What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”). It involves one or more licensed mental health professionals leading a small group of people. The group encourages positive change in each of the members’ lives. A therapy group meets regularly (usually at the same location) at an agreed upon time and day (or days) of the week.
Those participating in group therapy meet to discuss a common problem, and ultimately, a common goal. Of course, in addiction treatment, the common problem is the disease of addiction. The common goal is to learn how to live and enjoy life without the use of drugs or alcohol. The group therapy model assists members in their pursuit to make lasting, positive behavioral changes in their lives.
It is possible to engage in a group therapy session with people you already know. However, most mental health professionals agree that the group therapy model is most beneficial when people operate outside of their comfort zone. Connecting with strangers who are dealing with similar issues allows group members to forge new, healthy relationships.
The size of a therapy groups varies. The number of people in a group is not a critical factor. The most important element of a therapy group is that members share a common problem and similar life events. The process of sharing personal life experiences within the group setting is essential to the foundation of a successful and effective group therapy session.
In addition to group therapy in addiction treatment, here are a few examples of the group therapy model at work:
- Grief groups where members meet to find healing after the loss of a loved one
- Combat veterans who are suffering from PTSD
- Women who have survived sexual assault
- Men and women who suffer from depression
Common Types of Therapy Used in the Group Therapy Model
Group therapy is an integral part of the treatment programs here at Ashley. We understand that group dynamics have a very powerful impact on recovering people. There is no doubt that individual therapy sessions are also critical to the recovery process. However; many people say they gain much greater insight into themselves when they are in a group setting.
Here are three popular approaches that are commonly used in group therapy during addiction treatment:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people understand how their own thoughts and feelings influence their behaviors. The primary goal of CBT is to teach people how to manage their interpretations and interactactions with their environment.
Dialectic Behavior Therapy: DBT teaches group members new skills that allow them to effectively manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in interpersonal relationships. DBT focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four specific areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Interpersonal Group Psychotherapy: IGP focuses on interpersonal relationships. The idea behind this therapy model is that members of a group thrive in therapy when they are able to establish a sense of unity with other members who share a common problem and common goal.
Here are a few more group therapy models used in addiction treatment.
How the Group Therapy Model Works and Why it Benefits Participants
Group therapy has continued to evolve since about the 1940’s in therapeutic settings around the world. However; existential psychiatrist Irvin Yalom proposed 11 therapeutic factors his book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. This approach essentially governs how most groups are run in addiction treatment programs in interpersonal group psychotherapy*. *
Here are Yalom’s 11 therapeutic factors, which help to explain why the group therapy model is so effective and beneficial for people recovering from the disease of addiction in a substance abuse program:
Shared experiences, feelings, and concerns among group members are universal human concerns. This eliminates a group member’s sense of isolation, validates their personal life experiences, and boosts self-esteem.
The group setting provides a safe space where participants can help eachother. Being able to positively contribute to another person’s life allows an individual to feel more positively about themselves. It also creates an environment for people to develop healthy coping strategies and interpersonal skills.
The Instillation of Hope
Those who participate in the group-therapy model during addiction treatment are at various stages of the recovery process. This allows a participant to be inspired and encouraged by someone who has overcome the problems they are currently struggling with.
Group therapy allows members to share factual or relational information with other members by sharing information. Also, of course, the professional leading the group can impart information to participants that is helpful.
Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Experience
Group members often identify the group therapist and other group members with their own parents and family members in a process known as transference, which is specific to the group-therapy model. This allows the therapist to help participants gain understanding and insight into the impact of childhood experiences on their personality. This teaches group members how to stop repeating unhealthy patterns in present-day relationships.
Development of Socializing Techniques
The group therapy model provides a safe and supportive environment that allows participants to take risks with other group members, which encourages the improvement of interpersonal behavior and social skills
Group therapy helps members develop social skills through a process called observational learning. By observing and imitating the therapist and other group members, participants learn how to appropriately share their feelings, demonstrate empathy, and support others.
Many mental health experts agree that this principle is primary in relationship to the other 10 principles. Human beings have an instinctive need to belong to groups, and personal development simple must take place in an interpersonal context. Cohesion allows all members of the group to experience a sense of belonging, acceptance, and validation.
This is based on the concept of existentialism, which is concerned with “finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.” The group therapy model teaches participants that they must take personal responsibility for their own life and the consequences of their own decision while belonging to something bigger than themselves.
This is the experience of relief from emotional distress through the open and uncensored expression of emotion. When group members share their story in a supportive therapeutic environment, they can experience relief from chronic feelings of shame and guilt.
The group therapy model allows participants to achieve a greater level of self-awareness. This happens through the process of interacting with others group members who provide honest feedback on how the member’s behavior impacts others.
The group experience provides an opportunity for each individual member to gain a deeper understanding of what drives their own behavior by interacting with other group participants.
Group Therapy at Ashley Helps Patients Get Sober and Stay Sober
Those who come to us for addiction treatment greatly benefit from the group therapies we offer at Ashley. Our groups provide a safe space led by a licensed mental health professional; one that centers on healthy communication. Groups are not just an opportunity to chat our share stories. They are guided discussions designed to foster personal insight and growth for every member of the group.