The Role of Group Therapy in Addiction Recovery

No two recovery journeys are the same. Whether seeking treatment for a substance addiction or a behavioural addiction, every client who comes through the doors at Camino Recovery has their own unique circumstances, personality traits and stories.

That’s why, for it to be successful, it’s important that any therapeutic programme is personalised to meet each client’s individual needs.

Addiction treatment can be approached in many different ways. That said, the most effective way to process the complex factors that eventually led to a problem with dependency is a mixture of talking therapies.

Group therapy is one of these and has been proven to be an effective tool in addiction recovery. Here we take a closer look at why.

What is group therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving one or more therapists working with several people simultaneously. The group typically consists of individuals who are struggling with similar issues – in this case, addiction.

The goal of group therapy is to provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, learn from one another and develop new coping skills.

In group therapy sessions, participants are encouraged to interact with one another and share their thoughts and feelings. This can be a powerful experience, allowing individuals to see that they’re not alone in their struggles. It can also provide comfort and support, as participants typically offer each other encouragement and advice.

Group therapy sessions are typically led by a trained therapist who facilitates the discussion using various techniques, including role-playing, guided imagery and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and provides guidance as needed.

Groups can be as small as three or four, but most typically involve around eight to 12 people and last for between one and two hours.

Group therapy meetings can either be open (with new participants welcome to join at any time) or closed (with only a core group of members).

Different types of group therapy

People support each other in a rehab session

As you can imagine, there are many different approaches to group therapy that can be used depending on the participants and the problems they’re encountering.

The most common types of group therapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioural groups. These focus on identifying and working to change inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses and behaviours.
  • Psycho-educational groups. With a focus on education about physical and mental health conditions through information-sharing, these groups also offer ways of developing healthy coping strategies and are often based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles.
  • Interpersonal groups. This style of group therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and social interactions, including how much support you have from others and the impact this has on your mental health.
  • Skills development groups. These focus on improving social skills. They can be particularly helpful for those with mental health disorders or developmental disabilities.
  • Support groups. While the goal of group therapy, in general, is to encourage change, the purpose of a support group is to help members cope with their current struggles.

What does a typical group therapy session look like?

In many cases, group therapy will take place in a room with chairs arranged in a large circle so that all participants can see each other.

A session might begin with group members introducing themselves and sharing why they’re attending. Members might also share their experiences and progress since the last meeting.

How the session proceeds then depends largely on the goals of the group and the therapist’s style.

Some therapists might prefer a loose style of dialogue whereby each member only participates as and when they see fit. Other therapists might have more structured plans, which include activities such as:

  • Icebreakers so members can get to know each other better.
  • Gratitude activities where members share aspects of their life they’re thankful for.
  • Sharing activities where members ask each other questions.
  • Creative or artistic activities to help explore emotions connected to experiences.
  • Goal visualisation to help members set goals and make a plan to achieve them.

How group therapy helps with drug addiction

Group therapy can be an effective treatment option for individuals struggling with drug addiction, primarily because it helps individuals learn from one another’s experiences and gain new insights into their own addiction.

Unlike individual therapy, group therapy allows participants to hear how others have coped with similar challenges, and this can provide inspiration and ideas for new coping strategies.

Belonging to such a group can also provide a forum to practise these new skills and receive feedback from others in the group.

Additionally, group therapy can help build a sense of community and connection, which can be particularly important for those who may feel isolated or alone in their addiction. Being part of a group that understands what you’re going through can help you feel understood and supported – a powerful motivator for change.

Group therapy can also provide a safe space for individuals to explore their feelings and emotions, which can be difficult to do independently.

Another benefit with regard to addiction is that group therapy can help create a sense of accountability. Sharing your goals and progress with others makes you more likely to follow through on your commitments. This can be particularly important for those with a history of relapse or who struggle with self-motivation and can also be a key part of staying on the right track after leaving rehab.

What if I don’t feel comfortable sharing with others?

people hugging smiling man with alcohol addiction during group therapy

It’s common to feel nervous or uncomfortable when attending group therapy for the first time, especially for those struggling with addiction who may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their situation. However, it’s important to remember that everyone in the group is there for the same reason and is likely feeling the same way.

Group therapy is a safe and confidential space where individuals can share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. The therapist or group leader is trained to create a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable and respected. They will never force anyone to share anything they’re not comfortable with.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s important to communicate this with the therapist or group leader so that they can help you feel more at ease. They may suggest ways to help you relax, such as deep breathing exercises or visualisation techniques. They may also encourage you to share your feelings with the group, which can help alleviate anxiety and build trust.

That said, it’s important to remember that group therapy is not the be-all and end-all. Group therapy is often just one component of any comprehensive addiction treatment plan, used in conjunction with other therapies according to the client’s needs.

Just one part of our approach at Camino Recovery

At Camino Recovery, we believe that treatment for drug addiction must be taken with a long-term viewpoint, comprising a multi-dimensional and holistic approach.

We combine various individual and group therapies (emotional, cognitive, trauma, behavioural and family) to get to the root cause of a client’s addiction problems while restoring their balance and sense of purpose through spirituality, mindfulness, exercise, good nutrition and sleep.

That way, we can equip you with the toolkit needed to stay sober, long after your treatment programme has ended.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us at Camino Recovery to find out more about our approach to drug addiction treatment. 

Sometimes, the most challenging step is reaching out for help, but it’s also the most important.

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

More from David Scourfield

Get in Touch

We treat all of our clients with the utmost care, dignity and respect. Call now for a totally confidential, no obligation conversation with one of our professionals.

Whether you’re calling for yourself or someone you know, you needn’t suffer alone.

If you or someone you know could benefit from our services please do not hesitate to contact us.