What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is when like-minded individuals seeking treatment for the same condition (or related conditions) gather together to process their emotions and tell their stories in a supportive environment, often to the mutual benefit of everyone in the group.

Many rehabilitation centers offer group therapy, which can be an integral part of either residential or outpatient treatment. Traditionally offered in a face-to-face setting, now there are also a variety of virtual options that make it all the more convenient to attend group therapy from the comfort of one’s own home (with many face-to-face options still available).

Below is a brief breakdown of some of the benefits one can hope to gain from group therapy, as well as a look at some of the different varieties offered. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it will hopefully provide at least a basic framework for those looking into treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction.

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What Are The Benefits Of Group Therapy?

Addiction can often be a very isolating phenomenon. Those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction may lose their jobs as a result and may also drift out of contact with friends and loved ones. Even if a support network still exists, the individual in recovery may find it difficult to connect meaningfully to friends and family who don’t have substance abuse issues.

Group therapy provides a ready-made group of like-minded people who have faced some of the same problems, fears, challenges, and pitfalls as the individual in recovery. This can foster a sense of comfort, belonging, and connection, all of which are crucial for mental and emotional health.

Communication skills can also be greatly improved via group therapy. Those who suffer from social anxiety, or who may be seeking an opportunity to improve their interpersonal intelligence, can use group therapy as a safe place to practice listening, empathy, and respectful adult communication. By building these skills inside of group therapy, one may soon find they’re able to more effectively communicate outside of group therapy as well.

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What Types Of Group Therapy Exist?

There are many different types of group therapy, so much so that it would be impossible to list them all here. However, the list below should provide a short overview of some of the different treatment modalities and what someone looking for group therapy might be able to expect in a typical session.

  • Psychoeducational groups: These types of groups can feel a lot like being in a classroom or a college lecture hall. The goal is to teach participants about the different facets of addiction, including how and why it develops, what the consequences are, and what techniques someone in early recovery can use to start to process the negative emotions they may be feeling. Attendees may want to take notes, and should also come ready to listen to others in recovery as well as share their own story if they’re so inclined.
  • Skills development groups: Meant for learning coping strategies and methods for managing addiction and achieving sobriety, skills development groups provide a place where participants can practice things like anger management and saying no to drugs and alcohol alongside each other in a safe and supportive environment. These types of groups can provide a solid foundation for the kinds of life skills that will be needed when an individual prepares to re-enter the workforce or simply manage everyday life after receiving treatment for addiction.
  • Cognitive–behavioral groups: This type of group involves taking a magnifying glass to one’s thinking patterns and discovering toxic, inaccurate, or outdated beliefs that could relate to oneself or one’s addiction. So-called cognitive distortions, which may involve an undue focus on the negative or unhealthy perceptions of what others are thinking and feeling, are identified so that one’s inner world can be made more peaceful and objective. Many who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction also struggle with negative beliefs, making this form of therapy extremely effective for the individual in recovery.
  • Support groups: One of the most open-ended types of group therapy, support groups are just that: fellowships of individuals in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction who provide listening ears and helping hands to others in the same position. Generally, participants are free to discuss whatever they like in these groups, and topics often concern the best ways to deal with daily challenges and roadblocks in recovery.
  • Interpersonal process groups: According to the Center For Substance Abuse Treatment, “Interpersonal process groups use psychodynamics, or knowledge of the way people function psychologically, to promote change and healing.” These types of groups can involve examining traumas or stressors contained within one’s unconscious mind, as well as exploring developmental issues that may contribute to drug or alcohol abuse later in life.

It’s worth noting that many groups may combine these techniques, and that there may be spillover and overlap between the various categories. Overall, one of the most important aspect of group therapy is the ability to connect with others and detect blind spots in one’s own life and thinking patterns, which is a commonality of all different types of groups.

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Taking The Next Step

There are many different kinds of groups out there, and it’s worth exploring them all. If you’re interested in learning more about group therapy, or about other treatment options, talk to a treatment provider by clicking here.



William Henken

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  • Will Henken earned a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Central Florida. He has had his work published in the Orlando Sentinel, and has previous experience crafting copy for political action committees and advocacy groups dedicated to social justice. Addiction and mental health are personal subjects for him, and his greatest hope is that he can give a helping hand to those seeking healthy and lasting recovery.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

David Hampton

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  • A survivor of addiction himself, David Hampton is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach (CPRC) and a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

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