While the benefits of group therapy and support groups for addiction recovery are fairly well known due to organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and popularized inpatient treatment programs, there are also some surprising advantages of these group environments for the treatment of mental illnesses. Many people who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or depression, and for these individuals, recovery requires a great deal of mental health work in addition to the maintenance of sobriety. The misconception that group therapy and support groups are only for the beginning stages of addiction recovery discounts the many long-term mental health benefits of this popular technique.
Dealing with the Loneliness Factor
Addiction recovery can feel incredibly lonely and isolating at times, especially after leaving an inpatient treatment program and returning to an environment in which the people around you are less than fully supportive, or perhaps entirely unaware of your struggle with addiction. Participating in group therapy after the initial experience of detox and treatment can give you a space to feel encouraged and understood. For those suffering from depression, loneliness can be a contributing factor to symptoms. Through group therapy you can find a compassionate base of support while also building friendships with people who have had similar experiences.
Putting Things into Perspective
One of the greatest aspects of group therapy is the opportunity to see things from someone else’s point of view. Anxiety and depression often flair up as a result of stressful situations in our lives such as tumultuous relationships or hostile work environments. When we share these experiences in a group, as well as our emotions surrounding them, we can hear from others how they perceive the situation, as well as how we might be making choices that aren’t necessarily contributing to a resolution. It is often easier to see the truth in a situation when we aren’t directly involved in it, and with the guidance of a counselor or psychologist, groups can offer constructive criticism as well as some much-needed reality checks.
The biggest obstacle in the way of making a major life change or accomplishing a significant goal is usually our own self-doubt. Even the most confident of individuals can have trouble believing in themselves, and for those of us that struggle with mental health issues, symptoms of anxiety and depression can make us believe that we aren’t capable or cause us to give up as soon as something becomes difficult. Group therapy counteracts this dilemma in two ways. First, it provides you with a group of supportive individuals who will lift you up emotionally and mentally when you are feeling like you might fail. Second, group therapy will give you the opportunity to witness concrete examples of success, and motivate you to keep up with your peers by staying committed to your goals.
People with addictions and mental illness often experience some degree of self-centeredness and narcissism, and at times this is necessary. Focusing on yourself and your healing is an important part of recovery, but becoming too focused inward without taking the time to care about others can be detrimental to your progress. Group therapy forces you to listen to other people’s problems, and in most cases, you will find yourself caring about those problems very deeply. Mindfully listening to others, and occasionally offering suggestions for how they may improve their lives, will turn you into a more compassionate and caring person over time. Additionally, listening to other people’s problems can provide a temporary distraction from your own troubles, and in some cases help you to realize that your problems aren’t nearly as bad as you once believed them to be. In this way, hearing about other people’s struggles can also help you to foster the practice of gratitude, which has been shown to have incredible benefits for your mental health and overall wellbeing.
The concept of group therapy might be extremely off-putting for people who suffer from anxiety, especially those that have social anxiety and trouble with public speaking. While taking that first step to participate in group therapy requires a great deal of courage, pushing yourself to speak up and find your voice will help you to build confidence and quiet anxious thoughts. It can be a very uplifting experience to find that others are interested in what you have to say, and that your perspective on other people’s problems adds some value to their group therapy experience. It can also be helpful to discuss how you are feeling about what other people say in real time. When having conversations in daily life, it can be difficult to check in with how you are feeling. In group therapy, however, you will often be encouraged to identify your emotions during discussions so that you can become more self-aware, and as a result, more self-assured.
If you believe you or someone you love has developed an addiction, now is the time to seek help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers, and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 512-285-5900.