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The Rules of Group

Hopefully, you’ve already read information in this space about the various types of group therapy in which you’ll participate as part of your rehab experiences.  All groups are by nature dynamic, even emotional encounters, and they function generally within a set of guidelines that keep everything on an even keel. Here are the basic “rules” of group therapy for alcohol or drug rehabilitation centers.

It’s Like Vegas…Maybe it’s not; but just like Las Vegas, whatever goes on in group stays in group. The things that are said and the emotions that are revealed belong to the people who participated in the group—the property of the group, if you will. Whatever you say, it’s protected by the confidentiality that everybody agreed to upon entering rehabilitation.

Be a Joiner. It’s not fair to sit back in group and watch everybody else yet hold yourself apart. You are expected to give feedback, including what you see or hear and how you feel. Some group leaders get things rolling by having everybody take turns stating their high points and low points of the day. The more you put into group, the more you’ll get out of it.

Me, Myself, and I. Most people don’t realize that when they talk in the second person—When you do this or When you feel like that—it puts people on the defensive. When people hear you, you, you they automatically think you’re pointing a finger at them. Get in the habit of using “I” statements as a way of expressing yourself. People will apply more focus to what you’re saying without wondering if you’re picking on their behaviors.

Closed Minds Prohibited. Speaking of picking on other people, in group you’ve got to be more tolerant of them. Even if you wouldn’t normally associate with a certain person outside of group, you have to accept the others in the group for what they are—a part of your drug rehabilitation therapy—and listen to what they say. The standard prejudices you carry with you in your everyday life are checked at the door.

Bring In the New.  Along with your new open mind, you should look at group as a time to practice some of the new behaviors you’ve talked about with your counselor. It’s a way to develop the mindset you’ll need in order to succeed outside of group. Think of how you can apply what you learn in group to your real-life situations in the outside world.

No Drama, Mama. While it’s true that sometimes group members might reach a new level of self-awareness as a result of group, don’t sabotage group by dropping bombshells or telling your war stories. Dramatic, shocking revelations made just before the end of group suck the life out of other people’s recovery efforts. They’re simply not fair.

Keep War Stories in Perspective. You’ve probably seen 12-step meetings depicted in movies in which people talk about the baggage of their former lives. Well, the keyword here is movies. In real life, it’s destructive to the group to glamorize your old exploits or adventures. If everything was so great before you entered drug rehabilitation, you wouldn’t be here now.

No Rescuers Needed.  Despite the last couple rules, there are times when someone reaches a level of healing, which can be quite emotional. Respect the person by listening quietly. Do not offer tissues or go over and touch them while they are talking. Sit quietly and listen to them—follow the group leader’s cues. Don’t tell them how to act or what to feel.  The person deserves your attention and respect; if the time comes when you want to open up about something in group, you would want the same respect accorded to you.

Never Apologize. No matter what you say, you never have to apologize about who you are or what you’ve done. You’ve earned your place in this group.

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