Group therapy is a vital component in any comprehensive addiction treatment program. It offers clients the ability to access support and encouragement from the community surrounding them in a residential treatment facility. The natural sense humans have to congregate, and to lean on people around them, makes group therapy a very powerful tool in treating substance abuse. Many addicts and alcoholics come to treatment from an isolated environment, as they wanted to keep people away from their addiction and addictive behaviors. It is crucial for them to reduce this isolation, learn to rely on available support, and not face this battle of drug and alcohol addiction on their own.
When in residential substance abuse treatment it is important for clients to disclose their addictive behaviors and areas of struggle. This then allows the group to be aware, learn assertiveness, and hold their peers accountable in the recovery process. It offers a family like-experience in which clients can best learn how to cope with problems related to substance abuse. It creates an environment where clients can practice relating to one another, this brings them comfort and hope that recovery is possible, and that they don’t have to do it alone. Along with the accountability and tough love piece, group therapy also provides positive and supportive feedback clients need to start trusting themselves, and others in the recovery process.
Like any method of treatment group therapy has its risks; clients can form unhealthy attachments to others in their community, the group can create a false sense of intimacy leading to intercommunal relationships, and the autonomous information disclosed can be discussed negatively outside the group. However, the positives have shown to outweigh the risks, and provide the client with critical tools they can carry with them after completing residential treatment.
Let's take a look at the benefits provided by group therapy:
- Groups provide positive peer support and pressure to abstain from substances of abuse.
- Groups reduce the sense of isolation that most people who have substance abuse disorders experience.
- Groups enable people who abuse substances to witness the recovery of others.
- Groups help members learn to cope with their substance abuse and other problems, by allowing them to see how others deal with similar problems.
- Groups can provide useful information to clients who are new to recovery.
- Groups provide feedback concerning the values and abilities of other group members.
- Group offers family-like experiences.
- Groups encourage, coach, support, and reinforce as members undertake difficult or anxiety-provoking tasks.
- Groups offer members the opportunity to learn or relearn the social skills they need to cope with everyday life instead of resorting to substance abuse.
- Groups can effectively confront individual members about substance abuse and other harmful behaviors.
- Groups allow a single treatment professional to help a number of clients at the same time.
- Groups can add needed structure and discipline to the lives of people with substance use disorders, which often enter treatment with their lives in chaos.
- Groups instill hope, a sense that “If he can make it, so can I”.
- Groups often support and provide encouragement to one another outside the group setting.