Use of Closed Therapy Groups When Battling an Addiction

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Contributor: Erica Smith, MA, NCC, clinical content team member, Lakeland Behavioral Health System

Group Of Happy Smiling FriendsFacing each day plagued by the demon of addiction can elicit countless struggles in every aspect of an individual’s existence. Regardless of what substance a person has become addicted to, it can rapidly overpower his or her ability to adhere to daily responsibilities, fulfill everyday tasks, and meet necessary obligations.

Whether it be alcohol, heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, prescription drugs, or any other type of substance, once an addiction to a drug has developed, it can seem impossible to overcome.

The Feeling of Isolation

Many addicts find themselves feeling alone and isolated from the rest of the world. As an addiction to any substance develops and grows, it can prompt significant changes in the company a person keeps.

Many addicts begin to push friends, family members, and other loved ones away, both consciously and unconsciously, as they become more absorbed in their need and impulse to use their drug of choice.

Whether they realize it or not, the isolation that they have imposed upon themselves can rapidly begin to feel all-consuming, making them feel like they are suddenly not only isolated from those who were once close to them, but also from the rest of the world.

The more powerful this overwhelming sense of loneliness becomes, the more likely it is that the intensity of the drug use will increase as well.

How Group Therapy Can Break the Isolation

Wire desk tidy full of coloured pencilsThis sense of loneliness and isolation that typically encompasses individuals when they are are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is one of the many reasons why participating in group therapy can be a successful part of treating and overcoming an addiction.

By nature, humans are social creatures who are shaped by the groups of individuals that surround them. Because of this fact, the therapeutic nature of an appropriately-run therapy group can go a long way in helping addicts who are trying to put an end to their addiction, who have recently become sober, or who need extra help in maintaining sobriety.

By reducing isolation and enabling people to witness the recovery of other individuals who are in similar circumstances to their own, these groups can be exceedingly rewarding. These group sessions can also be beneficial because this type of therapy has proven effectiveness in treating concerns that often coincide with the presence of a substance abuse problem, such as depression, shame, and guilt.

An Accepting Environment for the Recovering Individual

When individuals are battling chemical dependency concerns, group therapy can afford them an environment where they can feel accepted, encouraged, challenged, and supported.

People who engage in group therapy sessions are said to be more likely to refrain from returning to their drug of choice because they feel a stronger sense of commitment to their recovery as they are being held accountable for their actions.

Furthermore, they have the ongoing encouragement of their peers and can listen to stories of others’ recoveries and see what has worked for other addicts, and then potentially apply that to their own lives as well.

Choosing a Closed or an Open Group

Together in parkTherapy groups for substance abuse treatment will typically either be closed groups or open groups. When there is an open therapy group, there are fewer barriers upheld, and anyone is able to join and take part the group.

This type of setting can be beneficial when working with individuals who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol because it provides them with an opportunity to hear the viewpoints and ideas of many additional people.

The downside to open therapy groups, however, is that, because of the fact that membership is essentially open to anyone, individuals who join the group may not be serious about their recovery journey, potentially hindering the recovery progress of others. Additionally, open groups can rapidly become overpopulated with members, taking away from the intimacy of the encouragement that could be provided from one addict to another in the sanctity of a closed therapy group.

The Differences of a Closed Group

In closed therapy groups, there is a trusted individual (e.g. therapist, counselor, social worker, etc.) who is in charge of approving who becomes a part of the group itself and mediates the discussion topics that are brought up throughout the course of the group’s meetings.

Closed groups provide individuals with a sense of intimacy, as well as a sense of validity because they know that the other people who engage in the group have struggle with legitimate concerns that are similar to their own; concerns that they can relate to.

Finding the Groups and Treatments that Work for You

Students showing ok signWhile the road to recovery can be a long and arduous one, when appropriate treatment is received, addictions can be successfully fought and overcome, and lasting sobriety can be achieved.

Closed therapy groups are an immensely useful treatment modality that can be implemented in outpatient settings, inpatient settings, residential settings, or casual settings.

When trust has been established within these groups, they can be an ongoing source of support as individuals are afforded the chance to connect with others who are struggling with substance abuse concerns and learn how to process through their struggles together, ultimately becoming a team of champions as they overcome their addictions and encourage one another to maintain sobriety.


About the Author:

“Use of Closed Therapy Groups When Battling an Addiction” was written by Lakeland Behavioral Health System clinical team member, Erica Smith, MA, NCC. Erica has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the American School of Professional Psychology.


About Lakeland Behavioral Health:

Site Description: Lakeland Behavioral Health System is a leading provider of mental health and addiction treatment. Dedicated to creating life-changing results for those who are entrusted into their care, Lakeland provides a unique array of programs tailored to meet the needs of children, adolescents, adults, and their families in the safest and highest quality environment possible.

The staff at Lakeland knows how devastating substance abuse can be on the lives of everyone involved, and they are ready to offer support and direction in order to help assist individuals in successfully overcoming their struggles with addiction and co-occurring conditions so that they can return to a happy, healthy, and sober life.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with closed therapy groups? What have you learned that may help others get the most out benefit out of their group therapy?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 21st, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com

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