Starting a drug and alcohol treatment program is an important step toward long-term recovery, and it requires considerable courage. Having to face your most profound issues and change the way you live your life can elicit all kinds of emotions, including fear, hope, and anxiety. One way that people can gain support during addiction treatment is through substance abuse group therapy.
For many, one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of seeking treatment is the idea of going to therapy. It’s not unusual to feel resistant to the thought of telling your life story to someone you’ve never met before in individual counseling. It’s even more common to feel overwhelmed by substance abuse group therapy. It’s still important to attend group therapy for substance abuse though as it is an essential part of nearly all treatment programs.
Both individual and group therapy help people work through challenging problems and develop crucial insight into their own lives. The way in which these rehab programs do those things is quite different from one another though.
How Addiction Group Therapy Impacts Treatment
Whether it’s to alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs, kicking an addiction is a significant achievement worth celebrating. There is a lot to be proud of, although there’s still plenty of work ahead. Detoxing from a substance is just the beginning of a long process that teaches people to manage their drug cravings and avoid relapse in the future.
In nearly every addiction treatment plan, counseling is a mainstay. Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, family counseling, and other kinds of therapy can teach you healthier coping skills that help you stay sober. Psychotherapy is also an option for those who struggle with other mental health conditions that play a role in addiction.
Why Counseling is Necessary
Drug addiction is more than having a physical dependence on a substance. Even once you go through the detox process, when your body is no longer dependent on the chemical, you’re still psychologically vulnerable to a relapse. Social and emotional factors can become powerful triggers that cause a person to resume drug use.
Some of these social and emotional factors include:
- Cues in the environment, such as visiting a certain neighborhood
- Stress, including sudden life stresses
- Social networks, such as hanging out with friends who still use drugs or alcohol
Each of these situations can create a powerful urge to relapse and resume drug use. Counseling allows you to escape these cravings. It does this by teaching you how to manage all of life’s curveballs without resorting to alcohol or drugs.
There are several kinds of counseling therapies that combat substance abuse. No one method is best. There’s also no one-size-fits-all treatment plan that helps everyone with an addiction. A licensed facility will tailor treatment plans for every client.
Types of Addiction Therapy
There are various different types of addiction therapy. Common forms of addiction therapy include individual, group, and family. Below are some of the common types of therapy that can come in the individual, group, or family format.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT teaches you to recognize situations, thoughts, and moods that trigger drug cravings. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, you’ll also learn healthier coping methods and how to avoid these emotional triggers. CBT will even teach you how to replace bad feelings and negative thoughts with healthier ones. These skills last a lifetime, making CBT a powerful inclusion in a drug treatment plan.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT focuses on teaching acceptance and change. It first came to practice in the 1970s to help people that are suicidal. DBT has since been adapted for other uses as well. In treating substance abuse, DBT emphasizes curbing behaviors that lead to drug use and promoting healthier behaviors.
Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
In a nutshell, group therapy for substance abuse involves two or more people at a time, not including the therapist. People who participate in substance abuse group therapy will take turns talking about their feelings, struggles, goals, and experiences. Some groups limit themselves to specific recovery topics, such as ways to recognize and avoid emotional triggers. Others may be more broad, such as how to handle interpersonal relationships.
Unique Aspects of Substance Abuse Group Therapy
Going through the substance abuse group therapy process allows you to benefit from social interactions with other group members rather than just the input of one therapist. With individual therapy, you might wonder if the therapist has ever gone through the things you’ve been through or can even begin to relate to what you deal with. Group therapy, however, guarantees that you have at least one thing in common with the other people at the meeting with you: a substance or alcohol use disorder.
Another critical element of group therapy for substance abuse is that the group is a microcosm of the real world. Each person’s strengths and weaknesses inevitably come out in a group setting. For example, if someone gets defensive whenever he or she receives criticism or struggles with feeling empathy for anyone else, those issues will undoubtedly come up during therapy sessions. When they do, it’s an excellent opportunity for everyone else to tackle those challenges in a safe place with support.
What to Expect in Substance Abuse Group Therapy
Substance abuse group therapy may either be open or closed. If they’re open, then new members can join at any time. If they’re closed sessions, the membership stays the same from the first meeting to the last.
Open groups may have no specific start or end date. Closed groups, on the other hand, tend to have a predetermined number of weeks or months for their sessions. Outpatient therapy groups are often closed sessions, while residential and inpatient groups are more likely to host open groups.
Depending on the facility’s treatment structure, substance one or two licesned therapists lead substance abuse group therapy with training and experience with groups. The therapist’s role is to reinforce group guidelines and rules, lead the session, and ensure that the environment is productive, healthy, safe, and cohesive for everyone participating.
The therapist will encourage participation, ask questions, give appropriate feedback, and observe how members interact with each other. The main goal is to help everyone benefit and progress towards their own treatment goals.
Confidentiality is a crucial aspect of group therapy. For everyone to feel safe opening up about their lives in group therapy, all participants must honor one another’s privacy. One group rule may be to refrain from interacting with other group members outside of treatment.
In most cases, group therapy usually lasts for a full hour and can last as long as two hours. Longer meetings are helpful to ensure everyone has a chance to contribute to the day’s discussions. Group size can vary, but many groups average between five and 10 participants at once. Having too few or too many people can negatively impact how well therapy works.
Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy
While it’s best to receive any form of counseling for drug or alcohol abuse treatment, group therapy is usually the preferred form compared to individual treatment. In a group setting, you’re more likely to have peer support and be challenged by people who are also receiving treatment at rehab.
Twelve-step programs (such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous) are also peer groups. These can be a valuable part of an addiction recovery program, especially after completing rehab. However, keep in mind that trained therapists don’t lead these groups, so they’re not exactly the same as attending substance abuse group therapy.
Individual therapy is helpful for those suffering from depression or other co-morbid disorders like bipolar disorder. However, these conditions require separate treatment beyond addiction therapy.
Group Therapy vs. Family Therapy
Family counseling is another common form of treatment that includes a person’s entire family. These sessions focus on problems that specifically impact individual family members or the unit as a whole. Family counseling operates on the belief that the whole family is a critical part of a person’s environment that works together as a whole but is made of individual people with their own roles. This form of therapy helps families resolve internal conflict and understand power dynamics and areas of tension within the unit.
There is much overlap between group and family counseling. In both cases, the counseling treats an individual’s problems within a group setting. Both are effective at treating multiple people at the same time.
In both cases, people are encouraged to express their personal feelings and learn how other people see them. They are also encouraged to help others who participate in either form of counseling.
While family counseling focuses on a family unit and helps individuals strengthen their familial relationships, group therapy often brings together total strangers. Group therapy participants may all face a similar problem.
Counseling everyone at once helps them focus on their own issues more effectively. In most cases, a licensed family therapist leads family counseling meetings, while trained group counseling staff leads group therapy sessions at rehab facilities.
Group Therapy After Rehab
Narcotics Anonymous is an international community that hosts meetings for people who have recovered from drug addiction. The structure models after Alcoholics Anonymous. This means it’s a 12-step program with clearly defined goals to help participants stay sober.
Both are abstinence-based programs. Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous are both opposed to maintenance therapy.
Methadone Anonymous is another 12-step program that recognizes the value of methadone for narcotic addiction recovery. Finally, SMART Recovery and Celebrate Recovery are other popular group meetings.
Receive Group Therapy for Substance Abuse At Florida Center for Recovery
Substance abuse group therapy is an essential part of any evidence-based treatment plan. Though it may seem daunting and uncomfortable to newcomers, group therapy participation can tackle many social issues that aren’t otherwise possible in individual therapy. Since 2002, Florida Center for Recovery has created customized treatment plans that include group therapy for our clients. Contact us today to learn more about our various addiction treatment programs.