Group Drug Counseling

Human beings are naturally predisposed to be in groups. Because of this, group drug counseling is an effective tool to treat people’s addictions. In fact, research has shown it to be as effective as one to one therapy, if not more. One reason for this is because group therapy has so many unique benefits, including witnessing other people’s recovery and reducing isolation. Furthermore, they properly treat many of an addicted person’s associated problems, including shame, isolation, and depression. Put together, this can draw people into a culture centered around recovery.

Understanding Group Therapy

Group therapy is a unique form of therapy that can be used in the treatment of various psychological disorders, which include addiction and substance abuse. Typically, it means that people attend regular sessions where therapists work together with a range of individuals who suffer from the same health condition, particularly substance abuse.

Benefits of Group Drug Counseling

Group drug counseling comes with a range of specific benefits, including:

  • Placing people in an environment where they can be with their peers, who are going or have been going through the same things. Newcomers can see that progress is possible, and those who have been in the process for a longer time can be mentors.
  • Showing members that they are not alone in their journey, enabling them to talk about their experiences and information with others. This helps to raise both self-esteem and confidence. Overall, when people share their feelings and emotions, they reduce stress, pain, and guilt.
  • Creating an environment in which people can stop taking part in risky and destructive behavior, including actively seeking new drugs. Instead, they start to practice new behaviors that focus on being healthy.

During counseling, a therapist will create the structure for the group, controlling the discussions. The role of the therapist is also to provide extra advice and feedback, thereby ensuring that every participant can get to know themselves and learn how they progress.

What Addictions Can Be Treated in Group Therapy?

Many addictions can be treated through group drug counseling, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine or tobacco
  • Prescription painkillers
  • Opiates
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants like Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens like LSD
  • Recreational drugs like marijuana
  • Illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine

How Group Counseling Can Be Used to Treat Addictions

Group drug counseling generally goes through six different stages, which are:

  1. Pre-contemplation, where participants are now at the point where they want to actively change their abusive and destructive behavior. They often do not believe that they have a problem and are still strongly in denial. They attend because counselors, family members, or others suggested that they should go.
  2. Contemplation, where participants are starting to think about quitting or at least decreasing how much they use because of the guidance of the therapist and others in the group.
  3. Preparation, where participants continue to use addictive substances but consider really stopping because they understand how continuing their behavior is harming them.
  4. Action, where participants choose a strategy that will help them stop using drugs, knowing what changes they will have to make to achieve this, supported by group members and the therapist.
  5. Maintenance, where participants work to remain clean and sober in order to avoid relapse. Sometimes, complete recovery is achieved here.
  6. Recurrence, where participants relapse and return to stage 1 to 4, but they tend to return to stage 5 much more quickly because they recognize what else they could have done.

Different Types of Group Drug Counseling

There are five main types of group therapy available. A good therapist should be able to review which of the five types the patient is most suited to. This often depends on how willing they are to actually give this type of therapy a go. The five types are:

  1. Psychoeducational groups, which focus strongly on anger management and feelings, prevention, conflict resolution, health and wellness, trauma such as violence or abuse, and family and culture roles.
  2. Cognitive behavior groups, where participants learn to resolve conflict, build new skills, manage their feelings and anger, recover, and prevent relapse.
  3. Skills development groups, which are similar to the cognitive behavior groups, but where participants also learn life sills, to meditate, and to relax.
  4. Support groups, where the focus is strongly on trauma, relapse prevention, culture, spirituality, gender specific topics, and ceremonial healing practices.
  5. Interpersonal process group psychotherapy, where the focus is on different forms of abuse and trauma, existential and humanistic topics, and psychodynamics.

There are a few other forms of group therapy that may be used in addiction treatment, including:

  1. Specialized groups such as 12 step programs, or groups that focus on expressive therapy, ceremonial healing practices, adventure based activities, gender specific topics, psychodrama, and marathons.
  2. Culturally specific and communal groups, where activities and topics relevant to specific cultures and communities are addressed.
  3. Expressive groups, where very different types of therapy are used, such as drama, dance, and art.

How Long Does Group Drug Counseling Last?

Generally speaking, how long someone needs to be in group counseling and in what type will vary depending on their motivation to take part in the therapy, and which stage of their recovery they are in. Usually, members have to attend at least six sessions over a period of three months, but it is often recommended to take part for at least one year. Sometimes, group therapy is offered through outpatient settings, which means members are responsible themselves to actually attend.

In other cases, people attend group counseling every day for between four and six weeks. This is a more intensive form of therapy that is usually offered for those who have a severe addiction problem. Usually, this type of treatment is offered in inpatient rehab.

Once patients get to a specific part of their recovery, they can be encouraged to consider a different type of group as well. How long their treatment lasts, therefore, depends very much on how well they respond to treatment, particularly as they go through the six stages. It should be noted that group therapy should only be offered by a licensed therapist. These have graduate education in specialized services, including substance abuse.