Substance Abuse Group Therapy: How It Works
Substance abuse group therapy is a unique form of therapy counseling that’s used to treat substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction. Typically, substance abuse group therapy involves regular sessions with at least one therapist and includes several individuals who are being treated for the same health issue. Oftentimes, this type of therapy will be offered in a private practice setting, mental health clinic, community center, or hospital.
There are many types of health conditions that group therapy can help with. Here’s a few:
- Alcohol addiction
- Tobacco or nicotine
- Prescription pain medication
- Opiate addiction
- Illegal or recreational drugs
Additionally, there are several benefits to substance abuse group therapy. In fact, group therapy can help individuals in a myriad of ways, such as:
- Being able to interact with others who are learning to cope with and overcome an addiction. Whether that’s an addiction to drugs or alcohol, substance abuse group therapy can be helpful for those in the beginning of their recovery journey.
- Substance abuse group therapy can help members realize they’re not alone and gives them a platform to share information and experiences with one another, which can boost self-esteem and confidence. Plus, studies show that sharing feelings and experiences can reduce stress, guilt, and pain among group therapy members.
- Learning how to avoid engaging in destructive behaviors, including drugs, and instead practicing new, healthy behaviors.
Substance abuse group therapy offers a structured environment where discussions are controlled. Here, members can also get feedback and advice to gain a better understanding of themselves. But is substance abuse group therapy effective?
The American Addiction Centers surveyed 379 alumni to rate their satisfaction with a variety of treatments. According to the results, group members were 168% more likely to recommend their treatment facility to others, which suggests group therapy plays a big role in addiction recovery.
The way group therapy works is by helping members through the six stages of recovery, which are:
1. Pre-contemplation: this stage is where clients are not actively trying to change their substance abuse behavior because they don’t believe they have a problem
2. Contemplation: clients think about decreasing their drug or alcohol use
3. Preparation: group members are still using their substance of choice, but plan on stopping
4. Action: individuals choose a strategy to help them stop the substance abuse
5. Maintenance: clients work hard to remain abstinent and avoid relapse
6. Recurrence: clients relapse and return to one of the previous stages
There are five common types of group therapy models that are effective forms of treatment for substance abuse. The five types include:
- Psychoeducational groups that focus on feelings and anger management, conflict resolution, prevention, trauma, health and wellness, culture and family roles
- Cognitive behavioral groups that focus on building new skills, conflict resolution, anger/feelings management, relapse prevention, and early recovery
- Skills development groups focus on the same factors as cognitive behavioral groups, but skills development also includes relaxation training, meditation, and life skills training
- Support groups focus on relapse prevention, trauma, spirituality, culture, ceremonial healing practices, and gender-specific topics
- Interpersonal process group psychotherapy focuses on trauma and different forms of abuse, psychodynamics, and humanistic/existential topics
Additional types of substance abuse group therapy include specialized groups, relapse prevention treatment, communal and cultural groups, and expressive groups.