Common Group Therapies For Substance Abuse

In This Article

Group therapy serves to help people recover from addiction in many of the same ways that individual therapy does, and also offers some additional benefits. Participation in group therapy promotes peer support, feedback, encouragement, and accountability.

Like individualized therapy, group therapies address essential skills that people in recovery need to stay sober and live healthy, productive lives. They also foster communication, social interaction, and the courage necessary to repair other relationships that have been damaged.

The following are six types of group therapy commonly used for substance abuse treatment and recovery:

Group Psychotherapy

The basis of group psychotherapy is the idea that forging relationships with other individuals is needed to help manage our daily lives. These groups focus on the present, what members can do to help other members, and working as a team that shares thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a supportive environment.

These groups help people who are new to addiction recovery learn and master the interpersonal skills needed to communicate with others healthily and effectively.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Groups

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) groups are also common in addiction treatment programs and use the concepts of CBT, which assist those in recovery identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that drive their substance abuse.

CBT therapists in group settings work with individuals to regulate their thoughts and behaviors and give them the tools needed to cope with the stressors of life productively without turning to the use of substances.

Dynamic Group Therapy

Dynamic group therapy focuses on personal deficits in managing one’s own behavior and character. It provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals so they can identify and analyze common problems shared within the group. This collaboration permits each participant to overcome negative feelings, such as isolation and shame and teaches members how to control their emotions and achieve/sustain abstinence.

Groups for Relapse Prevention

When a person completes a substance abuse treatment program, the real work begins when they return home and re-enter society. During the first few months, people in recovery are particularly vulnerable and may need extra support to help with the transition.

Relapse prevention groups are often a significant part of aftercare programs to help people identify and deal with triggers in their environment that could drive them to relapse. In these groups, individuals work on increasing coping skills, rely on peers for support, and continue their education on substance abuse.

Skills Development Groups

Skills development groups help individuals by teaching them the skills needed to achieve long-term sobriety and overcome addiction.

In these groups, participants learn new ways of thinking and behaving and how to adopt healthier ways of living. Eventually, people in recovery should be able to identify the origins of their problems and be able to envision and implement new ways of solving them.

Interpersonal Process Groups

Interpersonal process groups seek to promote healing in participants through the concept of psychodynamics, or the way in which people function psychologically.

The group facilitator will identify and process the feelings and functionality of each group member, how the members interact with one another, and how the group performs as a collective.

There is a focus on emotional development and childhood experiences that contribute to poor decision-making, impulsiveness, and unhealthy coping mechanism. When these issues are resolved, the person’s judgment should improve.

A Word On Self-Help Groups

Some of the most popular types of groups that focus on addiction recovery do not include formal treatment (there is not a professional/trained facilitator present) and are more about sharing and comradery. These groups include programs such Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SmartRecovery and Rational Recovery.

Unless court-ordered, self-help groups rely on volunteer participation, and outside of residential treatment, are typically run by leaders who are well-established in their recovery. These meetings are free and may consist of large or small groups and focus on peer support and maintaining abstinence.

What To Expect From Group Leaders

The experienced and qualifications of group therapy leaders vary but may include social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and certified/licensed substance abuse counselors.

To effectively manage a group, facilitators should have the ability to maintain a safe and supportive environment that promotes recovery. These leaders must have a strong sense of self, project confidence and expertise, exhibit empathy, and employ active listening skills to encourage sharing.They should be creative, flexible, ethical, and trustworthy.


Group therapies are helpful to individuals in recovery because they allow people to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a supportive environment.

Most group therapies contain elements of evidence-based formal treatment that help people gain insight into their behaviors, learn how to identify triggers and avoid relapse.

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