Everything You Need to Know About Group Therapy
When an addict begins to participate in therapy during the recovery process, it is almost certain that they will eventually find themselves in group therapy. Whether their treatment program is an inpatient or outpatient care option, group therapy has become a staple for addiction treatment in rehab centers. It is effective for discussing multiple issues while also building support and personal growth among its members.
Of course, despite being so common, many people do not have a clear understanding of what group therapy is, thanks to many misconceptions around its real purpose. Due to various stereotypes and stigmas, it has been largely unappreciated although it has the potential to seriously change a person’s life.
What is Group Therapy?
The common public understanding of group therapy is that a collection of people with a similar problem sit in a circle, talk a bit about their feelings or share stories, and then leave. This is how it is often portrayed in movies and TV shows, with the unspoken suggestion that it does not do much to help the people involved. Reality, on the other hand, is quite different.
Group therapy is usually managed alongside individual therapy, and its purpose is to connect people who share a common experience so that they can work together to overcome their feelings, fear, or other struggles together instead of struggling with them alone. It greatly helps individuals who feel that they are not understood or like no one cares about them. It allows the patient to come face to face with others that have been in or are in a similar situation. By sharing their stories and feelings with each other, the group can build a supportive bond with each other while also working through a difficult time.
When group therapy occurs, it is managed under the leadership of one or more licensed clinicians, who are there to help guide discussions to make each meeting more effective. As a whole, this process has several key goals that the therapist will try to help the group reach. These goals include:
- Building support between group members
- Encouraging social skill development
- Fostering personal growth
- Developing interpersonal awareness and self-awareness
- Learning accountability
- Uncovering internal motivators
Most group therapy is driven by the interactions between members rather than the therapist. They will share their emotions and react to each other to provide insight into each other’s and their own thought processes. Some meetings even start in silence so that conversation can grow organically instead of through urging from the therapist.
In an inpatient setting, group therapy can take place multiple times a day and during outpatient care it occurs several times a week. In either situation, each meeting usually lasts for roughly an hour. The more often a group meets, the more effective therapy can be, as it causes the members to develop stronger bonds with each other. Periodically, therapy sessions may change their routine to offer members a different approach to bonding besides sitting and talking, such as recreational activities like hiking.
How does Group Therapy Work?
For a recovering addict, group therapy can be an intimidating prospect. Many do not want to share their feelings with others, especially when that sharing is directed toward multiple new people at one time. These defensive feelings take time to overcome, which is why group therapy is a time commitment. It does not promise a quick cure of any kind, but instead gives patients time to work with each other in a slow manner, allowing each member to express themselves in a safe environment as they feel ready to.
In reaching this point, group therapy must pass through different stages of group development that make interactions easier between the members. There are four stages to this process, which are:
- Forming – Meeting and getting to know each other
- Storming – Overcoming natural conflicts and differences of opinion between members in a safe and respectful way
- Norming – Growing more comfortable, beginning to understand each other and themselves
- Performing – Strengthening awareness and bonding well as a group
By the time these stages have been completed, the members of the group will have developed a noteworthy bond with each other. They will have an understanding of each other, and in the time of learning that, they will have also learned more about themselves. These discoveries will differ based on each individual and can be related to their drug use, the harm they have done, or even the original cause of their substance abuse.
Principles of Group Therapy
For group therapy to work, members need to be comfortable sharing personal information about themselves. That is a daunting task, especially considering that the information they are sharing will pertain to their addiction at some point. Given the stigma that hangs over the concept of addiction, it can be a troubling or embarrassing subject to speak on, even while around other addicts who might have similar experiences. Since group therapy depends on member participation, it seeks to overcome these difficulties by following a set of three ethics at each meeting: confidentiality, safety, and participation.
Confidentiality – Whatever an individual hears during therapy from other group members must be kept secret outside of the meetings unless they are given explicit permission from that member. They must also keep any identifying information about the member confidential in order to assure that member’s privacy. This rule is in place so that members of the group can all speak freely without fear of outsiders learning about their confessions. The therapist is held to this rule as well and can only make an exception if they are told something where they are legally obligated to inform the police, such as that a person is in immediate danger (be it from themselves or someone else).
Safety – For members to speak comfortably about their addiction, it is important that group theory maintains an air of safety so that they can voice their experiences, emotions, and opinions. When a collection of different personalities come into one room, people are certain to clash on some topics, but it is the therapist’s job to make sure those emotions translate into discussion rather than action. The environment should also be free of any vocal attacks on a member, including discrimination and harassment.
Participation – Group therapy can only succeed if each member is engaged and active in the therapy process. For this reason, every member is expected to participate to the best of their ability. This includes being respectful and aware of how other members may be feeling. Here, a talkative member should learn to be aware of the room and step back to give others a chance, meanwhile a shy member would need to try and speak more often even if it is difficult for them. In the end, nobody will be forced to do something that they are uncomfortable with, but they still need to make their best effort to contribute to the group.
Types of Group Therapy
Each therapist has their own unique style for managing group therapy, and the process at one rehab center could be completely different than at another. However, in general, there are two main categories that therapists might fall into based on how their sessions are handled. Some therapists are aware of these categories and may also borrow elements from each to achieve their goals. These categories are:
Psychoeducational therapy could be referred to as “classroom” therapy because it mimics the system that a person would expect to find in school, though with a more relaxed environment that is just as dedicated to personal growth as it is to education. In this type of group therapy, the therapist aims to teach members certain topics or skills that will be useful for them in the long run. The process for this could even include other group involvement techniques like group projects, homework, or presentations.
This approach is most effective for patients that need to build a selection of certain skills, like relapse prevention or anxiety management.
Process-oriented therapy is all about the experience of being part of a group. This type of therapy spends a lot of time having the group interact with each other to form supportive bonds while also looking at a patient’s behavioral patterns, particularly at how habitual behaviors in the outside world reappear within the group itself. For example, an individual that is prone to anger at home, they would also display some of those signs within the group.
The end goal of this type of therapy is to identify the patterns and to then understand when they can be useful and when they are detrimental. If a pattern is frequently harmful in a person’s life, drawing attention to this may encourage them to reflect more on how they can improve themselves.
Get Help Today for Alcoholism and Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, it is time to get help. Group therapy at Brookdale Premier Addiction Recovery provides a valuable avenue for patients to learn about themselves and grow as people, while developing the support system they need to strive in sobriety.
Recovery is always possible, it just cannot be do alone. For someone to truly succeed, they must lean on others who understand and support them.
To learn more about our program and services or to receive immediate assistance, please contact us today at (855) 575-1292.