If you’re a regular reader of our blog or have spent a few minutes navigating our website, you’ll find that group counseling is something that we frequently talk about. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of recovery and something that should be incorporated into all treatment plans. In fact, it’s recommended that many clients continue with group therapy after leaving our treatment centers to fight their addiction and stay clean.
All types of therapy – individual, group, family – have advantages for the addict:
- Develop positive thought patterns
- Gain a solid support network
- Sort through strong emotions, past events, current struggles, etc.
- Enhancement of self esteem
- Learn skills to resist peer pressure
- Learn effective coping mechanisms
Group therapy offers unique advantages compared to family or individual therapy because it involves a group of people who are going through similar struggles. Where individual counseling is private and features one-on-one meetings with a counselor or therapist, group therapy includes a handful of people. A counselor leads the meetings and acts as a neutral party. They will host discussions, ask questions and serve as a mediator when necessary.
The goal of group therapy is to have like-minded individuals come together to share their experiences with addiction. When clients come to The River Source, some are skeptical about opening up in front of others. They may lack the skills to develop healthy, stable relationships on their own, and it may be months or years since they’ve had a true friend. Yet our clients quickly adapt to group counseling and appreciate the fact that the other members in the room are facing similar struggles.
As time goes on, fewer group counseling sessions are needed, but clients can always benefit from this type of setting. Here’s why:
It forms a support structure. Nothing can be accomplished without support. Addicts need to know that someone stands behind them and believes in their recovery while also understanding what they’re going through. The people that can provide this type of invaluable support are recovering addicts themselves. After just a few sessions, we see that members in the group become like family, offering continued encouragement without the judgement.
It lessens isolation. Isolation is common in addiction. Addicts often lose their relationships with others and have only one relationship left: their drug. Some are angry and hostile when they come for treatment, and as a result, they isolate themselves. All clients at The River Source have a roommate and receive group therapy to prevent isolation. Knowing that they are not the only ones hurting is very helpful in the initial days of treatment.
It allows for practice. When an addiction takes hold of someone’s life, they lose the ability to have healthy, honest relationships. Some of our clients admit that they have lied, stolen and even abused the ones they loved most. As these individuals recover and learn how to rebuild healthy relationships, they have practice opportunities at group therapy. They engage in conversation, listen to others and empathize with people’s struggles.
It offers practical advice. It’s hard to take advice from people who don’t know what addiction does. But at group therapy, the advice is warranted. There are members in all stages of recovery, so there is always unique advice to receive. In fact, many of our counselors are recovered addicts themselves and can offer personal experience.
It encourages accountability. Another characteristic that addicts lose is accountability. As addicts rebuild their lives and relationships, they must also learn how to be accountable for their own actions. With group therapy, addicts must attend meetings, listen to others and share advice. The choices they make affect others in the group, which is great practice for the real world.
It introduces new perspectives. Addiction makes people selfish. That’s why new clients are often stubborn and fail to see their problems from any other viewpoint. Through group counseling, recovering addicts do learn new perspectives. This helps addicts to come up with better solutions for handling their problems instead of being angry at the world.
Humans learn from one another, so when placed in a group setting with others dealing with similar situations, it makes sense that these people will form a family dynamic that supports one another. This is the idea behind group therapy, and it’s one that works. While fewer meetings may be needed over time, group counseling is beneficial through all stages of addiction. Knowing that there are people who relate to you and know what addiction feels like is comforting.