Group therapy is widely used in therapeutic settings, including in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Group therapy effectively capitalizes on the social nature of human beings, using peer discussion to help individuals try to overcome drug or alcohol addiction and reinforce substance-free lifestyles. Research has indicated that group therapy works best when it is offered concurrent to individual drug counseling or therapy. It has also been proven to be most effective when it hinges on the philosophies of either cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management.
Group Counseling During Rehabilitation
Most recreational treatment facilities offer some form of group therapy. In fact, in many cases, group therapy is mandatory along with individual addictions counseling or therapy. While many wonder why it is necessary to undergo two types of counseling at the same time, the truth is that when applied together, both types of counseling significantly increase the patient’s likelihood of overcoming addiction.
Pros and Cons of Individual Counseling
Individual counseling sessions are tailored to each patient, helping him or her to identify and understand underlying causes for substance abuse. Individual counseling takes place with a trained addictions counselor, psychologist, and in some cases a psychiatrist that helps the patient to uncover truths about his or her life. These may include the patient’s childhood, career, romantic life, or family. These highly specific and intimate issues can help the patient to identify negative patterns that form the root of his or her addiction. The counselor then works with the patient to help him or her overcome those negative patterns.
Individual counseling, while highly beneficial in many respects, may be seen as lacking in certain aspects. For instance, many people feel that speaking with a therapist is somewhat solitary. While the therapist does serve as someone to listen, he or she cannot form a supportive community for the patient. The patient needs to realize that he or she is not alone in the struggle against addiction.
Pros and Cons of Group Therapy
In contrast to individual counseling, group therapy has the goal of helping a patient to connect with other patients who may have experienced a similar struggle. Substance addiction can often result in feelings of aloneness. Sobriety is a tremendous mountain to climb, so much so that many people feel a need to connect with others who share the same task. While family and friends may be able to provide support, those who have never faced addiction may not know how to empathize with the patient.
One of the major disadvantages of group therapy is that the members of the group are not necessarily models for their peers. In some cases, they may react in unpredictable ways or set the meeting off-track. When individuals in the group become close, one individual’s relapse may make another likely to give up hope in the process or even relapse as well.
An Effective Combination
In combining individual and group therapy, individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addictions get the best of both worlds. Group counseling accounts for the sufferer’s need to connect with others, while individual counseling may help the patient to address his or her own personal reasons for abusing substances.