Why is group therapy so prevalent in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs)? As demonstrated by self-help groups, and particularly as stated in 12 Step groups, members “share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover.” Groups allow those in treatment opportunity to share information with hopefulness and a sense of connection. Sharing in groups helps to dispel the stigma and shame associated with SUDs. And by receiving feedback from a therapist and other group members, a woman (or man) can gain a greater understanding of their strengths and themselves.
Lead By Professionals…
At Sanford House at Cherry Street, each group is professionally led so that a woman has the opportunity to share within her own sense of comfort. As a therapist, I have often thought of leading groups as akin to being an orchestra leader. Directing a “little more flute over here, a little less bass drum over there.” I try to be sensitive to each woman’s ability to share. Everyone communicates differently. We all work to create a setting that is safe and supportive. This allows a woman to express her feelings and practice new behaviors without the fear of failure.
While groups are an important aspect of treatment, they are not about a lot of “seat time.” People coming off alcohol and drugs can struggle with symptoms of withdrawal, sleep disorders and the difficulty of moving into a new and structured environment. Sitting in a group for long periods of time can be tiring and uncomfortable. At Sanford House, we work to make groups experiential. Groups include plenty of movement and hands-on activities, so women can work at their own energy level.
Benefits of Group Therapy
- Group therapy allows the members to relate to each other in healthy ways
- And practice underutilized social skills
- Members of the group are accountable to each other
- The group provides a sounding board
- Group therapy promotes self-reflection
- And offers a much needed support system and companionship
- A group therapy session lets every individual know they are not alone
- And gives a voice to each member
Women Work Well in Groups
The group therapy setting works well with women and, in my experience, women work well in groups. Women are often socialized to care for others. It can be nurturing in a group, but they also may need to learn to care for themselves. Just as self-disclosure can be validating in a group, the role modeling of skills of assertiveness and conflict resolution can be equally helpful.
Being able to share information in group is part of the recovery process.