When a person is seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder such as alcoholism or addiction to illicit or prescription drugs, there are a number of treatment options that, when used in combination, can prove particularly effective. One of the “tried and true” tools that a professional addiction counselor uses to help people struggling with addictive disorders is group therapy.
The Benefits of Group Therapy During Addiction Recovery
An addiction recovery group can be a valuable tool to help a person maintain sobriety in the early days of treatment and for the long term. However, it can be a frightening concept for someone to talk about such a personal subject and be vulnerable to strangers. They may avoid treatment because the concept of group therapy is intimidating. Before you write off this type of support, it’s good to understand what it’s all about and why you need it.
What Is Group Therapy?
As the name implies, group therapy is when the addiction counselor brings together a number of people who are all facing similar issues. Within the confines of a safe, controlled therapeutic atmosphere, participants are able to discuss challenges that are common to the group.
The goal of group therapy is for each participant to gain a deeper understanding of their disorder, while at the same time giving support to and from others in the group. Most addiction treatment centers include group therapy as part of the treatment plan. It is used in conjunction with individual counseling and other programs. A person may attend meetings every day, once a week or even multiple times a day if it’s necessary to help them stay on the road to recovery.
There are a number of benefits that can arise from professionally-supervised group therapy. Before looking at those benefits, you need to understand what addiction group therapy is like.
How to Join an Addiction Recovery Group
If you’re interested in finding an addiction therapy group, you can check out local meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Many drug rehab clinics feature groups as part of treatment.
You can be part of a group when you check into rehab. It will be part of your program to overcome addiction. You can also find groups in your local area through the AA or NA websites. With these groups, you don’t need to sign up or register. You just show up to a meeting. There’s no requirement to attend a certain number of meetings or other obligations.
Many recovering addicts start out going to meetings every day or even more than once a day. As they learn how to handle their addiction, they may only go once a week or even less. As time goes on, an addict may only feel the need to attend a meeting if they are going through a difficult situation in life such as divorce or a death in the family. This is one of the reasons that addiction recovery groups are so valuable. A person can attend them whenever they want and gain the support they need to deal with their addiction no matter how long it’s been since they’ve used.
What to Expect with Addiction Group Meetings
You may wonder what will happen when you show up at a group meeting. It can help alleviate your fears if you have an idea of what to expect. First, everyone will probably state their names so you can get to know each person. They may talk about what led them to the group or something else regarding their addiction.
As you attend these meetings, you will learn more about how addiction affects others and what issues they face. The other people may talk about how they have been dealing with cravings or how they learned to avoid certain triggers. Sometimes, these groups may have a special speaker which could be an expert but is more likely another addict who has been in recovery for some time. You can learn from their experiences.
These meetings will have a leader who will keep everyone on track. When someone has a question, everyone can contribute with advice or suggestions. However, no one is made to feel their ideas are wrong or the answers they provide incorrect.
You’ll get to know the other attendees and develop friendships. You may even maintain contact outside of the group with those who you feel a connection with. It’s good to have someone you can call on when you’re struggling with a craving or dealing with a problem that leads to the desire to use.
While dealing with addiction is an important component to these meetings, they aren’t always serious. Sometimes, you’ll find a meeting that includes a potluck meal, birthday celebration or other social event. Not only does this give you a chance to relax in a drug-free environment, but it teaches you how to have fun without the use of drugs. It you were a long-term addict or someone who used at parties, you may not realize that it’s possible to enjoy an evening of fun without the help of an addictive substance.
What is the Cost of an Addiction Recovery Group?
When determining whether you can afford an addiction recovery group, you’ll want to think about the cost. Groups like AA and NA are free. Addiction groups in treatment centers are part of the treatment programs and don’t have an additional cost.
Groups in drug rehab centers are included as part of the total program. With the changes to the healthcare industry, your health insurance will cover the expenses related to treatment. You can get help without paying a fortune for the resources available.
Reasons to Attend Group Addiction Therapy
You may see the reasons behind going to individual counseling since that is where much of the work on addiction recovery is done. However, there are numerous benefits to group addiction therapy which you should consider when it comes to determining where and how you will get treatment for your problem.
Addiction is a lonely disease — active substance abusers often feel lonely and cut off from others, especially from loved ones who may not share their illness. This loneliness perpetuates the cycle, because the substance abuser will often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of loneliness, which in turn only serves to isolate them even more.
In a group therapy setting, participants find out that they are not alone. They learn—often to their surprise — that there are others who understand their struggles because they share them.
The discovery of these common bonds often serves as a basis for ongoing supportive mutual relationships that each person can draw upon for strength and inspiration when they feel overwhelmed or tempted to resume alcohol or drug use.
People trapped in an active addiction often have no one they can talk to about their problems. They have no healthy outlet where they can vent their frustrations or try to work things out.
In a group setting among their peers, recovering addicts and alcoholics find that they can speak freely about their problems—without being judged.
Often, simply by being able to voice what is bothering them, the person speaking is able to work out solutions to their problems. Even when they can’t, someone in the group may have faced something similar and is able to offer a helpful suggestion.
The listeners gain something tangible, as well. They are able to lose the feeling of isolation that addiction has imposed upon them, because the person speaking is talking about familiar issues that matter to the listener, too.
Best of all, this “everybody-gets-a-turn” interaction enhances the confidence, communication, and social skills of everyone in the group, all positive changes that can aid in relapse prevention.
Sometimes, a person cannot find a solution to a problem because they’re too close or emotionally involved to see the best option. Talking about common issues in front of one’s peers and asking for feedback can provide new perspectives that the person may never have thought of on their own.
Because everyone in attendance has similar problems to deal with, solutions are offered up non-critically, so there is no need for the original speaker to feel uncomfortable or defensive.
One of the things a person quickly learns when attending group therapy sessions is that they are stronger together with their peers than they are alone. In the best, most tight-knit groups, a mentality of “we’re all in this together” forms, and each person feels responsible for and accountable to the other.
This mutual responsibility is invaluable, because when one of the group members is in trouble and about to relapse they know that they can call on any of their peers to help them through a difficult moment.
The mutual accountability is also extremely important to a successful recovery, because sometimes a struggling addict will go to extreme lengths to avoid letting down their peers by returning to drinking or using. A person may reach out to someone that has been going to the same meetings to help them stay on the road to sobriety when they’re feeling tempted.
In addition, someone who is seen as the mentor will feel more responsibility to maintain their recovery because others are watching them and counting on them to be a role model. Accountability works both ways, for the person who has been in recovery for some time and the person who is just starting out.
How to Find an Addiction Treatment Group
You can go online to locate a recovery group. You can do a search for groups in your city or neighborhood through NA or AA. However, there are other 12-step programs available as well. If you can’t find a group in your area, you can look for those that are online. Some of these groups only hold meetings online while others may offer both online and offline meetings.
There are different programs available with the recovery groups. Many of them do the round-table format where everyone gets a chance to talk. You don’t necessarily have to speak up in your first meeting, but you can listen and learn from others.
Some of these groups offer a study format. You may read a chapter in a book and talk about what you read. Or, you may read some other literature or watch a video about addiction and then have a discussion.
Addiction is a disease with many causal factors—genetics, past trauma, environment, family history, etc. Because of this, it is good to have multiple tools that can be used in the fight to regain sobriety.
Ashwood Recovery—one of the premier outpatient addiction recovery programs in Idaho — makes extensive use of group therapy and other recovery techniques to attack the disease of addiction on multiple levels. We provide a customized treatment plan for each person because we understand that each addict has a unique story. However, we also recognize that certain types of therapy are beneficial for everyone. Our goal is to help you learn how to manage your addiction and live a successful life today, tomorrow and in the future.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, call Ashwood Recovery today to get the help, hope, and support you need as you begin the first steps on your journey.