Group therapy is a fundamental part of most addiction treatment programs. It provides a source of positive peer support that helps you build social skills and practice honest communication. You interact with others in recovery who may act as role models and give you the hope and motivation to break free from addiction. You can find self-acceptance as you realize you are not alone in your struggles.
There are many types of group therapy, with each supporting a different aspect of your recovery journey. These include:
- Psychoeducational groups, where you learn more about addiction, its causes, and the recovery process.
- Skills development groups, which help you build the skills you need to overcome addiction and maintain abstinence.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy groups, where you identify and change the thoughts and actions that lead to addictive behavior.
- Support groups, where people in recovery share their experiences of addiction.
Most kinds of group sessions are led by a group therapist or mental health professional, although support groups tend to be without one.
Research has shown group therapy to be effective – sometimes even more so than individual therapy. However, as with all types of therapy, you have to fully engage with the process to reap all the benefits. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of group therapy.
Being honest in front of other group members isn’t easy. Many of your thoughts and experiences surrounding addiction may feel personal, complicated, or even shameful.
However, learning to be open and honest is a key part of the recovery process. Talking about your feelings helps you accept them and realize that whatever you think or feel is okay. It can also help you clarify your thoughts.
Remember that typical group therapy sessions are not like a work meeting or other social setting. It is fine if you feel unable to articulate yourself well or are contradicting yourself. You are in a room with people who understand what you are going through. They may well have similar thoughts and experiences and will listen with compassion and empathy.
Giving and Accepting Feedback
Group settings are a great chance to practice communication skills like giving and accepting feedback. Exchanging feedback is an important part of your recovery journey and can be helpful in building healthy relationships with clear boundaries in the future.
When you give feedback, it should always be from a place of compassion and respect. While it is important to be honest, feedback should not be derogatory. It should be constructive and helpful for the other person.
While general negative feedback may seem like a personal insult, talking about a specific example clarifies that you are offering feedback on a certain thing they are thinking or doing. You should also make sure you offer positive feedback as well and tell someone when you appreciate something they do.
When receiving feedback, it is normal sometimes to feel personally attacked or criticized. However, honest feedback can provide valuable insight for personal growth, and if you are too defensive, you may miss this opportunity.
If you feel defensive in response to feedback, it may be useful to share this with others. You may like to discuss why you find the feedback hurtful and talk it through with other group members to gain greater clarity.
Stay Away from Giving Advice
It is usually best not to give solid advice to another group member. Someone’s situation is often much more complex than our interpretation of it, and offering a clear solution can leave them feeling misunderstood, underestimated, or frustrated.
Try instead to listen, ask questions, and be a sounding board for what they have said.
Learn From Group Dynamics
You can learn a lot about interpersonal relationships by observing the dynamics of the group. This may include:
- Noticing who is a good communicator and how they achieve this.
- Watching how a therapist deescalates conflicts and gives space for members to speak.
- Noticing what kind of discussions make you feel uncomfortable.
These observations can help you develop new skills and reflect on how you interact with others.