A Guide to Group Treatment for Substance Abuse

Group therapy is a common part of substance abuse treatment. Since addiction can be deeply alienating, group treatment puts the members of the group in a challenging situation, starts their reintegration, and aids them on the road to sobriety.

Group therapy can be a powerful instrument in the treatment of substance abuse because it shows sufferers that they are not alone in their struggles. The group provides users with comfort, guidance, and encouragement in overcoming their issues.

Types of Group Treatment for Substance Abuse

There are five models of group therapy that are usually used as resources for the treatment of substance abuse. These therapeutic models differ based on several factors, such as the duration of treatment, the group’s aims, group leadership, session length, and strategies used.

The five frequently used models of group treatment are:1

  • Psychoeducational (didactic) groups: This type of group treatment teaches members about substance abuse. It is intended to raise awareness about the disorder and its adverse effects, provide information about the recovery process, and guide members toward sobriety.
  • Skills development groups: Members of these groups acquire practical coping skills that can help them become and remain sober. The skills may be closely connected to substance abuse, like combating urges or triggers, or more general, such as assertiveness.
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups: Cognitive-behavioral group therapy aims to change the learned behavioral patterns which contribute to addiction. Its goal is to alter these ingrained behaviors as well as the thoughts and beliefs that lead to substance abuse.
  • Support groups: Peer guidance, mutual acceptance, and interpersonal connections are at the core of this kind of treatment. Support groups create a nurturing environment in which communication and exchange can flourish.
  • Interpersonal process group psychotherapy: It’s a therapeutic approach that aims to bring about and sustain abstinence through monitoring and interpreting group dynamics. It focuses on interpersonal relationships within the group and how the group works as a whole.

substance abuse treatment group therapy

Benefits of Group Therapy for Substance Abuse in Different Phases of Recovery

Group therapy goes through several stages as the members move forward on the path to recovery:2

  • The early stages: When taking the first steps towards recovery, people may doubt their ability to complete treatment. Defensiveness, insecurity, and resistance to change are common in this phase. Groups can play a significant role in the early days by providing examples of successful recovery, sharing first-hand experiences, and creating a stimulating climate.
  • The middle stages: In the middle phase of treatment for substance abuse, the possibility of relapse is still high although the user has made significant progress. At this stage, group members offer each other ongoing support, reinforce group values, and help keep shared goals in sight.
  • The later stages: At this point, people are prepared to face deep-seated emotional issues and tackle other challenging aspects of their lives, which might have been affected by their addiction. Group therapy may help introduce important life changes such as reconnecting with family or improving career prospects.

Who Can Join Group Treatment for Substance Abuse?

Not every type of group is right for every person undergoing substance abuse treatment. Treatment professionals conduct careful assessments to determine the client’s individual requirements, recovery phase, motivation, and readiness to take part in group treatment.

The majority of individuals make progress in diverse groups composed of members of different ages, genders, and backgrounds. As long as the needs of the group’s members are compatible, they will likely benefit from the treatment.

Group therapy or some kinds of group therapy are not likely to be beneficial to individuals who:3

  • Reject treatment.
  • Have poor impulse control.
  • Cannot abide by group rules.
  • Feel extremely anxious in group settings.
  • Make the treatment professional extremely uneasy.