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Group Therapy

Group therapy for substance abuse has many advantages over individualized treatment. This is obviously contingent upon having a well-trained and experienced therapist running the group. Here, we explore some of the specific advantages that group therapy can offer.

Support and Encouragement in Groups

Groups encourage abstaining from substances of abuse through peer support. Not only do people feel more responsible for their behavior in general when they are accountable to a group, but also they feel more committed to attend the group and participate. People are more likely to be on time for therapy when they are accountable to a group.

Many people feel isolated when they have substance abuse problems. Being a part of a group gives them support from others and allows them to identify with others’ problems. Although AA provides this as well, the formal nature of group therapy makes them feel more secure and allows them to share their situation more openly.

Group therapy allows members to experience the recovery of other people from substance abuse. When they witness the recovery of others, it inspires them to focus on their own situation as well. The success of others shows people that they can overcome even the most entrenched behaviors.

Groups Discuss Issues Related to Substance Abuse

Group therapy allows people to learn new ways of dealing with their addiction that they haven’t thought of. The group functions like a ‘think tank,’ with the opinions of many people complementing each other.

Groups can educate members that are new to recovery about basic issues. For example, members of the group can learn how to avoid the triggers that can cause use. The group allows the new client to see the same issue from many angles and in a deep way.

Groups allow people to receive feedback concerning their issues. Many times people have blind spots where they are deceived by their own emotions with respect to substance abuse or general life problems. Having other people listen and comment on what they say can serve to help eliminate these blind spots. For instance, many times a person’s ego will not allow them to see where they are making an error. The other members of the group can call them out on this.

Many times a substance abuser has problems with their family and because of this they don’t receive adequate social support. The group can provide nurturance and support in the absence of the family doing so. Also, the group can allow a person to rehearse and practice ways of dealing with family members.

When a person has to undergo a difficult task or experience in the future, the group can provide support and encouragement. For instance, if a person has to confront a friend or family member about some issue, then the group can assure the person that they are doing the right thing.

Many times a person will resort to substance abuse because they lack the social skills that they need to manage their everyday life. They can learn and be coached by other members of the group with respect to this. They can also learn those skills by seeing the example set by the other members of the group with respect to their own lives.

Groups Can Discuss Denial

Denial is one of the problems that substance abusers face. The authority of the group in approaching denial is a powerful force in breaking it down. Also, when other members discuss this with the abuser, they will see through the denial that they themselves have. Not only can the other group members discuss with them the substance abuse problem, but also they can approach them with respect about other areas in their life where they have some denial.

One of the things that happens when you have group therapy is that some of the members of the group will inevitably learn a lot from the therapist and the other group members and will become quasi-therapists in their own right. This new role is of benefit to the depth of group observations about various issues.

Groups Instill Hope and Inspiration

Groups instill hope in their members. A member of the group will become inspired by the successes of other group members. They will say to themselves, “If he can overcome his problems, so can I.” This will happen both with respect to substance abuse and other life problems as well.

Depending on the rules of the group, members can offer support and give encouragement to other members outside of the group setting. Many times the relationships created in the group setting will be extended to time outside of the group. This can allow members to forge friendships that will be of general benefit to them.

For all of these reasons, group therapy is advisable for substance abuse. While there are many upsides to group therapy, there do not seem to be any real downsides to it.