Individual and group therapy for people with substance use disorders can be thought of as two sides of the same coin: both of these techniques encourage those struggling with addiction to talk about their experiences and discover root causes of their addiction.
Together, they are used as part of an overall treatment plan for each client.
During the initial therapeutic assessment, a licensed professional asks questions to get to know something about a new client’s background, drug of choice, particular challenges in trying to get sober, and expectations of and goals for treatment. Since each client is unique, it’s important to understand these elements when developing a recovery plan.
Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorder
Group therapy sessions allow clients to share their experiences and provide peer support at their current stage of recovery. It’s not necessary for each person in the group to be at the same phase of their recovery journey. In fact, when diverse experiences are represented within a group, clients can learn more from each other and gain more perspective on their own situation.
The group is led by a therapist, who monitors the participants’ interactions to ensure that everyone is being treated respectfully and is being given a chance to speak. The therapist may suggest a specific topic for the group to focus on during a session or allow the discussion to flow freely.
Group therapy sessions are particularly helpful for clients who feel isolated within their substance use disorder. As they listen to other people share their stories and their feelings of being sad, lonely, or hurt, new clients can start to realize that they weren’t along in having those feelings or in making unhealthy choices in trying to cope with them.
Individual Therapy for Substance Use Disorder
As the name implies, individual therapy involves a client having sessions with a therapist on a one-on-one basis. This process is an essential part of substance use disorder treatment. Even though clients participate in group therapy and give and receive support from each other, they will not feel comfortable sharing certain issues with the group.
Individual therapy sessions give clients a safe place where they can share their thoughts and have the full attention of a licensed, caring professional.
It’s not easy for someone who is used to using chemicals to numb their emotions to open up and share those uncomfortable feelings. The therapist’s role is to listen and to help the client learn new, healthier coping skills.
Individual and Group Therapy Work Hand-in-Hand
Each one of these forms of talk therapy helps clients in unique ways. Group therapy gives much-needed support for people who are new to recovery or who can benefit from coaching from fellow group members.
The group is an environment where members can see how others cope with their addiction triggers (successfully and otherwise) and learn from each other. They can cheer on each other’s successes and support each other through difficult times.
Along with attending group therapy, clients dig into the underlying reasons for their addictions during individual therapy sessions. They work with a therapist to set goals and discuss which issues they wish to address on a one-on-one basis.
Between the two types of therapy, clients develop tools to cope with their personal triggers that prompt them to use their drug of choice. These tools are a key aspect of long-term recovery.