Safety in Numbers: Group Therapy in Treating Substance Abuse

As if admitting to yourself that you are an addict wasn’t difficult enough, entering treatment for substance abuse meant going through uncomfortable conversations with family, friends, and probably a therapist or two.

You have come so far in search of healing and are headed in the right direction by entering a substance abuse treatment center, but why, oh why, must treatment and recovery involve group therapy?

Most people are only comfortable opening up when alone with a therapist, so the idea of sharing your most personal feelings and beliefs with a bunch of strangers isn’t your ideal situation. You may even perceive this as the worst aspect of treatment.

But once you realize you are surrounded by others who have endured similar traumas, fractured relationships, substance use struggles, and pain, your group therapy participation can become the greatest tool for building a network of others offering support rooted in first-hand knowledge of the true nature of addiction.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Your concerns will never be exactly the same as another person’s, but knowing you are not alone and that there are others in comparable positions who can offer understanding may bring you comforting relief.

Through the creation of a community that may have been absent while you were using, group therapy offers a safe and nurturing space to bond with other people who are in recovery. These peers may provide you meaningful and enriching friendships well after your exit your substance abuse treatment program.

As each member of your group begins sharing their personal experiences with substance abuse, each story has the power to be insightful and help you reflect on your own experience.

What Does Group Therapy Look Like?

Most substance abuse treatment centers use both individual and group therapy throughout their levels of care. The type of program you are in and your individual diagnosis dictates how many groups you will participate in.

Group sessions are typically scheduled throughout the day, and are run by a therapist with proficiency in the group’s subject matter. Most groups will be filled with only a small number of people so that you can still get the individualized treatment you need.

During group therapy, you will sit in chairs placed in a circle or around a table. The therapist will guide the conversation, allowing for participation from the members of the group. Group therapy sessions may involve learning a new skill or talking through past issues. Group therapy isn’t a time to focus on one person’s problem, but is a time for each member of the group to be able to share their experiences and gain support and insight from others.

Group therapy can open the door to others who have been there, others who know, others who can share the heaviness of the load, so everyone can benefit, and all can thrive along the way to long lasting health and happiness.