Do I Need Group Therapy for My Addiction?

Group therapy is a common way to treat substance abuse issues. It can be part of a comprehensive treatment program, like intensive outpatient, or it can be an effective treatment plan all on its own. In a group of people who share similar struggles, you’ll be able to talk through and process what you’re experiencing or learn about a new topic that can aid in your recovery. Group therapy is usually facilitated by trained counselors or licensed therapists. Whether group therapy is right for you depends on your unique circumstances. This article will cover the factors that determine whether it’s a good fit, the different types of group therapy and its overall effectiveness for different types of addictions.

Who Should Participate in Group Therapy?

Group therapy has been shown to be useful for clients experiencing addictions like:

  • Alcoholism
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Stimulants (methamphetamine, cocaine)
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP)
  • Opioids (heroin, fentanyl)
  • Marijuana

There are personal factors that can make someone a good candidate for group therapy. First, addiction can be incredibly isolating. Your addiction and any co-occurring disorders may have pushed away those you relied upon for emotional and social support. Attending group therapy puts you in the company of people who are feeling what you’re feeling. Being part of a community helps you regain the support you lost and restore your confidence and strength. Second, the severity of your addiction may play a role in whether you’re referred for group therapy. If your addiction is severe and you need a high level of care, you’ll probably be referred to inpatient treatment, of which group therapy is a part. If your addiction is mild to moderate, you could be a good candidate for stand-alone group therapy in your community.

Types of Group Therapy

Group therapy is offered in many different settings. It could be a part of your treatment plan at an inpatient facility, like drug and alcohol rehab or a hospital. Group therapy is also offered as a stand-alone treatment in communities. This is usually done through mental health clinics or community centers. Regardless of the setting, there are a few types of groups those with addictions may participate in:

  • Psychoeducational groups. These groups will be more focused on teaching about topics related to substance abuse. For example, you might learn about how addiction changes brain chemistry or how lifestyle choices can lead to relapse.
  • Support groups. Intended to provide companionship and a sense of closeness, support groups focus on what group members have in common. Participants are encouraged to share personal stories, emotions and difficulties they may be having.
  • Skills development groups. These groups teach coping skills and allow group members to practice with one another. Topics may include spirituality, effective communication, relaxation and life skills such as budgeting.
  • Interpersonal process groups. Process groups involve group members sharing their struggles and accepting feedback. Unlike support groups, the focus isn’t necessarily on encouragement. Feedback may be constructive criticism, but always with the goal of helping each other build insight and learn something new about themselves.

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a way of learning you’re not alone. You can freely express your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. This safe environment allows you to draw strength and support from others. Fellow group members will help you build insight into your addiction by offering third-party observations. You might leave group with a different view of your problems, as well as ideas for solutions you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Often you can learn just as much by listening to others as you can from talking about yourself. Learning from other people, including what has and hasn’t worked for them, is a great way to expand your own relapse prevention toolbox.

Are There Any Disadvantages?

Many people find it difficult to open up about their struggles to strangers. It requires a lot of vulnerability. Those who’ve been judged or criticized for their behaviors, thoughts and feelings in the past may have an especially difficult time in group. Group therapy can also be time-consuming. It’s common to attend more than one group per day, especially if you’re in a full-time addiction treatment program. Even in the community it’s often recommended to start with several groups per week. Participating in group therapy—especially often enough to build trust and accountability among fellow group members—is a big commitment. However, many find that these drawbacks get easier over time. This is especially true once you start seeing the benefits of the time and energy you put in. The most rewarding experiences are often the most difficult.

How Effective Is Group Therapy?

Several clinical studies have found group therapy to be effective for substance abuse issues. One study comparing participation in group therapy versus individual therapy found that groups enhanced the overall effectiveness of treatment programs. It also found that group therapy can be just as effective as individual therapy and that there is no major difference between types of group therapy when it comes to effectiveness. Another study found that those who reported positive outcomes from group therapy were significantly more likely to view their treatment experience as positive. This means that group therapy is a crucial part of an effective treatment program. It may even be the biggest factor in determining client success.

What Is Group Therapy Like at Washburn House?

At Washburn House, group therapy plays a core role in our substance abuse treatment programs. This is because we recognize the power of empathy, community and mutual support. We believe that the more engaged you are in groups, the more committed and capable you will be in long-term recovery. In our inpatient drug rehab program, you’ll participate in at least ten hours of group therapy per week, plus 15 hours of psychoeducational groups. Our day treatment, or partial hospitalization program, includes six hours of group therapy five days per week. Groups will focus on topics like stress management, healthy relationships and job performance. Intensive outpatient treatment requires at least three hours of group therapy three days per week. These are generally skill-based groups with focuses on relapse prevention, interpersonal skills and self-care. Group therapy is an integral component of any substance abuse treatment plan at Washburn House. We’d love to talk to you more about which of our addiction treatment programs is the best fit for you and how group therapy can play a role. Give us a call today for a confidential pre-screening.

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