How a Group Therapy Session Is Conducted in Rehab

Group therapy is one effective form of treatment among many treatment services generally offered at a drug and alcohol rehab center.

The goal of this article is to open a window into what happens, step by step, during a typical group therapy session in a drug rehab program. But first, it is necessary to provide some context, which will be especially helpful to anyone who has no experience receiving treatment from a rehab center.

What is Group Therapy?

Process groups

Group therapy is a practice in which 5-15 patients meet with one or more therapists for a session. Group therapy is conducted to help people with many different conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Obesity.
  • Substance use disorders.

Among other benefits, group therapy helps patients see that they are not the only ones struggling, and acts as both a way to learn evidence-based strategies to tackle problems and as a support network of empathetic and understanding peers.

Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment

While medical detoxification primarily addresses the biological factors involved in addiction, therapy addresses the psychological and social dimensions of addiction. Understanding and reshaping harmful thought patterns is vital to the success of someone’s long-term recovery.

Rehab centers like Desert Hope Treatment Center offer therapy in both individual and group settings to patients. Common types of behavioral therapy for addiction treatment that may be used in group settings may include:

Alternative types of therapy, such as expressive therapy and animal therapy may also be conducted in group settings.

Group therapy can also be a helpful treatment asset among people from similar backgrounds or with similar shared experiences, such as in specialized treatment tracks like gender-specific programs, programs for veterans and first responders, trauma survivors, and more.

There is not one path to addiction, nor is there one path to healing from it. There are numerous research-based services, however, and an effective combination can provide the tools and training needed to maintain abstinence.

What to Expect from a Group Therapy Session in Rehab

Beginning a therapy session in a room full of strangers may be intimidating at first. However, many people are surprised by how helpful group therapy can be. Knowing what to expect should alleviate some of the fear of going into group therapy for addiction treatment.

A group therapy session is composed of a therapist-facilitator and individual members. The therapist is certified and may have a specialization in a certain therapy approach. The therapy technique may have been developed specifically for groups, but it is likely going to be adapted from the individual therapy model. Numerous therapy approaches can be used for groups, including Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

After a review of the session example, one might wonder why there was no direct reference to addiction. Addiction is a symptom; there is always an underlying thought or belief that compels the addictive behavior, and that’s where therapy focuses.

It is important for a therapist to help clients out of their addiction story to avoid them being stuck in it. For instance, if a person keeps repeating a memory, the negative self-talk around that memory will persist. As in the REBT group therapy meeting example, directly challenging the negative self-talk is key. An overarching goal of group therapy and individual therapy is to help the recovering person shift out of the mindset of addiction and its accompanying negative self-talk.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy provides each member with an opportunity to voluntarily discuss their thoughts and experiences in a safe space. This process of bringing thoughts and feelings to light is in opposition to the secrecy that goes on around drug abuse. The group itself aids the recovery process.

The American Psychological Association points out several of the additional benefits of group therapy.

  • It helps to improve a person’s confidence and interpersonal skills.
  • It lays the groundwork for attending other group meetings, such as group recovery meetings like Narcotics Anonymous.
  • It provides each member with a supportive social network and thereby shows them what to look for in new groups, outside of the therapy context.
  • Consistently meeting with the same group helps to build trust, develop conflict resolution skills, and promotes accountability.
  • It helps to put personal problems into a more universal framework. A painful thought, emotion, or experience can trigger feelings of isolation; however, it is difficult to maintain a feeling of isolation when other people are sharing similar stories and experiences.
  • It provides a diverse perspective. People in group therapy come from different walks of life, and they each have a unique take on a situation, which makes for well-rounded advice.

Like all therapies, group therapy provides a recovering person with an opportunity to get expert help that can be instrumental to long-term abstinence maintenance.

The key for each group member is to integrate the training and lessons learned in sessions into everyday life. Therapy helps people to bring greater awareness to their thinking. With practice, over time, individuals can train their minds to overcome the negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that once kept them in a cycle of addiction.

What to Consider When Joining Group Therapy

When beginning group therapy, it may be useful to consider certain questions to ask of the therapist and yourself to ensure you benefit the most from this approach.

Is the Group Open or Closed?

Group therapy is often conducted in either open or closed groups.

Closed groups are when the patients in group therapy all begin and end their entire course of therapy together. In other words, you’ll see the same patients each session for the duration of treatment. Open groups allow new members to join each session, meaning you’ll likely see some new faces at different sessions, and others will likely drop off as they complete their treatment.

Both open and closed groups have their advantages and disadvantages. Open groups allow you to hear more different perspectives, but it may take longer to know the other attendees. Closed groups enable you to better know your peers but it can take longer to find a suitable group since the whole group must start at the same time.

How Much Should I Share?

Therapy works best when patients are forthcoming and honest about their struggles and situation. Confidentiality is paramount to group therapy.

That said, there’s no way to fully guarantee one’s privacy; so, it’s best to be mindful when divulging personal information.

Is Group Therapy Enough?

Everyone’s path through addiction and recovery is different; therefore, everyone has unique needs. However, engaging in more types of treatment (e.g., individual therapy, psychoeducation, detox) increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to make lasting positive changes.

Desert Hope provides integrated treatment that incorporates many different therapies and treatment methods, including both individual and group therapy during inpatient rehab in Las Vegas, which research shows is effective in helping people achieve long-term sobriety.

Group Therapy for Addiction at Desert Hope

Admissions navigators are standing by at 24/7 to help you through the rehab admissions process, answer any questions regarding the types of addiction treatment offered at Desert Hope, how to use insurance coverage to pay for addiction treatment, and other ways to pay for rehab.

You can also verify your insurance coverage at Desert Hope before calling by submitting the quick, confidential .

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from Henderson.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Humana or Carelon offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.