5 Benefits of Group Therapy in Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder

Many people are reluctant to enter group therapy.  Sharing your problems, fears, and emotions with a group of strangers can be intimidating.  However, many people are pleasantly surprised by how beneficial the group dynamic is during their recovery process. 

Group therapy is an essential component of many drug and alcohol treatment programs.  Research has consistently shown that group therapy offers numerous benefits in the treatment of substance use disorders and can help participants build a solid foundation for long-term recovery. 

Here’s how group therapy for a substance use disorder can help:

Groups provide support. People struggling with substance use disorders have a tendency to feel isolated, ashamed, guilty, and even depressed.  Additionally, individuals in active substance use struggle with feelings of low self-worth.  These feelings can be overwhelming and may discourage the using person from seeking help.  Entering group therapy and hearing from others that they have shared the same thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be extremely healing.  Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles usually results in a huge sense of relief. 

Groups promote effective communication skills. Interpersonal relationships and communication skills can be hard, especially for those in early recovery.  Developing effective communication skills is essential and will help members achieve many of their recovery goals, such as repairing damaged relationships. Group therapy requires participants to be fully engaged in the process, which includes active listening, empathy, self-reflection, and providing appropriate feedback.   Group therapy is also a great way to evaluate how clear and effective you are communicating.  You will have the opportunity to refine your communication style, which will help you navigate conflict or misunderstandings moving forward. 

Groups help improve social skills. A large portion of early recovery is spent learning new skills.  One of the main areas of focus is on developing a new recovery supportive social life. Group therapy offers the unique opportunity to learn how to relate to others without the use of substances and is the ideal time to practice the new skills that have been learned in treatment.  A group dynamic also allows the therapist to view the participant’s interpersonal skills and gives them an opportunity to further tailor the individualized treatment plans. 

Groups increase self-awareness. The group acts as a great mirror.  It allows each individual to view their thoughts and behaviors from an outside perspective, which results in a deeper level of personal understanding and growth.  Many of us have blind spots – areas of our lives that we can’t see or have a distorted view of.  Receiving feedback from group members may help you to gain a new perspective on an issue that you’ve struggled to overcome.  Also, through listening to other members share, you may gain insight into your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.   

Groups invite connection. Feeling connected is one of the most important elements of recovery from a substance use disorder.  Finding genuine connections in group therapy can help give you a sense of purpose.  The connections made within the group also encourage a sense of accountability to one another.  The inter-connectedness of the group results in positive peer-pressure.  When you care about your group, you consider how your actions will impact them.  This off-sets the self-centeredness inherent in active substance use and will help improve your ability to develop genuine connections outside of treatment. 

Getting the most out of group therapy

Entering group therapy can be daunting.  Here are a few tips to maximize the benefits of your group therapy experience.

Make a Commitment. Many treatment providers will ask you to sign a ‘contract’ prior to entering the group.  Read over the expectations of the group and commit to adhering to the guidelines.  Understanding the expectations of the group can also help you feel more comfortable sharing your story.

Participate. You will only get out of the group what you put in.  While you may not always feel like sharing during a group session, make sure you are still engaged with your group members. You never know when you will hear something meaningful or transformative.  Sharing openly not only has the power to help you heal, it also has the power to help the other members of the group.

Be Open-Minded. Be receptive to feedback from the counselor or other group members. Remember that the group therapy experience is intended to help you on your recovery journey.  Stay teachable throughout the process and don’t be afraid to look at things from different perspectives.  

Learn More at Greenbriar Treatment Center

Greenbriar Treatment Center offers clinician-led group therapy sessions at every level of care. We provide a safe space for those suffering from substance use disorders to begin healing and discover a new way of life.  If you or a loved one are struggling, contact us today to learn how we can help. 

Resources1. Wendt, D. C., & Gone, J. P. (2017). Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: A Survey of Clinician Practices. Journal of groups in addiction & recovery12(4), 243–259. https://doi.org/10.1080/1556035X.2017.1348280