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Group Therapy for Drug Addiction Treatment

What is Group Therapy for Drug Addiction Treatment?

Among the various kinds of treatment such as medication management, family therapy, and individual therapy, group therapy is another essential instrument in ensuring the success of drug addiction treatment. In simplest terms, group therapy comprises types of therapies that focus on reducing symptoms and helping two or more individuals to recover. Here, we will discuss what is group therapy for drug addiction treatment as well as the benefits of participating in them.

What is Group Therapy?

During group therapy, a trained counsellor will take the lead in conducting the therapy session. While group therapy has similarities to family therapy, it is different in the sense that the individuals who are involved in group therapy are not related to each other. In most cases, a person will only have met other group members during the session.

The sessions of group therapy are conducted in different therapeutic settings and in varying levels of care. This includes outpatient recovery programs, residential programs, and hospital-based inpatient programs. For any individual who wants to start anew and end their habit of drug use, group therapy can be an effective option for drug addiction treatment.

Different Group Therapy Models

If you want to participate in group therapy, there are different models to choose from. They are the interpersonal, support, cognitive-behavioural, skill development, and psychoeducational therapy groups.

By having a proficient and knowledgeable therapy professional, each of these models can have great benefits for drug addiction treatment. There may be particular models that may be a better fit for you depending on your needs. In addition to that, there may be a number of therapy groups that will make use of different models in the course of the sessions.

Psychoeducational Groups

The focus of this model is to be able to provide the group with information and education when it comes to the general themes of drug abuse, mental health, as well as other behaviours relating to drug addiction. The way that this group therapy will look may resemble that of a class in a classroom. Various materials may be presented through lectures and videos, among others.

This particular model can be beneficial for cases of drug abuse and addiction because the members of the group can learn about recognizing the many impacts of drug use, their condition, what hinders their recovery, and how they can start living a drug-free lifestyle. Other skills that members can learn from this therapy model are anger management, healthy eating, meditation, and relaxation.

Skill Development Group Therapy

For this type of group therapy, the person leading the group will have a role that is similar to that of a teacher. However, the materials that will be provided to the members are more specific to what their individual needs are. In skill development, the members are expected to interact more with each other so it’s not just the leader talking to the group.

The focus of the sessions is on developing skills that may contribute to the ability of the members to abstain from drug use. Some of the topics that may be included in the sessions are how to manage finances, how to improve parenting skills, learning to identify and modify one’s response to anger, learning how to communicate and interact with other people, and how to handle the triggers of drug use behaviours.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Groups

CBT is a widely-used model for group therapies where it is believed that negative behaviours are something that individuals learn and these are reinforced as time goes on. In order to make changes to these behaviours, the individual has to put in the work to be able to modify his or her feeling, thoughts, and behaviours contributing to drug abuse.

A common case is when a person thinks that he or she is a bad person and doesn’t deserve to have a better life being sober and drug-free. This kind of belief can be modified so that the individual will be able to achieve the necessary changes to make recovery a success.

To make these changes happen, group therapy using CBT can offer training for relapse prevention, encourage and teach how to use new thinking as well as behaviour patterns, and guiding the members in identifying their problematic behaviours and distorted beliefs.

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Support Groups

Support groups are exactly what the name suggests; it is a group that focuses on offering understanding and care to the members of its group. Support comes from the leader of the group as well as from the members giving support to each other.

The leader will provide assistance to the members when it comes to improving their interpersonal skills while they are in engaging in various group discussions. In the discussions, the members can share their experiences and also their challenges. Other members may provide their tips on how they were able to resolve and manage the difficult times that they faced or are facing.

The therapist handling the group therapy will be demonstrating how to communicate and be respectful to the group members so that the individuals participating will have an idea on what the desired behaviours are when in the group therapy. The therapist will also be providing encouragement and positive reinforcement for the group’s members.

Interpersonal Group Therapy

With interpersonal group therapy, psychodynamics is employed to promote healing among the members of the group. Psychodynamics is the way in which people function psychologically. The leader of the group will take note as well as process how the members feel and function while in the group, how the individuals interact with each other, and how the group performs in its entirety.

A major focus of this model is on emotional development as well as the childhood concerns of the members. Any issues need to be resolved so that unhealthy coping skills, impulsivity, and poor decision-making can be addressed. Once resolved, the individual can have an improved judgement of his or her life and the many situations that need to be dealt with.

How About Self-Help Groups?

Self-help groups such as the 12-step group do not fall into the category of group therapy. While it’s true that the members participating are in a group setting and they do not have a pre-existing relationship with each other, what self-help groups lack is having a professional facilitator.

With group therapies, mental health professionals lead the group sessions. In self-help groups, peer leaders may do the facilitating or they may employ a collective approach. People who want to recover from drug addiction may still benefit from joining self-help groups.

Categories of Group Therapy

There are different subtypes of group therapy depending on how the sessions are conducted and who are participating in them. There are revolving and fixed groups as well as ongoing and time-limited groups.

With group therapies that have a fixed membership, the sessions start and end by having the same members all throughout. By the time the group is formed, people who want to join can no longer be accommodated. They can join the next batch though.

Fixed groups have about 15 members or less. The members are usually in the same phases of their recovery from drug addiction. They share many similarities when it comes to medications, treatments, and challenges.

Revolving groups are the opposite of fixed groups. These groups can change members at any point in the therapy. For example, if an individual is right for the group, then he or she may be accepted.

Members can also leave if they feel that they’ve gotten the most out of what the therapy can offer. Revolving groups do not have a definite point where it ends because the members involved in the sessions are ever-changing.

Revolving and fixed groups can be further divided into ongoing groups and time-limited groups. With time-limited group therapy, the members will be asked to attend and participate for a specific period or for a certain number of sessions.

For ongoing groups, members are allowed to attend for as long as they feel they need the sessions and can benefit from it. Their symptoms, as well as their overall progress, are assessed so that the therapy can provide the needed assistance.

Each of these categories of group therapy has its own strengths and also weaknesses. Whichever will be best for you will highly depend on your specific and unique needs. Nevertheless, all types and all categories can greatly help in terms of recovering from drug addiction.

Related article: The Importance of Accountability to Your Addiction Treatment Process

What are the Stages Involved in Group Therapy?

No matter what type, model, or category of group therapy you choose, it usually has 3 general stages. These are the beginning, middle, and ending phases. During the beginning phase, the members will be oriented to the various processes of group therapy. At this point, they’ll learn about the rules and goals of the group.

The middle phase is usually where most of the changes are made. This phase will make up a big chunk of the members’ time during the group therapy sessions. During this phase, the therapist will make use of their expert skills in triggering changes in the members’ thought patterns as well as their behaviours so that they can move closer toward the treatment goals. This phase is also where the members get to create meaningful connections with each other.

The ending phase is where the closure happens. The ideal scenario during group therapies is that the relationships established with the facilitators and the other group members won’t end all of a sudden.

While it is a fact that therapy will eventually end, it ought to be gradually projected so that the members can acknowledge and recognize the things they’ve accomplished in the course of the group therapy. It is also a chance to address any sadness or anxiety that the therapy is coming to an end.

Group Therapy

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of the Group Leader?

There may be a variation of the experience and qualifications of the group leader who will facilitate the group therapy sessions. The sessions may be led by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counsellors who specialize in drug addiction treatment.

To ensure that the group therapy sessions will be of help to the members, the group leader should be able to maintain a supportive, safe, and consistent environment that can assist the members in staying sober from drug use.

The facilitator is expected to have a strong and stable sense of self so that he or she will be able to manage the symptoms of the members and also the impact of the sessions on the members personally.

A group leader is also an empathetic listener who can make the members feel that they are being heard. He or she should also be a role model for the individuals attending the group therapy sessions.

Some qualities that will greatly help the facilitation of the sessions are flexibility and creativity, especially when faced with unplanned and unexpected situations. Facilitators also have a strong sense of ethics that is being maintained whenever there are challenging situations being presented to them.

Of course, the counsellor has to be trustworthy and that the members of the group will feel that they can be open to him or her about their issues regarding their recovery from drug addiction. Lastly, the facilitator should also be able to use humour whenever it is appropriate to do so to make difficult times lighter.

There are some groups that may ask the help of a team of counsellors so that the sessions can be managed better. In drug addiction treatments, the group leaders will see to it that they can work on building the members’ coping skills, boost their motivation, limit conflicts, and make them see the connections between their drug use and their feelings and thoughts.

What are the Benefits of Joining Group Therapy?

If you want to seek treatment for drug addiction or alcohol addiction, there are several options for treatment. These treatments may be combined depending on what suits you best and what your needs are. Combining various styles and models may make the treatment more effective for you. As we’ve already learned, group therapy is one of them. In this section, we’ll take a look at the many different benefits of joining group therapy.

Group therapy sessions can be a very helpful tool in helping you maintain your sobriety. You can join these sessions during your early phases of drug addiction treatment or at any point of the treatment that you’ve enrolled in.

At this point, your main worry is probably talking to people who you don’t know about very personal things. You’d feel quite vulnerable in that setting, for sure. It may also feel intimidating because it’s a new environment. However, before you decide to completely write off group therapy, it would benefit you if you will have an understanding of what it’s about and why it would help you a lot in your drug addiction treatment.

Enjoy New Companionship

Addiction can be a very lonely disease. Many people suffering from drug addiction feel alone because they’ve been cut off from their loved ones. This kind of loneliness often just perpetuates the cycle of drug use.

When an individual feels lonely, there is a greater chance to self-medicate with their substance of choice to handle the bad feelings. This takes them further away from the people they love.

When you decide to join a group therapy session, you’ll find that you’re not so alone in your struggles. You’ll learn that there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through because they, too, are facing those struggles.

In group therapy, you’ll see that you have a lot of things in common with other group members. You understand each other and because of that, you can offer each other the much-needed support, encouragement, and inspiration.

Communicate Better

People with drug use problems often find that they have no one to talk to. They don’t have a healthy outlet where their feelings can be expressed. Again, there’s a tendency to turn to drugs and alcohol use.

During group therapy, you will find other people who are in the same situation as you. You are all trying to recover from your addictions. In sessions, you can freely talk about your problems and frustrations. You can do so without being afraid that you’ll be judged.

Becoming Accountable

One of the best things that you’ll learn quickly in group therapies is that you can become stronger with your peers compared to dealing with your problems alone. Groups in this kind of therapy feel they’re all on the same boat and are heading towards a common goal. Each member will feel that they are responsible for as well as accountable to each other.

There’s a great deal of value that members can get from having this kind of mutual responsibility. For example, when one member is in a tough time and is close to having a relapse, they can count on each other to help that individual get through such a challenging phase in his or her life.

Mutual accountability is another very important factor in making drug addiction recovery successful. This is because members will do their best not to let their peers down by going back to their bad drug use habits. Whenever one feels tempted, he or she knows that there’s someone whom they can call so that they can stay on the road to maintaining sobriety.

Lastly, the member of the group who is seen as the “mentor” or “role model” will feel a sense of responsibility to keep their sobriety because they know that other members are looking up to them and are counting on them to set good examples.


Hopefully, this article was able to answer your question on what is group therapy for drug addiction treatment. If you’re planning to join group therapy, then you should know that what you’re doing can do a lot for your recovery from drug addiction. While you may have some fears or that you feel intimidated and embarrassed to join, know that once you join a group therapy session, you’ll find that it is made up of caring individuals who want to see you succeed and live a better life.

Related article: Heroin Addiction Treatment: Dealing with Withdrawal Symptoms