveries can benefit from group therapy. It can be difficult for an addict when they feel they are not able to talk to anyone who truly understands what they are going through. Group therapy can solve this and support sharing and empathy between fellow recovering addicts that often facilities change.
    • While encouragement is a part of group therapy (as well as affiliation, support, and identification), patients also can also receive confrontation, another helpful therapeutic tool, from other patients (always in a respectful and non-judgmental manner). This allows patients to see their own situations differently and to perhaps realize that their beliefs, opinions, and views on certain situations are not always the only ones that matter. Because drug abuse and other types of addictive behaviors can often cause self-absorption, this is an important tool that group therapy uses to open an individual’s eyes to the possibility of (and the necessity for) change.
  • Patients in group therapy can slowly begin to discuss their addictions and their actions in a way that is safe and comfortable and in front of others who are also being asked to do the same.
  • Patients receive knowledge and suggestions on coping with different issues in life as well as preventing relapse and fighting cravings. In a group setting, these truths can often become more resonant, and individuals are able to share their feelings with one another on how the treatment is affecting them.
  • Patients who are suffering from other mental disorders and factors (among them depression, anxiety, isolation, denial etc.) can be treated for both their addictions and their co-occurring issues in group therapy. It is common for individuals to experience several different mental disorders or issues in addition to addiction, and according to SAMHSA, “Whether a person abuses substances or not, these [other] problems often respond better to group treatment than to individual therapy.”

Some programs, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, often will require that patients attend a certain number of times while support groups will not. Some may cost money while others do not. It is important to know what type of group program you are choosing and what the specifics include.

Where Can I Find Group Therapy?

Professional or clinical group therapy programs are often found in rehab facilities. Many of these can be found in our directory where you can locate the center that best fits your needs. In the case of professional treatment, group therapy will often be part of a larger program, and there will usually be a fee for the treatment program itself. Insurance can help to pay for addiction treatment, and in some cases, free or reduced-cost treatment is an option.

Support groups can often be found in facilities like churches, schools, and community centers where members can attend as many meetings as they like. These programs are normally free and less strict than those provided by professional treatment facilities. In some cases, however, treatment centers use both traditional types of group therapy and support groups to help their patients build stronger recoveries.

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Is Group Therapy Successful in Treating Addiction?

Group therapy is very beneficial to those attempting to recover from substance and behavioral addictions. According to the NIDA, “Research has shown that when group therapy either is offered in conjunction with individualized drug counseling or is formatted to reflect the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management, positive outcomes are achieved.” Those individuals who attend professional rehabilitation programs that incorporate some form of group therapy have been found to experience

  • An increase in family stability, employment ability, and overall mental and physical wellness
  • A decrease in criminal activity, substance abuse, risky behavior, and addiction-related mortality
  • A stronger, more focused recovery with a decreased chance of relapse

Those who attend support groups have shown signs of similar types of progress, illustrating that, in many ways, support groups can be as beneficial as those found in clinicial treatment programs. According to the NIAAA, “Alcoholics Anonymous participants in a 16-year study did as well in achieving abstinence at the 8-year mark as those in formal treatment (approaching 50 percent), and a group that participated in both AA and formal treatment performed better than formal treatment alone at years 1 and 3.” Because of this, support groups “remain a staple treatment tool and provide a good alternative to physicians to consider when counseling patients.”

However, there is no guarantee that any one treatment type will be effective for all individuals. Some people may benefit more from individualized drug counseling or from another type of behavioral treatment. Especially in the beginning of recovery, it can be hard for certain individuals to share their feelings.

Group therapy has been proven to be effective for many patients and necessary to most addiction treatment programs in some form or another. For this reason, there are many different methods of group therapy as well as other methods of addiction treatment. But overall, group therapy has been known to be extremely successful in helping addicted individuals stop harmful, compulsive behavior and build strong, positive recoveries.

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