All rehabs offer group therapy as part of their programme. It is usual for clients to attend these sessions every day for the duration of their stay; group therapy is also available as an outpatient treatment. The reason it is so widely used is its effectiveness. The quality treatment centres are always looking for new and innovative ways to help clients but group therapy is always at the heart of what they offer.
Group therapy means when more than one client works with a therapist at the same time. It is a form of psychotherapy, meaning that it involves a therapeutic form of communication. The way these groups are run can vary a great deal, but it is usual for the therapist to act as a facilitator rather than leading the discussion. There may be a topic for the session, but it is up to the clients to determine where the conversation goes. The therapist is there to maintain order and to prevent the conversation from going off track.
Group therapy can involve a large number of people so it important to have rules decided upon to prevent the session becoming too chaotic. Traditionally, the therapist allows the members of the group to create their own rules, which usually include things such as:
- keeping the content of the session confidential
- protecting the anonymity of members of the group
- using 'I' statements (this is to ensure that people own what they say)
- avoiding racist, bigoted, and homophobic language
- avoiding all types of aggressive behaviour
- turning up on time
- being respectful to other members of the group
- allowing other people to speak - no talking when other people are sharing
- not telling other people in the group what to do - only share experience
- no glamorising alcohol or drug use
- being completely honest.
Attending group therapy can be a life changing experience. There is just something so powerful about speaking candidly within a group - there is a strength there. It is common for individuals who fall into addiction to have problems when it comes to interpersonal communication, so group therapy can be an effective way for them to become comfortable around others. It means they can feel supported by the other members of the group, making it easier to face problems. It can also be a great relief for clients to discover that their difficulties are not unique.
One of the reasons why group therapy can be so effective is that the different members serve as role models for each other. Each client has something to offer, each one dealing with similar problems as all learn to adjust to a new life in sobriety. When one member of the group manages to overcome an obstacle, it inspires everyone else to do the same - there can be a sense of 'if they can do it, so can I'. The fact that clients can benefit from the experience of others in the group means they can avoid the pain of a trial and error approach to recovery.
Another benefit of group therapy is that it is a cost-effective form of treatment. It means that a therapist can work with many clients at the same time. The usual practice in rehab is to combine one-to-one therapy with group therapy. This means that the client can talk in a general way about their experiences while in a group, and go into far more detail during private sessions with the therapist.
Group therapy allows clients to dig down to the root of their problems in a safe and supportive environment. It can give the individual the opportunity to develop the coping strategies that he or she can then use to build a good life away from addiction.