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Last Updated on December 14, 2021 by Randy Withers, LCMHC
When most people think about rehab, they imagine a group of patients sitting in a circle telling each other about their problems. For better or worse, showing people in a group therapy session has become a shorthand for substance rehab in the popular consciousness.
In reality, group therapy is just one of the many methods and strategies available for tackling substance use disorders.
However, it is true that group therapy is often a go-to for treating all kinds of mental health problems, including substance use disorders.
Group therapy is a central feature of professional substance abuse programs as well as community support organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
All across the United States, people who struggle with addiction can get access to free or low-cost group-based treatment.
Why group therapy?
The group setting offers several advantages.
It costs less per patient than other treatments, it allows individuals to learn how other people with similar issues cope with triggers and cravings, and it can reduce the feelings of isolation that often accompany substance use issues.
Studies also show that group therapy can help reduce relapses, particularly when used as part of continuing care.
Can you just say anything in therapy?
Contrary to pop culture ideas, well-managed groups are typically not freewheeling.
While it does happen, generally speaking, participants can’t just say whatever comes to their minds without context. This is to allow everyone time to speak and to ensure that the meetings are always focused on recovery. Group facilitators are thus important for keeping things productive and on track.
What do they talk about in group therapy?
It’s difficult to be specific, as group therapy approaches can vary from program to program. However, there are some broad topics and concepts that tend to be discussed in depth.
In both rehab and continuing care settings, these include but are not limited to the following:
- Ways to reduce isolation
- The importance of self-care
- How to identify negative thought patterns
- Triggers that cause substance misuse
- Coping strategies for these triggers
- What activities do the participants find helpful for overcoming cravings
- The role of faith and religion in staying clean, if applicable
- Mindfulness and meditation techniques
- Current problems that add to stress
- Stress management techniques
- Exploration of the roots of substance misuse
- Role-playing to practice trigger and craving avoidance
- Negative habits that prevent recovery
- How to build positive habits
- Affirmations that build a positive self-image
- How to forgive yourself and others
- The role of anger in substance use recovery
- The role of gratitude in recovery
- Nutrition and self-care
- Where participants feel they stand in their recovery
- Pros and cons of previously attempted recovery approaches
- Good news regarding recovery
- Future recovery goals
Group therapy participants who are currently in rehab are likely to be asked these questions:
- What types of substances were you using?
- How and why did you start using these substances?
- Have you been in rehab before?
- How long have you had a substance use disorder?
- Why are you trying to stay clean?
- Will you continue group therapy after rehab?
- What are your fears about life after rehab?
Where to find group therapy in your area
Joining group therapy sessions is, perhaps, one of the most popular ways to stay clean. For this reason, you’re probably going to find at least a few options wherever you are in the country.
In large urban areas, you’ll be able to find dozens of regularly scheduled group therapy sessions within a short driving distance of your neighborhood. Suburban and rural towns and cities may be more of a challenge, but keep in mind that many have online options.
Your physician should be able to help you find a group that’s close to home. Alternately, you use your favorite search engine to find group therapy near you. In fact, all you have to type is “group therapy near me.” You can also search for virtual groups online. In the wake of COVID-19, most 12-Step programs have started to offer free virtual meetings online.
You can get started by visiting these links:
- NA Meetings Online & by Phone
- Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous
- In The Rooms: Online Global Community
- SROL – SMART Recovery Online Community
Stay clean, and be well!