Many substance abuse treatment programs utilize a handful of different strategies to support those going through addiction treatment and recovery. But one of the most popular and effective modalities is group psychotherapy. According to the American Psychological Association(APA), a group therapy session is often focused on addressing specific mental health conditions. Working with a qualified group therapist or professional leader who are trained in one of several areas: psychiatry, psychology, social work, etc, and a group of your peers as you seek to overcome your addictions can be a powerful experience. Group therapy for substance abuse can help you develop the essential tools you need to transition from addiction into a healthy, sober life.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Substance Abuse Epidemic
- 2 Comprehensive Treatment for Substance Abuse
- 3 Understanding Substance Abuse
- 4 A Critical Tool: Group Therapy
- 5 Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
- 6 Types of Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
- 7 The Professional in the Room: Therapists
- 8 How to Access Substance Abuse Group Therapy
- 9 Group Therapy is An Essential Part of Substance Abuse Treatment
- 10 About Garden State Treatment Center
The Substance Abuse Epidemic
According to the 2021 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 46 million Americans met the criteria of having a substance abuse disorder, which works out to just over 16% of the population. These staggering numbers, unfortunately, are just a small peek into the struggles that millions more go through every day who are at risk of developing a substance abuse addiction or who are currently in recovery. One of the bright spots of this survey is that over 72% of adults who self-reported a substance abuse problem indicated that they are currently recovering or are in recovery, providing a glimmer of hope for those still facing substance abuse.
Comprehensive Treatment for Substance Abuse
Programs that treat substance abuse typically offer various treatment modalities to create a strong basis for mental and physical wellness during the recovery process. A comprehensive program may offer individual and group therapies, medicine, educational sessions to learn about substances and how they affect the body and mind as well as activities that support developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle post-treatment.
- Offering a setting for those facing addiction to develop healthy relationships with others and professionals in group therapy has proven to give participants concrete benefits during the recovery process.
- A group setting offers opportunities for participants to forge healthy relationships with others who are facing the same challenges.
- Group therapy helps participants to develop a support system that they can use during recovery when addiction triggers arise during treatment or recovery.
- Participating in group therapy also gives those seeking recovery from substance abuse disorders a chance to find their voice so they can understand and process their feelings and emotions surrounding this momentous change in their life.
Understanding Substance Abuse
Sometimes the line between casual substance use and addiction or abuse can be hard to define because the recreational use of illicit and legal substances has become so common. But abuse is medically defined as the pattern of using a drug or other substance that causes distress or significant harm. For some, evaluating if family, job, relationships or everyday responsibilities suffer from the time, energy or money spent on substances can reveal if a substance abuse problem is present.
When Use Shifts to Abuse
The pathway to addiction and substance abuse can take many different forms, and every person’s story is unique. You may have been prescribed an opioid for pain relief but over time, developed an unhealthy dependency on the drug to maintain your everyday life. Or your substance abuse struggles may have been borne out of a progression from socially acceptable substances like alcohol to harder or more difficult drugs to quit like narcotics. And for others, the slide into substance abuse resulted from emotional or physical traumas that led to self-medicating. But in each case, when substance use is causing someone significant harm or distress in any way, seeking treatment for substance abuse can potentially save their life and sometimes even the lives of those around them.
A Critical Tool: Group Therapy
Although few would label substance abuse recovery a simple process, group therapy sessions are one of the most basic yet effective tools that treatment programs use. Group therapy usually focuses on a specific mental health concern, such as social anxiety or depression. One of the common misperceptions is that group therapy consists of a group of people sitting around a circle and talking to each other with no apparent guidance or purpose. But a true group therapy session is much more than an informal discussion group. Therapy groups can take a few different forms, but all of them stem from the basic premise of using a guided but open discussion to reach identifiable goals for the participants. Joining a group of strangers may sound intimidating at first, but there are benefits of group therapy that individual therapy may not provide.
The Guiding Principles of Group Therapy
The core principles of group therapy provide participants with a safe and productive session that will help them transition from substance abuse to recovery. The first is autonomy, which means that each participant can act on their own free will. Next, group sessions and participants should not do anything to hurt themselves or others. The third principle requires the group leader to be proactive in creating a positive, helpful environment for the participants. And the final two principles state that the participants should all be treated equally and the group should be marked by honor so that the participants can develop honest relationships with each other and the facilitator.
Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
Treatment programs that utilize group therapy sessions are all structured in a similar manner. The five different types of groups that support substance abuse treatment each work toward a unique outcome that will support and equip participants for recovery.
What Does it Look Like?
Group therapy sessions are essentially guided discussions led by a professional whose purpose is to help participants along the road to self-discovery and growth. Some of the topics directly or indirectly focused on could include:
- Addiction education
- Anger management
- Codependent behavior
- Conflict resolution
- Finance management
- Goal setting
- Impulse control
- Mental health education
- Stress management
How Group Therapy Can Help Those Battling Substance Abuse
Participating in a regular group session can provide those fighting substance abuse with the tools they need to find success in their recovery. Substance abusers need a strong support community that understands the struggles they are experiencing during recovery as they begin to live healthier, sober lives. Group therapy equips members with emotional and mental health strategies that make coping with temptations easier but one of the biggest ways that group therapy specifically helps those battling substance abuse is that it gives hope. Listening to peers who have made it through to recovery or are successfully navigating the same challenges you are can help participants see that recovery and a happy, fulfilling life after substance abuse is possible.
Types of Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
Five group therapy types are commonly used during substance abuse programs: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Process Groups, Psychoeducational Groups, Skills Development Groups and Support Groups.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The purpose of a CBT session is to focus on helping participants learn how to change negative thoughts and behaviors by changing thinking patterns. This therapy uncovers unhealthy thoughts and negative behaviors and then establishes new, healthy cognitive behavior. CBT also works toward minimizing relapses into substance abuse by challenging these triggering thoughts and behaviors.
Interpersonal Process Groups
A unique psychological approach, interpersonal process group content is less about what the participants discuss and more about how each person is feeling, how they are interacting with the group, and how the group works together. These group sessions will work on the participant’s emotional development by exploring personal growth and childhood concerns that may have led to poor decision-making and coping skills.
Psychoeducational Group Therapy
This therapeutic group’s focus is to provide members with information that will help them through their treatment and recovery process. Topics covered include the impact of substance abuse on the body, others and the community, barriers to their recovery and ways to live a sober life. These classes might be attended in person, virtually or via a recorded lesson and also teach group members self-help strategies like meditation, anger management, healthy eating and relaxation techniques.
Skills Development Group Therapy
Those receiving substance abuse treatment will need new tools to help them maintain a drug-free life once their program has ended, and a skills development group focuses on providing members with this information. Participants will learn and practice individualized skills that equip them to avoid relapse and triggering situations. Members may also engage in positive communication practices, have the opportunity to improve their parenting skills, social skills or focus on anger management tools to assist in leading a healthy recovery life.
The last type of group therapy utilized by substance abuse programs is a support group typically recognized as a Step Program. This type of group differs from the other group formats because doctors, psychiatrists or licensed counselors do not lead it, but it is a vital tool to complement the other modalities. Support groups are an essential part of the earliest parts of the recovery process and they offer participants an opportunity for an ongoing community support system when the treatment program has concluded.
The Professional in the Room: Therapists
All of these therapy groups with the exception of step or support groups will be led by a licensed or certified mental health professional. Either a psychologist, psychotherapist, social worker, psychiatrist or substance abuse counselor will be in charge of group therapy sessions because they have been trained specifically on working with those who are utilizing group sessions to help change their mental and physical behaviors, making them the ideal leader for group therapy sessions.
The Therapist’s Role
In order to facilitate the group sessions, the therapist will make sure that a safe, consistent and supportive environment is maintained by actively listening to members and being comfortable with reacting calmly and appropriately when challenging situations arise. The therapist will direct conversations in a meaningful way while creating an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality so that members feel free to speak honestly. The leader will guide members toward the stated goal of the therapy group by ensuring that members continually understand the link between their actions and thoughts and substance abuse. The group will experience limited conflict and leaders are trained to interject appropriate but lighthearted humor to balance the heaviness of topics usually discussed at each meeting.
How to Access Substance Abuse Group Therapy
Finding A Substance Abuse Group Therapy
Those seeking group therapy for substance abuse can find treatment programs at three types of facilities.
- Rehabilitation Centers like Garden State Treatment Center in Sparta, New Jersey, offer substance abuse treatment programs that include multiple types of group therapy sessions to support the recovery efforts of its participants.
- Community Health Centers may offer group therapy sessions for community members.
- Online Resources are available to help you find a group therapy session through trusted sites like SAMHSA or Psychology Today.
What Else You Need to Know About Group Therapy
ost and insurance coverage may vary, so check with your insurance provider to see if specific providers can be used for a reduced cost. And since some group therapy programs are part of a treatment program, be sure to verify if you need to participate in the complete substance abuse program to attend. In addition, because the types of group therapy sessions may vary, be sure to check with the organizer to confirm the focus of the therapy group.
Group Therapy is An Essential Part of Substance Abuse Treatment
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or with similar experiences, group therapy can play a critical role in the recovery process. Guided by a professional or clinician, group therapy gives hope to those fighting addictions by providing a safe, supportive environment to learn the tools to live a sober life. To get more information about group therapy for substance abuse, contact Garden State Treatment Center right now. Treatment, support and hope are available for those fighting substance abuse.
About Garden State Treatment Center
Our addiction treatment center in Sparta, New Jersey, provides a therapeutic atmosphere that allows men, women and young adults the support and encouragement they need to begin healing their lives to overcome their addictions. Substance abuse group therapy is one the most targeted therapy groups that we offer. This group works on shame, denial, acceptance and provides hope in the form of encouragement and respect. The effectiveness of Group therapy is often considered as or even more fruitful than one on one counseling.
Is Group Therapy an Effective Method of Treating Substance Abuse?
The disease of addiction is one that isolates individuals from others. Although many addicts and alcoholics have a social life, recovering addicts will explain that though that may have been true, they were never lonelier. A person who is altered on drugs and alcohol is not truly connected to reality and therefore others. The substance abuse group treatment that we offer at Garden State Treatment Center allows individuals to reconnect with others in a genuine way because they are clean and sober.
Fellow addicts getting sober together
The value of our substance abuse group therapy for individuals who have mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression is extremely beneficial. The groups are structured and facilitated by our professional staff of counselors and therapists who specialize in addiction recovery and who are licensed in mental health care and counseling. Altruism and the group topics address similar issues not only related to addiction but to family, peers, self-esteem, anger, isolation, death, shame and perfectionism.
The goal of group therapy in Sparta, New Jersey, is to allow each client time to adjust to his or her recovery in a safe atmosphere that is therapeutic. Substance abuse group therapy sessions are available for men, women and young adults. At Garden State Treatment Center, we offer group counseling sessions in our intensive outpatient treatment programs, our partial care program, and our outpatient treatment program.