Group Therapy: What to Expect
By: Cumberland Heights
Group therapy is just one of many services offered during addiction treatment. While clients experience a wide array of therapeutic approaches, from one-on-one counseling sessions to expressive therapies (like art and music therapy), there are certain benefits that are specific to participating in the structured conversations of “Group.”
What Happens in Group Therapy?
For many people, it can be reassuring to fully understand what group therapy will entail before attending it themselves. These sessions are comprised of a therapist or facilitator, along with other people who are also in treatment for a substance use disorder. There may be between five and fifteen patients at any given time. The therapeutic approach used will vary depending on the facility – it may have been crafted especially for groups or could be adapted from an individual therapy model.
The five main therapeutic approaches for group sessions in addiction treatment include:
- Psychoeducational: Expand awareness about the behavioral, physical and psychological consequences of substance use.
- Skills Development: Cultivate the skills people need to achieve and maintain sobriety (avoiding triggers, managing anger and solving problems).
- Cognitive-Behavioral: Conceptualize dependency as a learned behavior that clients can change through new thinking patterns, perceptions and beliefs.
- Support: Help members to manage their emotions and thoughts while building communications skills.
- Interpersonal Process: Delves into major developmental issues, looking to resolve patterns that contribute to addiction or complicate one’s attempts to recover.
The therapist will begin by setting a positive tone for the session, reassuring attendees that they have made the right choice by actively participating. They will also explain which form of therapy is being used, as well as how the session will progress moving forward. The therapist may open the floor to general conversation, but it is more likely that they will engage the group by asking each person to respond to the questions they want to pose. These answers will allow the person leading the session to draw connections and inspire further conversation.
It’s important to note that some sessions may not include any mention of addiction, which may be confusing for some. However, it makes sense when you remember that substance use is a symptom of the underlying issues which group therapy seeks to resolve.
Benefits of Group Therapy
Each person’s recovery journey is different, but there are some experiences that are common to nearly all individuals with a history of addiction. Those who misuse drugs and alcohol will attempt to hide their use, which results in a habit of deception, along with limited or blocked communication with others. Over time, this warps the way that addicts interact with their friends and family. Group therapy can begin to restore these interpersonal skills, providing a safe space to open up and speak about their struggles and pasts.
The American Psychological Association points out several other benefits of group therapy in addition to these boosted social skills. Attending these sessions allows clients to become acclimated to group meetings, which increases their likelihood of attending AA or NA meetings in the future. Additionally, the amount of social support received can be life changing. Many people living with addiction have not been able to openly discuss their drug or alcohol problems in the past. Over time, attending a group helps to build trust, learn to resolve conflicts and reinforces an atmosphere of accountability.
Nationally Recognized Addiction Treatment
Group therapy can be an extremely valuable part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program, enabling participants to connect with others and work through past trauma. If you or someone you love could benefit from group therapy, call Cumberland Heights at 800-646-9998.