Group therapy is a key part of substance use disorder treatment.
Group therapy typically includes one therapist and six to twelve clients. Although group therapy may not be comfortable for everyone, it has many benefits. It helps people feel less alone, learn how to communicate feelings and offer support to others, and practice social skills.
One of the components of addiction is that the individual feels alone. Whether this feeling was there beforehand, and the individual tried to fill this emptiness with substances, or whether addiction led them to isolate themselves from others, loneliness in addiction can be overwhelming. Group therapy offers the opportunity to interact with others who may share the same issues, and discussions are guided in a safe environment. This is a place where participants can share their feelings of cravings and help each other with tools they have used to cope.
Participating in group therapy may feel awkward the first few times. Most people do not like to feel vulnerable and share their deep feelings, but most begin to feel more comfortable after a few sessions. The group is confidential, a safe place to share aspects of your life that you may not be able to share with others outside the group.
Another positive aspect of group therapy is that people learn how to improve their social skills. It may have been easy in the past to tell people how you felt when you were intoxicated or high. Once the decision is made to live a sober life, most people will feel a rush of emotions because the emotions have been buried for so long, or not dealt with properly. It may be difficult to talk to people or tell them how you feel. Maybe you don’t know how to say no. Interacting with the others in the group can help rebuild communication skills. A counselor or therapist will always be there to guide the conversations.
The feedback from others in the group can be healing. Your group members can give you a different perspective. They may point out something that you hadn’t considered, or something that your wife, husband, parent, siblings, or friends have been saying all along. The group is a good place to get unbiased criticism. The whole point of the group is to grow and learn together, and heal.
A group can feel safer than a larger meeting or a even an individual therapy session. Unlike individual counseling sessions, a group of six or more people gives you the chance to interact with different personalities and styles of communicating. Others in the group may give feedback that may remind you of your deepest fears. When you come face to face with feelings that you have pushed aside, don’t give up. The group is a safe haven.