Wednesday April 23rd 2014

The efficacy of group therapy for addiction

Group therapy is crucial to addiction treatment

There are many different rehabilitation programs and treatment centers around the world. In fact, there are about 11,000 treatment centers in the U.S. alone, more than half of these providing residential care for addiction.  While many offer some combination of individual therapy or addiction therapy for families, the one thing that nearly every single addiction treatment center has in common is group therapy.

This is no coincidence.  Why? Group therapy is incredibly effective for a number of problems including all kinds of addictions. Group therapy is a safe space where people can come out of their shell and share problems with people who offer help rather than judgement.  In fact, there are a number of great reasons why group therapy is a crucial part of so many addiction treatments (as are drug addiction aftercare programs). Of these, there are six reasons group therapy is included in most programs.

6 reasons why group therapy for addiction works

1. Identification

The first reason is centered around mutual identification and acceptance. When addicts are in a group, they are surrounded by people who share many of the same thoughts emotions and experiences. This helps them identify with other group members and ensures that they will be accepted as a part of the crowd. Without this identification and acceptance, addicts may see themselves as outsiders or fear judgement which leads to them staying quiet and isolated. That simply breeds more negative behavior and reinforces the addiction.

2. Support

The second reason group therapy is so important is the support provided by the group. When a person comes to group therapy, they may be on their knees, at the hardest time in their lives. The group provides the positive energy and peer support to show them that there is an alternative to addiction and they can get there.

3. Positive role models

The third reason for group therapy goes hand in hand with support. It is the ready supply of positive role models.

Addiction can seem like an inescapable trap but when someone is surrounded by other people who have been in their situation and broken the cycle of addiction, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Positive role models have a second and equally important job in the fight against addiction. They provide a window into the attitudes of every addict. Each person in a group understands the attitudes and stigma around substance abuse. That means they can help a newly recovering addict better understand their addiction. Group members can also confront individuals who are making excuses for not staying clean. That last part is especially important because no one is better at understanding and refuting an addicts excuses than another addict.

4. Being a “part of”…

The fourth reason group therapy works so well is the feeling of being part of something bigger while learning to communicate. Group work allows an addict to feel like they are a part of something but to take part, they have to share and open up. That forces them to communicate with a group of individuals rather than one on one. They are a part of the group so they know they will be accepted but they have to learn to communicate directly with others. This can be a difficult process but it is very important for an addict because it leaves them better prepared to face the outside world.

5. Developing boundaries

The group also comes with rules, which is the fifth reason it is important for fighting addiction. Most addicts pushed boundaries and ignored rules in order to continue feeding their addiction. In a group therapy setting they are required to adhere to the rules while they learn and share information. This is so important because addicts seem to thrive in a structured environment. Once they know the rules and understand they cannot simply ignore them, an addict can start their recovery.

6. Hope

The final reason group therapy is so important is also the simplest reason. It can be explained in a single world, HOPE. When an addict is surrounded by a group of people dedicated to helping them, it can seem like there is a weight lifted of their shoulders. For the first time in a long time, they can imagine a life beyond their addiction and it looks very good. This hope is the most important thing an addict can have and it is possibly the best part of group therapy.

The final reason group therapy is so important is also the simplest reason. It can be explained in a single world, HOPE. When an addict is surrounded by a group of people dedicated to helping them, it can seem like there is a weight lifted of their shoulders. For the first time in a long time, they can imagine a life beyond their addiction and it looks very good. This hope is the most important thing an addict can have and it is possibly the best part of group therapy.

Photo credit: wolleyvonwollery

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About Brad Girtz

Brad Girtz is a blogger working at Life Works Community, a residential treatment centre. He writes content about mental health, addiction and many other conditions treated at Life Works. Brad enjoys sharing news and information about the latest innovations and ideas in the field of addiction and mental health.