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Group Therapy for Addiction and Trauma

February 19, 2021
All Points North Lodge

In a post-pandemic world filled with disconnect and isolation, having a healthy mental outlook is paramount. Healing from trauma, addiction, and other mental health conditions can seem overwhelming, especially if you are going at it alone. We know that therapy is essential to mental healing and growth, and group therapy is an excellent option for treating trauma and addiction.

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that allows for one or more therapists to work with a small number of clients together as a group. There are many types of group therapy to fit a range of needs. The practice’s basis lies in working on interpersonal dynamics within the group or tackling mental health concerns found outside the group. 

The thought of opening up about trauma and addiction struggles to a group of strangers may seem intimidating at first. But there are immense benefits of relating to similar life experiences in the room. Group therapy is confidential, meaning what is talked about in the group stays within the group. 

Typically group therapy has five to fifteen people, depending on the type of group. Most groups meet twice a week for an hour to 90 minutes. Group therapy can be paired with individual therapy or not, depending on the case. Regardless of what kind of group therapy you are considering, anyone can reap the benefits. 

Who Can Benefit from Group Therapy?

Anyone can benefit from group therapy, but it is especially helpful to mental health or addiction clients who live in rural areas with few mental health resources. With that being said, there are numerous successful therapy groups all across the nation, regardless of region. Group therapy is more cost-effective than individual therapy, allowing therapists to work with multiple clients simultaneously. Group therapy can cover a range of mental health conditions and issues. Some of those issues include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression 
  • Grief 
  • Panic disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias 
  • Anger management 
  • Trauma 

One of the goals of group therapy is to bring similar people together. While the group members are valuable resources, the therapists involved in the group are trained explicitly on the issue at hand. These therapists provide science-backed action plans to handle the subject discussed in the group. Whether it be a group for addiction recovery or a group for generalized anxiety, the group will work as a whole to overcome issues. 

How Group Therapy can Treat Trauma and Addiction

Group therapy has numerous benefits in treating a variety of issues. Below are the top 6 group therapy can assist those with trauma and addiction.

Group Therapy Provides Support 

Interacting with people who are going through similar experiences can be very cathartic. Mental illness and addiction can leave us feeling isolated and alone. But in a group therapy setting, you have the benefit of relatability. Even though it may seem that you are alone in your affliction, there is most likely a startling number of people who are going through something similar. Group therapy negates the alienation of mental illness and provides a sense of understanding among members. 

Group Therapy Promotes Social Skills

While group therapy provides a sense of belonging, it also promotes social skills. Being around other people requires you to meet social standards and consider the social norms of others. This can teach you how to interact with many different personalities. It also broadens your perspective on how others cope with mental health conditions. Plus, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn how others perceive you. 

Group Therapy Allows for Outside Perspective 

While individual therapy allows you to see your therapist’s perspective, group therapy will enable you to see yourself through the eyes of regular people. For example, if you’ve recently gotten in a fight with a family member, members of the group will be able to provide an unbiased opinion outside of yourself. This broadened perspective offers the opportunity to think outside the box about your problems. 

Group Therapy Increases Motivation 

The success of one group member can motivate the group as a whole. Since most groups are comprised of people on different parts of the same journey, some group members meet goals before others. This allows them to help the other members of the group through example. People often push themselves harder when they have an example to follow. But it’s important to remember that every journey is different, and there is no “right” timeline for growth.

Group Therapy Teaches You to Use Your Voice

People are often afraid of expressing themselves for fear of sounding whiney or needy. Group therapy lends a stage for you to get acquainted with your voice. Learning to use your voice is more than just talking. It means learning about your need for expression and how to communicate effectively. Being mindful of how you’re feeling in group therapy is a great way to learn how to connect with yourself while connecting with others. 

Group Therapy Provides a Safety Net

Once you get comfortable sharing in a group, it becomes a safety net. Many of us struggle with being authentic to the outside world, especially when working on our mental health. Group therapy helps strengthen your authenticity and bring it out into the world. It also provides a safety net of support that you can carry with you and revisit every session.

Types of Group Therapy 

There are several different options for group therapy to ensure a range of needs are met.

Psycho-educational Groups

Psychoeducational groups focus less on dynamics within the group and more on educating about a specific mental health issue. In Psycho-educational groups, members share a common mental health issue and learn about it together. Often, in a psycho-educational setting, you learn about healthy coping mechanisms, triggers, and how to avoid pitfalls in the future. 

Process Group

A process group is a less structured group therapy where members work to understand their patterns when building and maintaining relationships. Process groups work to build trust between members to develop a relationship. Then the group mindfully monitors how growing relationships affect them and learn to cope with interpersonal issues healthily. 

Experiential Groups

Experiential therapy goes beyond just talking. Experiential groups may use adventure, nature, props, music, arts and crafts, and expression tools to re-create emotional situations from the past and present. This expression allows for members to explore their voice, learn to ask for what they need, and release negative emotions like guilt, fear, or shame in a safe environment.

Support Groups

A support group is comprised of a therapist working with people who have experienced similar hardships. Within the support group, members share personal experiences, coping skills, and other factors that coincide with the issue. You can find a support group for numerous mental health and addiction-related problems. 

Psychodrama

Groups based in psychodrama use role-play, self-dramatization, and dramatic self-presentation to explore and gain insights into the group members’ lives. Psychodrama groups are an excellent way for individuals to creatively express themselves and learn how personal experiences have shaped them.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Groups

DBT Skills Groups are designed to recognize and change negative thinking patterns in members of the group. A DBT group will learn how to handle intense emotions, relationship issues, and addictive behaviors. The goal of DBT groups is to learn how to reduce destructive behaviors and learn healthy coping mechanisms for the future. 

Trauma Reprocessing Groups

Trauma reprocessing groups use different types of therapy (like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy) to reframe trauma in a healthy way. The group’s goal is to learn how trauma affects your everyday life and how to cope with triggers. Group members learn how trauma is stored in the body, how to release it, and how to cope with the intense emotions brought on by the reprocessing. Members also learn how to support and be supported by other members. 

Final Thoughts

Group therapy is an evidenced-based, effective complement to individual therapy. Within a group, you have the opportunity to feel heard and supported by your peers. You also learn how to support and hear your fellow group members. Group therapy is an excellent tool to learn interpersonal skills, cope with negative self-talk, reprocess trauma, and learn about mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. 

Individual therapy isn’t the only way you can learn how to negate negative habits. Group therapy provides a framework of experiences that teach members healthy coping skills and positive behavioral changes. Meeting others who can relate to your specific issue is a tactical approach to receiving support from others and learning how to support your mental and physical health in the future.

References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/group-therapy#summary
  2. >https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dialectical-behavioral-therapy#:~:text=Dialectical%20behavioral%20therapy%20(DBT)%20is,and%20other%20self%2Ddestructive%20behaviors
  3. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/benefits-group-therapy-mental-health-treatment/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/group-therapy
  5. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/therapy-treatment/group-individual
  6. https://www.mymoderntherapy.com/blog/2020/1/21/what-is-a-therapy-process-group
  7. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-14409-022
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655

*We cannot understate the importance of working with a doctor and therapist as you recover. None of this content is intended as medical advice.

Speak with your providers to find a plan and strategies that work for you. If you don't have a therapist or provider, give us a call.


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