Group Therapy

What is group therapy?

Group therapy is a kind of psychotherapy that takes place in a group setting rather than an individual, one-on-one environment. Group therapy can be used to describe any therapy that happens in a group of people, but usually, it refers to a specific type of therapy that takes advantage of a group setting.

Group therapies usually focus on one particular issue that all attendees have in common, such as addiction. One or more therapists will lead the session. Groups vary in size but will be small enough that everyone has the opportunity to speak. They can range from 5 to 15 people.

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Why group therapy for addiction treatment?

Group therapy is one of the most common types of therapy offered in addiction treatment because of the unique benefits that therapy in a group brings to addressing addiction. Group therapy is a powerful tool for reducing isolation, sharing coping strategies and witnessing recovery in others. Isolation is extremely common in addiction, and group therapy is an excellent way to counteract this. Group therapy helps you to feel less alone by forming bonds with people going through similar struggles.

Group therapy is also much more affordable than other types of therapy. However, group therapy isn’t simply a ‘cheap’ option – meeting with others in a community who share experiences with you can have distinct advantages over meeting with just one person.

Benefits of group therapy for addiction treatment

Group therapy is a widely used and effective component of addiction treatment, offering numerous benefits for individuals in recovery. Here are some key advantages of group therapy for addiction treatment:

  • Peer support in abstinence: Group therapy differs from 12-step and other groups created to support abstinence by getting a commitment from everyone at the beginning to participate and to show up to support each other. When fostered from the beginning, this commitment to the process and each other makes the group more committed to the abstinence process.
  • Reducing isolation: Meeting as a group is powerful and addresses head-on the isolation and shame that people experience in addiction. Group members will start to identify with each other, seeing themselves in other members and their struggles. Bonds formed through this process help people to feel less alone. Therapy groups can offer the support that individuals may have previously lacked in their families and networks, which can be a source of strength as they engage in recovery.
  • Witnessing recovery: People at different stages in their recovery will be present in groups, and it can be reassuring and inspirational for people earlier in the process to see people further ahead who have maintained abstinence for longer periods. This is powerful for instilling a sense of hope for people who may have felt hopeless before the process.
  • Information and coping skills: People can learn both practical information about recovery and new coping skills from their peers by being exposed to new information shared by others and by witnessing how their peers cope with the challenges they face in maintaining sobriety.
  • Feedback: Others can spot and challenge unhelpful thought processes, cognitive distortions and faulty conceptions in group therapy, allowing the individual to notice and reflect on them. The therapist and the other group members can draw attention to these as they arise repeatedly in sessions and chip away at them, leading to sustained change. Similarly, individuals can challenge each other on problematic actions such as addictive or abusive behaviour. When challenged by peers whom the individual respects, they may be more willing to accept and internalise this feedback.
  • Structure and discipline: A person’s life may have been chaotic before attending group therapy. Simply committing to go to the same place to meet the same people every week can be an effective way of introducing structure to the life of a person in recovery. Groups can also establish limits and consequences together, helping members clarify their responsibilities.

Accessing group therapy for drug abuse

Group therapy is usually cheaper than individual therapy. This is because the therapist is able to see multiple patients at the same time, which brings the costs down significantly by spreading them over multiple people. This means group therapy is accessible to more people than individual therapy.

Group therapy will very commonly be offered as part of a suite of services when accessing inpatient rehabilitation treatment. If group therapy is of particular interest to you, make sure you ask about the provision of group therapy before accessing treatment.

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What to expect

Attending therapy for the first time can be nerve-wracking, and this can be even more pronounced when attending group therapy. Fortunately, group therapy is set up to be as welcoming as possible to counteract this.

One or more therapists will lead the group, and sessions vary in length, generally between one and two hours. The session will take place in a quiet room, usually with chairs set in a circle to facilitate discussion.

At the start, members will introduce themselves and share their reasons for attending. They will also be invited to share successes, setbacks, progress or obstacles that they have faced since the last meeting.

Don’t struggle with addiction alone

In the face of addiction’s isolating grip, group therapy offers a sanctuary where individuals can openly confront their struggles, celebrate victories, and draw inspiration from the collective resilience of the group. The synergy created within these therapeutic circles fosters a sense of belonging, breaking down the barriers of shame and guilt that often accompany addiction.

If you feel that addiction is preventing you from living your life and group therapy might be something you resonate with, get advice from an addiction specialist today.

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