Recovery from addiction is a process brimful with conflicting emotions. For every hopeful thought, there is a fearful, anxious one. Getting addicted is easy compared to starting an addiction treatment. It takes courage to make this major step, and every individual who embarks on the road to recovery has won the first battle. Group therapy in addiction treatment helps recoverees win all the rest. And it all starts with getting in touch with the pros.

What is group therapy?

Group therapy gathers a therapist and at least three or at most fifteen other participants at the same time. Why is it so popular in addiction treatment? Apart from its unique benefits, it is as effective as individual therapy but more affordable. 

Also, group therapy significantly complements an outpatient program designed to provide continued support to recovering individuals. A good outpatient program for developing sober habits helps patients reclaim the life they deserve. It includes group sessions where supportive staff guides recoverees to establish a road to self-improvement and new, more fulfilled life. Such programs help with:

  • Relapse prevention
  • Psychological healing
  • Adjustment
  • Stress management
  • Trigger identification
  • High-risk situation management

How does group therapy in addiction treatment work, and what to expect?

Meetings are scheduled regularly, and sessions take between half an hour and two hours, depending on the size of the group. Participants in therapy take turns talking about specific recovery topics a trained therapist sets. They also decide if the therapy group will be open or closed, whether participants will be able to join at any moment or if all participants start therapy at the same time.

During the therapy, participants discuss the shared issue, learn strategies, and develop skills to battle their addiction. Group therapy also teaches patients to express their concerns, accept feedback, and learn how to deal with difficult family members, which is the key to developing a solid network. Most notably, group therapy:

  • develops a sense of connection and belonging;
  • enables providing and receiving support;
  • improves dysfunctional social patterns;
  • teaches better communication;
  • provides a variety of different perspectives;
  • encourages peer feedback;
  • builds support networks and relationships.

The benefits of group therapy are unique and impressive, but even group therapy has its limits. It is not meant for everybody, especially at the beginning of the recovery process. It can strive to build but not guarantee utter confidentiality. It splits attention to many instead of a focused approach during individual therapy. It is up to a therapist to suggest the best therapy approach to each individual and help a recoveree reap its rewards.

Recoverees learn they’re not alone

This is the first and the most apparent impression one gets when joining a group therapy session. Substance abuse isolates a person from those who can help and support them. They bring back a sense of belonging and mutual understanding through group therapy.

A lone woman surrounded by hands

People next to you have walked in your shoes and have the same fears, struggles, and hopes. Among them sits a therapist whose goal is to aid, support, and teach. Therapy encourages people to open up and talk about their issues with those who understand them best – their peers.

The power of giving and receiving

As professionals advise, the ability to give empowers people in addiction recovery. Group therapy in addiction treatment provides the means for peers to support each other and bond through providing and receiving support. There are two advantages to recoverees: improving self-worth and learning to accept help. It is empowering to learn that they can contribute and have something valuable to share. Feeling good about helping others opens the door to accepting help from peers and starts a virtuous circle.

A classroom for new ways of interaction

Group therapy participants may have lost or never had strong social skills. A therapist here serves as a role model and a group leader, helping recoverees learn and practice new, healthy ways of interaction in a safe environment. A group therapy session provides an intimate setting where recoverees can learn and train. It prepares them to use the new social skills in building new healthy relationships. And repairing strained ones, too.

A group of people sitting with open notebooks

Learning effective communication

Some of the biggest advantages of effective communication are that it promotes trust, resolves issues, and enhances group member loyalty and engagement. By learning and improving communication skills during group therapy, participants discover how to provide and receive constructive feedback. Depending on their character, some participants learn how to avoid being defensive and others how to handle the challenge of relapse.

The advantage of hearing different points of view

Group therapy provides recoverees not only with a therapist’s opinion but as many other opinions as there are therapy participants. Hearing others’ experiences and learning about their trials and errors is incredibly valuable. It is not only about repeating other participants’ mistakes but discovering numerous ways to overcome obstacles and learning that others may have solutions to a common concern one hasn’t thought about.

Peer feedback vs. therapist feedback

The possibility of receiving honest feedback from peers is what group therapy participants value the most. It doesn’t surprise that they are more responsive to it than if it was given by the therapist. Being relatable and sincere makes this feedback so important to give and receive during a session.

Encouraging friendships, discouraging relapse

Perhaps the longest-lasting benefit of group therapy is the opportunity to build friendships with other participants. It is not uncommon for recoverees to develop relationships with other participants based on mutual respect, honesty, understanding, support, and encouragement. Building a strong support network is one of the most valuable benefits of group therapy because it decreases the likelihood of relapse.

A online group meeting

A couple of extra notes

Group therapy, in general, is a powerful, helpful, and successful tool that aids people during addiction treatment. And how could it not be? It encourages a small group of people who share the same trials to communicate, support each other, learn new skills, and endure the long recovery process.

One additional benefit of group therapy in addiction treatment is the possibility of conducting online therapy and counseling when meeting in person is impossible. This also helps people get accustomed to therapy from the comfort of their homes and slowly open up for in-person sessions.