Group Therapy for Substance Misuse

Addiction is a complex disease, however it is treatable.1 For those who struggle with addiction, treatment must not only address their substance misuse, but also any other additional needs they may have, including medical, psychological, or social needs.1 In order to accomplish this, treatment facilities offer several services, including therapeutic treatment modalities.1 

One of the most common therapies for substance use disorder treatment is group therapy, which has proven efficacious in helping individuals maintain abstinence from drug and alcohol misuse.1 This article will focus specifically on group therapy in addiction treatment, including various types and benefits, as well as what to expect during group therapy sessions.

What is Group Therapy?

True to its name, group therapy is conducted in a group setting, helping to foster an environment of support among all participants.2 This type of therapy can help individuals develop a variety of skills that can keep them from falling back into active addiction.2 Some of these skills can include:1,3

  • Developing strong interpersonal skills.
  • Practicing recovery strategies.
  • Providing social reinforcement.
  • Enforcing behavioral contingencies.

Effective treatment should meet an individual’s multiple needs in order for them to achieve success in recovery.1 Fortunately, there are several types of group therapy available for those looking to recover from substance use disorders.2

Group Therapy Types

In the treatment of substance use disorders, there are five types of group therapy models – psychoeducational, skills development, cognitive behavioral, support, and interpersonal process groups – that can be implemented to help facilitate individuals’ efforts to remain abstinent from drug and alcohol misuse.2

Psychoeducational groups

Psychoeducational group therapy is designed to provide individuals with an education about addiction and the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences related to it.2 These groups focus on instilling self-awareness, suggesting options for change, finding community resources, establishing knowledge of the recovery process, and motivating individuals to become actionable in their own recovery.2

Skills development groups

Skills development groups help individuals develop coping skills that they can use to both achieve and maintain abstinence from drug and alcohol misuse.2 Working in a group setting to obtain these skills is beneficial in that participants can practice with one another, see how others utilize learned skills, and gain positive reinforcement from their peers when they apply their skills appropriately.2 

Cognitive behavioral groups

Cognitive behavioral groups help individuals modify unhelpful learned behaviors by making changes to beliefs, perceptions, and patterns of thinking.2 These types of groups can be especially helpful for individuals in early recovery and are structured, goal-oriented, and focus on immediate issues that individuals in the group may be experiencing.2

Support groups

The kinship that can be obtained in support groups often helps individuals who are apprehensive or anxious about getting treatment to feel more comfortable and willing to participate.2 Most support groups will focus on a current issue or problem and members can discuss commonly shared experiences.2 Individuals can improve upon their self-esteem and self-confidence in support groups, as well as learn how to avoid isolation, forge connections with others, and contribute to the group.2

Interpersonal process groups

Interpersonal process groups use psychodynamics, or knowledge of the unconscious processes that impact behaviors and motivations, to encourage positive change.2 This form of group therapy can help individuals resolve their issues with other people that have contributed to their previous comfort-seeking through substance misuse.2

Group Therapy for Drug Addiction Treatment

The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services reports that 93% of substance use disorder treatment facilities provide group counseling services.3 The many benefits that individuals can obtain through this type of therapy are plentiful, making it easy to see why group therapy is so widely used.2

Some of the direct benefits of group therapy for addiction treatment include:2

  • Positive peer support and pressure to abstain from further substance misuse.
  • Decreased feelings of isolation.
  • A sense of structure and discipline.
  • The opportunity for group members to learn coping skills by watching how others manage similar challenges.
  • Education about the process of recovery.
  • Feedback from other members of the group concerning one’s values and abilities.
  • Encouragement, coaching, and support when undertaking anxiety-provoking tasks.
  • Learning and relearning social skills that encourage positive coping.

These and other benefits of group therapy have shown efficacy in preventing relapse and reducing or eliminating substance misuse and negative behaviors, among several other positive life changes.2

Group Therapy Expectations

If you are going to be participating in group therapy, you may be wondering what to expect. Consider the following:3

  • Groups can differ in both purpose and goals.
  • Some groups may be geared towards specific populations or communities (e.g., gender-specific groups, LGBTQ+ groups, or anger management groups).
  • Group therapy often utilizes other evidence-based therapies, including motivational interviewing, skills development, and psychoeducation.
  • Patients and their histories are considered when putting a group together to ensure appropriateness.
  • Group members are often asked to share with others in the group or provide feedback, brainstorm, or role play during sessions.
  • Most groups consist of 6-12 people.

Keep in mind that while most group therapies follow a similar structure, some groups may develop unique agendas and goals to meet the specific needs of the participants.2

Group Therapy for Addiction at AdCare

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, reach out to us right now to get the help you deserve.

At our inpatient addiction treatment in Rhode Island, we offer a variety of treatment options, including specialized programs for Veterans, the LGBTQ+ community, first responders, and those with chronic mental illness. Contact us today to learn more about rehab admissions, how to use health insurance for addiction treatment, and more.

Do not wait any longer. We are here for you at any time of night or day. Take the first step and contact us now by calling .

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