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Group Therapy



Many different therapies go into successfully treating alcoholics and drug addicts. One of them is something known as group therapy. You are familiar with group therapy to some degree if you know anything about support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Group therapy is something that’s part of most residential treatment programmes around the UK. It’s also a therapy employed by alcohol and drug recovery charities and, in some cases, even the NHS. In fact, finding an addiction recovery programme without some level of group therapy is difficult.

History of Group Therapy

Although the exact roots of group therapy are unknown, there is record of it being used on a limited basis – predominantly in the United States – during the early 20th century. It really took off following World War II when psychologists and psychiatrists were forced to provide mental health services to large numbers of soldiers returning from war.

The success of group therapy in treating war-scarred soldiers eventually elevated the principle to one of prominence within the psychiatry and psychology fields. It was later adapted for use in addiction recovery when it was realised 12-step programmes utilised very similar principles.

Modern group therapy is based on 12 therapeutic principles as developed by American psychiatrist Irvin D. Yalom and published in his book entitled The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy:

  1. Universality – the universality of shared feelings, experiences and concerns

  2. Altruism – the idea that members of a support group can help one another do better

  3. Hope – individual group members are inspired as they observe others do better

  4. Information – learning factual information about other group members can be beneficial

  5. Family – past difficulties with family relationships can lead to problems with current relationships

  6. Socialisation – the opportunity to improve social and interpersonal skills within the group

  7. Imitation – individuals can learn social skills by imitating therapists and other group members

  8. Cohesiveness – the feeling of belonging to a group provides personal strength and motivation

  9. Responsibility – individuals must take responsibility for their own actions and thoughts

  10. Catharsis – an ability to freely express one’s emotions offers relief from shame and guilt

  11. Interaction – interacting with other members gives each one a greater awareness of himself

  12. Self-understanding – a greater awareness of self-aids in a greater understanding of one’s behaviour.

Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

It must be noted that each of Yalom’s 12 principles do not always apply to the group therapy practised in an addiction recovery environment. However, the overall philosophy is the same. By treating drug and alcohol addicts as a group, everyone benefits through mutual support, understanding, accountability, and interpersonal relationships.

If you set aside all of the psychological jargon it comes down to this: recovering addicts tend to do better in a group setting because they find strength and comfort in the presence of others who are going through the same types of things. It is as simple as that.

Group therapy is a strategy used in residential programmes, support groups, and individual outpatient programmes offered by the NHS and addiction recovery charities. You are likely to encounter it on your journey to breaking alcohol addiction.

What to Expect

When you are admitted to an addiction recovery programme, be prepared to partake in some sort of group therapy. Exactly how much of your time will be spent on it will depend on the programme. As part of group therapy, you should plan to experience some or all of the following:

  • Discussion – One of the main components of group therapy is discussion – a lot of it. You’ll spend time sitting around and discussing your individual problems, your thoughts and emotions, and your outlook on life. This is based on the idea that you need to talk out your problems before you can conquer them.

  • Emotions – Even though you may go into a group therapy session bound and determined not to get emotional, it’s almost impossible to do. Once the discussion begins, the raw emotions start flowing. This is not a bad thing, by the way. It helps to break down the barriers that are holding you back from recovery.

  • Challenges – You can expect the therapists leading the group to issue challenges, both individually and to the group as a whole. These challenges may be anything from agreeing to refrain from using certain words and phrases to assigning ‘homework’ that needs to be completed prior to the next session. These challenges are designed to motivate every member of the group to put forth maximum effort.

  • Accountability – As group therapy progresses there will undoubtedly be those who progress faster than others do. However, the rate of progression is less important than the fact that the group will, by its very nature, hold each member accountable. Expect to be challenged by other members of the group to keep moving forward.

  • Life Skills – Life skills training is a normal part of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as well as group therapy. It is a process of teaching addicts the skills they need to avoid future temptation. The group setting is perfect for life skills training because it opens the floor to lots of creative ideas.

If you go into group therapy with the right attitude, you can also expect to develop very close friendships with other members of the group. Those friendships often last well beyond residential treatment. You might even find your experience so rewarding that you decide to return in the future to lend support to new members of the group.

It’s Time to Call

After reading this, we hope you understand that group therapy is not as scary as it is made out to be. In fact, many people who go through addiction recovery find group therapy to be the most pleasant aspect of the entire experience. Trust us when we say there is nothing to worry about.

If you are struggling with alcohol it’s time to make the decision to do something about it. It’s time for you to pick up your phone and call us. We are ready to provide you with free and confidential services that will help you locate a treatment programme right for you. With just one phone call, you could be on the road to recovery just minutes from now.

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