Group therapy is a type of counseling used to address addiction and mental health issues and involves several individuals meeting together to discuss common issues. One or more clinically trained counselors leads the group sessions, which typically consist of three to 12 participants. This type of therapy can sometimes be more successful than individual therapy in addiction treatment.1
Benefits of Group Treatment
Individuals in recovery for substance addiction often feel isolated by their disease. It can be a great relief to be able to connect with others who face similar situations and who are able to offer support rather than being judgmental. Group therapy is a safe environment in which to share experiences and learn how others have solved similar problems.
Being part of a group working toward a similar goal provides patients with the reassurance of being part of a team. The group leader is much like a coach, steering everyone toward success and keeping the conversations on track. Going to therapy meetings on a regular basis provides a chance to reflect on thoughts and actions and track progress during recovery. Participants also learn ways to avoid the destructive behaviors associated with substance abuse and how to practice healthier ways of living.
Talking through issues with others in group therapy can also serve as practice for the types of communication and feelings encountered outside of therapy, such as anxiety-provoking conversations with family, friends and co-workers.
How Group Therapy Works
Group therapy is one of the most common treatment approaches offered in mental health and addiction rehab settings.2 Groups generally meet once or twice weekly, with each meeting lasting anywhere from one to two hours. Group therapy sessions can be structured to allow new members to join at any time, or the meetings may remain closed to just the original members of the group until the program is over, which could be several weeks to a year.
Sessions begin with member introductions, with each person telling the group why they are there. A member may then decide to share their progress or what has occurred since the last time they all met. The counselor will then lead the group in discussion or begin an educational session. A variety of educational aids can be used during therapy, and the counselor may assign written or verbal projects.
Types of Group Addiction Counseling
Group therapy for substance abuse consists of four primary treatment models led by clinical professionals. The groups focus on different aspects of addiction and patient experiences.
Psychoeducational Group: Members learn about substance abuse, including its negative physical and interpersonal effects.
Skills Development Group: Members develop tools to cope with anger, stress and other feelings. They also learn life skills and ways to prevent relapse.
Support Group: Peers in this group support one another’s experiences. Talking with others in a support group about triggers and cravings to use substances helps with relapse prevention.
Cognitive-Behavioral Group: Group members learn ways to handle the negative thoughts and behaviors that can lead to relapse.