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Group Therapy: A Powerful Recovery Tool

The Benefits of Group Therapy

The process of recovery is just that – a process. There is much more to sobriety than checking in to a medical detox center near you and going through the 8-10 days it takes to clear toxins from your body. While this may work for a select few individuals, most individuals who take this route will end up relapsing. The problem is, that while detox will help clear substances from the body, it does not treat the root problems which are oftentimes very mental or emotional. This is what makes individual and group therapy such key aspects of treatment.

Group therapy works in tandem with one-on-one sessions to build you up a sense of community and help you out of social withdrawal. We find that isolation is a very key element in substance abuse. Be it due to shame, fear of judgment or some other deeply damaging emotion, it has been proven that people without a strong social support system are more likely to use. Through group therapy, a recovering guest can work through the isolation to reduce risks of relapse.

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a very common component of addiction recovery. This method of bringing together groups of people with similar situations has been utilized and proven effective since the 1940s. The use of group techniques was popularized after World War II as a way of treating the PTSD of multiple soldiers at once. The solidarity of similar circumstances, coupled with the professional psychiatric treatment helped their healing process. It has even been shown to help with some physical symptoms as well. Cancer patients who attend support groups for their trauma and fear are actually shown to live longer than those who do not.

Since then, it has become a valuable tool in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction. For many, it is both frightening and embarrassing to discuss your addiction openly. However, many others find comfort in being surrounded by recovery minded individuals who are all on the same page as they are. At times, it is thought to be even more effective than one-on-one treatment.

Why Group Therapy?

By nature, human beings are social animals. We naturally seek out the comforts and company of other people, especially when we are in danger. This behavior has been ingrained in us since the beginning. On the contrary to that, addiction to drugs or alcohol regularly leads to isolation. While in active addiction, many individuals will pull away from their social circles, friends and family. This cycle of loneliness works against the addict, as they feel alone and unsupported which leads to depression. The depression is then fought with more drugs and alcohol. Many substance abusers, unfortunately, are or end up homeless.

While individual therapy works to understand the psychological issues and root pains that led a person to abuse in the first place, group therapy works to bring a person back into a social environment. By reminding the recovering guest that they are not alone, or the only one suffering in this situation, they can build up trust and work on their ability to communicate. This also builds a strong support foundation, which some do not have. In other circumstances, even men and women with great support from their families find support groups helpful because it is a more neutral environment. Sometimes our family members are loving and supportive, but don’t quite understand what we are experiencing. Other times they may almost be too supportive, which can lead to coddling or enabling.

Types of Group Therapy

Having the support and encouragement of like-minded recovering individuals is a very powerful tool in the life of a sober individual. It is excellent to have someone to call when you need a reminder of why you are in recovery. Being able to practice your communication skills and social interactions will also help you to rebuild the relationships that may have been damaged during your active addiction.

With this in mind, there are many types of group therapy options that can help to bring positive change and healing to a recovering addict. Here are some of the more common models of group therapy.

Relapse Prevention Support Groups

Relapse prevention groups are likely what you think of most commonly when we talk about group therapy for addiction. This would include weekly 12 Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Joining a community helps to bring stability and accountability into the life of someone in recovery. There is also a sense of consistency in weekly groups that meet at the same time. This is a very good juxtaposition to the chaotic life of active addiction.

Some of the activities that you may participate in during a Relapse Prevention Group include:

  • Identify High Risk Behaviors – to help recognize triggers and cravings.
  • Meditation – relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
  • Addiction History – to openly become comfortable discussing your life and where you have been.

With current trends requiring social distancing, many groups can now be attended online or virtually. This has proven to be a great substitute to continue with the consistency and regularity of ongoing support.


Psychotherapy focuses on abstinence and interpersonal relationships. This helps to provide substance abuse education, and build connection to peers. There is also an emphasis on learning to cope with your addiction and past. Through these skills, you will build upon other forms of therapy.

Effective communication and empathy are very important as you re-enter the social world. Through psychotherapy in a group setting you will learn and practice these much needed skills so that you can be comfortable when you return to work, school or home.

Cognitive Behavioral Groups

Therapists of Cognitive Behavioral Groups help recovering individuals to focus on their thought process and changing toxic thought patterns. Therapists work with their group members to replace triggering or disruptive thoughts with more constructive behaviors. This type of group seeks to find proactive ways to deal with triggers.

A few activities and exercises for Cognitive Behavioral Groups might include:

  • Mindfulness Meditations
  • Exercise
  • Skill Training – Usually social skills or communication skills
  • Problem Solving

The therapists or facilitators will know and understand the needs of their groups and pick the best exercises that the group needs to progress their coping.

Building Positive Relationships Through Group Therapy

After treatment is complete, many guests choose to stay in Sober Living housing for a short length of time while they continue therapy and continue to work on themselves. Many of the people they live alongside are also part of their support group and group therapy programs. This tends to build relationships, friendships and bonds that last a lifetime. For many substance abusers, they may have little to no support or family to return to, and their group members become their family.

Many men and women travel for substance abuse treatment because there are just too many triggers or negative influences in their hometown. After treatment, many relocate permanently. For them, building close personal relationships with the other recovering men and women in their groups is a huge step toward building a permanent and loving support system.

Is Group Therapy for me?

At Royal Life Centers, we believe that normalizing therapy is a very important step forward in the healing of just about anyone. Whether you have been in active addiction, suffer from depression or are just someone who wishes to learn more about themselves, therapy is an amazing way to explore yourself. Individual one-on-one counseling is a fantastic way to explore trauma and find out what you have to work on to heal. What individual therapy can’t do, is help you to feel confident in knowing you are not alone, or to help you build bridges to peers. This is exactly where group therapy shines.

Many individuals find that when they add group therapy into their treatment routine, they learn skills and reconnect with emotions that they had long forgotten. It’s important to understand as well, that Group Therapy and Support Groups are quite different. The former is led by a therapist and regulates the group dynamic. Support groups are usually led by people who have also been in your place. They are less stringent on their requirements, and help to build community.

Only you can determine if this will help you through your recovery. During a guests stay at Royal Life Centers, we build them a schedule that includes group therapy activities. We firmly believe in this routine and our evidence based models support it.

Reach Out

Addiction is a disease that can impact the entire family. If you or a loved one has a dependency or addiction and is in need of substance abuse treatment, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can be reached at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Because We Care.

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