Group Therapy For Alcoholism
Group therapy is an integral part of many inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. There are multiple benefits of pursuing group therapy for alcoholism, including peer support, encouragement, and a sense of community.
The Community Formed In Group Therapy
Group therapy is a prominent tool in the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) or other substance use disorders (SUDs), as it combines the need for social engagement with the powerful forces involved with social change. Human beings are social creatures and have biological drives that encourage us to seek out social connections. Social engagement and interaction is one of the basic tenets to the unique strengths of group therapy. Group therapy allows a group of individuals to come together to grow individually and as a group cohort. This collective learning allows for a change in thinking, behaving, and connecting for everyone within the group.
Additional benefits of group therapy include a sense of satisfaction, affiliation, identification, connection, and support from other group members. The power of group therapy sits in its member’s ability to help each other through difficult situations and achieve a shared goal, which usually involves long-term sobriety.
What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is designed to work with a variety of different topics, conditions, symptoms, and specific populations of people, including veterans, medical professionals, and young people. Group therapy can address an individual’s mental health, physical health, and spiritual health. For our purpose, we will focus on one of the most well-known uses for group therapy: for the treatment of addiction.
Group therapy is a prominent tool in almost every inpatient or outpatient treatment program designed for AUD and other SUDs. This is due to research that has determined that group therapy can be as effective, if not more effective, as individual therapy for the treatment of SUDs. Many behavioral health providers also agree with this thought through their own lived experience working with their clients in early recovery. Many treatment facilities use group therapy at the core of their programs and incorporate other therapies such as individual, family, recreational, art, and specialty therapies to enhance the client’s experience.
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Elements Of Group Therapy
Group therapy for alcohol addiction and other substance use disorders have a few important elements built into them that create the supportive environment that can be transformative to its participants. These elements include:
- Trained group facilitator: A group facilitator is usually a counselor with knowledge of addiction treatment principles and how to effectively engage in group therapy processes. In some circumstances, the facilitator is a peer in recovery instead of a counselor, which can lead to some powerful responses. The facilitator guides the group in discussion to remain on topic, as the facilitator is often less focused on being an active participant in the discussion and more focused on getting others engaged in the process.
- Focus on recovery: Group therapy provides education on recovery topics, reviews relapse prevention techniques, and establishes a strong relationship between the group members that last beyond group sessions.
- Universality: This is the term used to describe the connection that the individuals in group therapy will experience in order to find benefit within the group. Groups are usually comprised of individuals that the facilitator believes will work well together because of shared concerns, conditions, or life experiences. The feeling of togetherness or commonality is essential for addiction treatment and the success of building strong relationships in early recovery.
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Types Of Group Therapy
Group therapy comes in many shapes and forms, with multiple models of group therapy utilized in behavioral health services. These groups are often led by trained facilitators who are experienced with the specific groups they work with.
Within treatment programs, there will be different types of groups to attend that are focused on achieving slightly different goals. Some of the most common group models include:
- Psychoeducational: This group model focuses on providing education on a variety of concepts within behavioral health. The facilitator will spend time sharing information, encouraging participation with others to share their knowledge, and teaching participants how they can apply it to their treatment goals.
- Process: This group model is less focused on education and more focused on exploring the thoughts and emotions linked to behaviors in active addiction and recovery. The process allows individuals to become more emotionally vulnerable and work through difficult emotions surrounding guilt, shame, and other natural emotions. Group members are able to share their experiences and receive helpful feedback from other members in similar situations and from the group facilitator.
- Skills development: This group model focuses on helping individuals develop the skills necessary for recovery. Participants learn these skills through live role-playing, games, or exploring previous events in ways that allow new patterns of behavior to be practiced. Relapse prevention skills, refusal skills, communication skills, and anger management skills are all examples.
- Recreational: While most groups focus on finding ways to work through difficult events, situations, thoughts, and feelings, recreational groups find ways to experience “fun” in sobriety. Many fear that they will never be able to let loose or have fun again without alcohol in their lives, but this is where recreational groups shine. It allows engagement with others in a social atmosphere that focuses on having a good time while being sober. Many learn that these concepts are not mutually exclusive and form lifelong friendships along the way.
- Support: Support groups are peer-led meetings that focus on mutual and spiritual support via a 12-step model. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a well-known example of a support group that is practiced across the globe. AA is not the same as group therapy, but group therapy is also not the same as AA. Support groups allow participants to share and listen to experiences, which can be therapeutic for all participants and can help build camaraderie within the group.
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Going To Group Therapy Vs Individual Therapy
One of the most common complaints of group therapy is having to share one’s feelings and experiences with others instead of just a singular therapist. However, the opposite of that statement is also true; having only one person to bounce ideas off and explore issues with may not be as helpful as a group of like-minded individuals.
Individual therapy is an important service that has its place in substance use treatment and may become the primary therapy once an intensive treatment program has been completed. Individual therapy provides many benefits; however, group therapy often reigns as the more effective approach in early alcohol addiction treatment and early recovery. Here are some of the most cited benefits of group therapy by researchers and clients alike:
- Groups provide peer support to stay sober.
- Groups helps people feel connected in recovery.
- Groups show others recovery is possible.
- Groups allow more people to get help at once.
- Groups share honest feedback.
- Groups encourage and support others to grow.
- Groups help individuals learn social skills.
Get Help For Alcoholism Today
Now that you know the benefits of group therapy, the time to find solutions is now. If you or someone you know is battling alcoholism or addiction to another substance, you may want to consider treatment. For more information on group therapy or treatment options for alcoholism, contact a treatment provider today.