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Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Group therapy can be a valuable component of substance use treatment that can be delivered across several treatment settings.1 If you are interested in learning more about group therapy, this page will help you understand the types of group therapy, how they help with addiction treatment, and the benefits of group therapy for addiction recovery.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy for addiction is a common approach for delivering several behavioral treatment interventions and other elements of substance use disorder care. Typically, 6 to 12 patients meet on a regular schedule with 1 or 2 group therapists.1 These sessions offer a space for patients to:1

  • Learn about substance use disorders.
  • Learn and practice recovery strategies.
  • Develop interpersonal skills.
  • Build social support networks.

Group therapy may cover different topics or have specific purposes, such as helping people learn skills early on in their recovery or relapse prevention training when preparing for the end of formal treatment. Group therapy may be used alone or in combination with other types of therapy.1

Types of Group Therapy for Addiction

There are different models of group therapy, such as 12-step group therapy, for substance use that vary by focus, format, and goals. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes 5 models of group therapy that are commonly used in drug addiction and alcohol addiction treatment, including:2, 3

  1. Psychoeducational groups. These provide educational information on substance use. The main goals of these groups are to help increase patients’ awareness of behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of substance use and motivate them to enter recovery.
  2. Skills development. The purpose of these groups is to help patients whose substance use has hindered or prevented them from developing the necessary skills to function in everyday life. Group leaders teach new skills related to substance use, such as how to decline offers to engage in substance use. They may also teach skills not directly related to substance use, like effective communication and financial management.
  3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT groups focus on helping patients identify and modify thoughts and behaviors related to substance use. In addition to learning about these patterns, patients also learn coping skills to prevent relapse.
  4. Support groups. Support groups primarily focus on encouraging and supporting group members in their recovery as they learn new skills and share strategies to make positive behavioral changes. Group leaders act as facilitators, helping members connect, support, and positively interact with one another.
  5. Interpersonal process groups. Interpersonal process groups use psychodynamics (e.g., knowledge of the way people function psychologically) to help members change and heal. These groups explore developmental influences on present patterns that contribute to substance use or impede recovery.

How Does Group Therapy Help With Addiction Recovery?

Group therapy is one of the most widely used therapeutic modalities in substance use treatment.1 Group therapy is implemented across different levels of care and in different settings, including:1

Patients may benefit from and engage with different types of group therapy depending on where they are in their recovery journey. During the early stages of recovery, group therapy often focuses on psychoeducation, skills development, and mutual support. In the later stages of recovery, group therapy often focuses on relapse prevention, addressing relationship concerns, and social skills development.1 Trained healthcare providers work with patients to help match them with groups that will address their treatment needs and goals.1

Not everyone in substance use treatment will be well-suited for group treatment at any given time, although this can change as people progress through treatment.1 Patients who may be good candidates for group therapy for drug addiction include those who:1

  • Can attend group therapy sessions regularly.
  • Are not actively misusing substances.
  • Willingly communicate with group leaders and members.
  • Understand group content and practice skills or group tasks.
  • Adhere to the group rules.

Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy for Addiction

Group and individual therapy are important components of substance use disorder treatment. and combinations of the two can support favorable treatment outcomes.4 Unlike group therapy where there are several patients with 1 or 2 group leaders, individual therapy typically takes place between 1 patient and 1 therapist. Individual therapy may involve the patient receiving additional feedback and assistance in applying skills learned in a group to their recovery.2

Research on substance use treatment shows that group therapy can result in similar outcomes when compared to individual therapy in several domains, including engaging and staying in treatment, reducing substance use, and improving mental health.1 Engaging in group therapy during and after treatment can help clients continue with their recovery goals.4

Benefits of Group Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Group therapy can complement other types of addiction treatment and aftercare while also providing several additional benefits. Therapeutic advantages of group therapy typically include:1, 2

  • Adding structure to treatment.
  • Reinforcing healthy coping methods.
  • Modeling recovery behavior.
  • Increasing positive peer interactions.
  • Learning how peers navigate recovery.
  • Receiving encouragement and support from other group members.
  • Promoting social support and reducing isolation.
  • Instilling hope.
  • Minimizing the stigma that many people with substance use disorders experience.

Get Help Finding Group Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Group therapy can be an important component of substance use treatment for those in recovery, no matter what stage they’re in. If you or someone you love are considering substance use treatment that includes group therapy or other related treatment options, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help.

Our admissions navigators are available 24 hours a day when you call and can help you learn more about the admissions process, locate treatment centers, and verify your health insurance coverage for addiction treatment. If you are unsure about how to cover the cost of treatment, they can help you learn about various options, including and beyond insurance. Calling is confidential and free, and there is no obligation to enter treatment. You can also click here or fill out the form below to see what your insurance covers.

Unsure about what program may be right for you? You can also look at some of the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

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