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Groping Your Way into Group Therapy

If you’re thinking about seeking help for abuse or addiction, you may be wondering if you’ll have to participate in group therapy in a rehabilitation center. What’s it like? Will you be forced to reveal your innermost personal feelings? Can you do it?

Group Is Just a Group

Treatment professionals advocate the use of group therapy as a valuable modality in addiction treatment.  If that seems scary, consider this: Whenever two or more people sit and talk about common goals or problems and they realize that they share commonalities, they become a group. It is this emotional attachment that forms the basis for a therapeutic group. If you’re in a rehabilitation center, you may feel relieved to know that participating in group therapy simply means you will be sitting down with a bunch of people who have problems and struggles very similar to yours.

That being said, however, it’s important to know that there are different types of groups, organized by the clinical professionals who want to make your treatment experience a success.  Most rehab centers offer the following five types of groups:

Support Groups.  People in a support group listen to one another’s stories, critique their behavior, and offer ideas for change. If you offer some half-baked excuses as reasons for your abuse, the other people in the group will likely call you out for it—they keep each other honest.

Psycho-educational Group. This type of group provides education about substance abuse. For example, you could learn about specific substances that are abused, or you could learn about the chemical changes in your brain when you use. These groups provide nuts-and-bolts understanding of what happens to you from the substances you’re ingesting.

Skills Development Group. Here you will learn about triggers, the things that make you want to use. If you give a smoker a cup of coffee, for example, he will want to light up a cigarette. The coffee is the trigger. You cannot achieve recovery if you do not understand the things that make you want to use such harmful substances.

Cognitive Behavioral Groups.  These types of groups offer support for behavior modification. What patterns of thinking have been destructive for you? How can you change them?

Therapy Groups. This is the type of group that you’re worried about the most:  The groups where you’ll end up baring your soul for everyone else to see.  They serve as a valuable tool for helping people to recognize the problems in their lives and in their relationships that led them to use. Rest assured that these types of groups take place in rehabilitation centers only when they are run by licensed, degreed, certified professionals who know the road they’re taking you down. You can also talk about these very personal issues in individual one-on-one sessions between you and your counselor.

All Groups Serve a Purpose

You can’t just pick one type of group and avoid the others. You must experience all these types of discussion in order to recognize effective ways to reach recovery.  Nobody walks into a rehabilitation center on Day One and knows how to integrate himself into a group, however. Helping you to find your role and purpose in group will be the job of your alcohol or drug counselor. You can lean on him or her in order to learn the ropes.

In another posting, we’ll be talking about specific behaviors that are common in therapy groups—the rules of group as well as common group behaviors that you will recognize as you move forward.

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