Nearly all treatment programs for substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health disorders offer a combination of individual therapy and group therapy interventions. Providing and encouraging both options for clients can help aid in well-rounding healing and recovery. Still, some may have hesitations and wonder about the value of group therapy for overall recovery. Learning about the benefits of group therapy and what to expect from treatment sessions can be helpful when preparing for treatment.
According to Group Therapy by Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker, “Group therapy is the treatment of multiple patients at once by one or more health care providers.” This type of treatment brings together people with similar symptoms and/or mental health struggles as an opportunity for peer support. The Indian Journal of Psychiatry explains that group therapy helps participants enhance their social functioning through meaningful group conversations and experiences. As a result, participants can “cope more effectively with their personal, group or community problems.”
For those who have yet to engage in group therapy, the first few sessions may seem intimidating. Some may fear that their own presence will alter otherwise healthy dynamics of a group. Others may feel that they aren’t yet ready to contribute to discussions. Regardless, it is important to remember that every member of a group was once a newbie. The members of a group will likely ensure that newcomers feel welcomed and supported.
A group therapeutic setting acts as an invaluable resource. Members can explore and discuss their symptoms, concerns, and celebrations with peers and professionals. Individuals can expect to learn and practice new ways of interacting with others. They can begin to navigate interpersonal conflict more healthily. Likewise, new members can expect to receive and provide feedback to other peers. This can increase personal perspective and create the development of new insights.
Group therapy can provide several benefits for individuals working to recover from SUD and other mental health disorders. A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sheds light on the following advantages of group therapy:
One of the most notable benefits of group therapy is its ability to foster positive peer support. A majority of individuals who contemplate participating in addiction treatment will first try to abstain from substances on their own. Some refer to this as going “cold turkey.” However, most people who do this will realize that the main challenge isn’t in achieving initial sobriety. It’s in maintaining it.
To maintain lasting sobriety, an individual will usually need to be held accountable by someone other than themselves. Group therapy can provide this sense of accountability. Members rely on one another’s sobriety for strength in staying sober. This pressure to abstain from substance use can be especially valuable, regardless if an individual has been in recovery for years or is just beginning their first attempt at sobriety.
Another important benefit of group therapy is that it reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. While the experience of being physically surrounded by other people can help reduce these feelings, these groups can enable members to identify with other peers who may be struggling with the same symptom or issue.
Listening to others open up about their struggle with grief, for example, can encourage another member to also speak on their own experiences with grief. Similarly, relating to others who may be struggling with anxiety can help individuals to feel less alone as they attempt to find solutions. Group therapy serves as a vital resource for social support. This is true even for those who are not yet ready to share their experiences.
The decision to commit to sobriety or cease other destructive behaviors can be challenging. These decisions can seem impossible without knowing one’s personal values and goals. Identifying personal values and goals can reduce ambivalence surrounding change. In turn, it can encourage individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviors moving forward. The conversations and experiences in group therapy can help members to explore and identify their values and goals.
Some members may voice their values and goals directly, which can be directly encouraging to other participants. Others may choose to verbally process their thought and behavioral patterns and define their values as a result. As members provide and receive feedback from one another, members can feel more empowered. They might work to achieve personal goals and behave in ways that align with their values.
Sage Recovery offers a wide variety of therapy groups that meet weekly. Each group is aimed to target specific goals, which can be individualized to meet the needs of a client. Clients can attend one group or several throughout their treatment program, depending on their recovery goals and personal interests. Some of the therapy groups offered at Sage Recovery include:
Group therapy can provide endless benefits for individuals seeking recovery from substance use disorder, mental health disorders, and other emotional distress. If you or a loved one is struggling, you can find peace in knowing that there is likely a therapy group available that will help you. At Sage Recovery, we offer a large variety of therapy groups so that each of our clients can find a group that fits them and their unique needs. We provide creative groups, such as art and music therapy, as well as skill groups, such as parenting skills and coping skills. To learn more about how Sage Recovery can help you, call (512) 306-1394.