Group therapy is an effective treatment approach for Substance Use Disorder (SUD). It supports individual therapy and medication in a multi-pronged approach to addiction recovery(1). The idea of group therapy can be daunting for many, as people often fear opening up and becoming vulnerable in front of others. These fears usually subside after beginning group work.
Johan Hari says the ‘opposite of addiction is connection.’ Addiction can be a very isolating experience. When we participate in group therapy, we learn to connect and empathize with others. Ultimately, this leads to greater self-compassion and growth, which are two key factors for long-term recovery.
A trained mental health professional leads group therapy sessions. Clients get the chance to share their stories, thoughts, and experiences, and listen to others in the group share similar experiences. This cultivates a sense of understanding and compassion in the room.
Addiction impacts our mental and physical health. It also affects our well-being(2). It is common for those struggling with addiction to feel guilt and low self-worth. Many live with an internal voice that criticizes their life and choices, and the internal chatter, thoughts, and beliefs that come with addiction can be exhausting.
In group therapy, clients learn that many others also experience these self-criticisms. Groups help us understand that such negative thoughts result from:
We learn that these thoughts are not a reflection of our worth or validity as a person.
Group therapy is a cornerstone of addiction and mental health treatment. It increases self-awareness and promotes positive therapeutic outcomes. Group therapies for SUD target specific substances. Others in your group will also be in recovery from a given substance, and members may be at different stages of their recovery journey.
Common benefits of group therapy for SUD include:
According to SAMHSA, ‘the lives of individuals are shaped, for better or worse, by their experiences in groups. People are born into groups. Throughout life, they join groups. They will influence and be influenced by family, religious, social, and cultural groups that constantly shape behavior, self‐image, and both physical and mental health.‘(3)
As such, group work is a powerful healing tool. Through connection with and understanding of others, clients in group therapy get the chance to shift their perspective on their circumstances. One of the principles of group work is fostering a greater connection to ourselves and others.
Treatment providers use various group-based treatment models to help clients achieve lasting recovery. Groups usually consist of members who share treatment needs, and common types of groups used in addiction recovery programs include:
Clients learn about the nature of addiction and mental health issues. Psychoeducation (PE) groups cover addiction, medication, mental health conditions, and lifestyle. Topics covered in PE encourage self-exploration, and clients explore how topics relate to their own circumstances.
Support groups provide peer support and a sense of accountability in clients. They encourage resilience and maintenance of sobriety.
This group helps clients recognize limiting patterns of thoughts and beliefs. Clients in this group learn to:
Skill-building and development groups teach clients about relapse prevention and self-management. In this group, clients learn how to set healthy boundaries. They learn how to manage difficult emotions, how to relax, and how to cope with triggers and stress.
Interpersonal process groups focus on clients issues and offer effective solutions. A client discusses an issue and works with group members to find solutions. Interpersonal groups offer the chance to practice communication and problem-solving. Clients then apply these skills to their relationships outside treatment.
Each of the above group models has benefits for clients struggling with SUD. A trauma-informed, expert-trained group leader facilitates a powerful therapeutic experience for each group. The type of group offered to a client must suit their treatment needs.
At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients tools to use as they move forward in their sober lifestyle. We focus on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat both substance use disorders and the mental health issues that frequently accompany addiction. Our treatment program rooted in the 12-Step philosophy offers each client an individualized recovery plan. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. Our location near the southern shore of New Jersey allows us to provide optimal healing and relaxation. If you struggle with addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.
(1) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/
(2) Lanier, C A et al. “Drug use and mental well being among a sample of undergraduate and graduate college students.” Journal of drug education vol. 31,3 (2001): 239-48. doi:10.2190/R7T3-T266-JN9E-UX3W
(3) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/
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