Group therapy is an incredibly effective tool in recovering from both addictions and other mental health disorders. Social psychology has shown us that group dynamics may play a role in how individuals behave, and we can use recent research in the fields of social psychology, addiction medicine, and mental health studies to offer group therapy in a way that greatly encourages a healthy recovery.
There are many benefits of group therapy. There are also potential risks and downsides. Here we are going to talk about a few ways in which group dynamics can be helpful to those recovering from addictions and mental health disorders. Group therapy is offered here at Crownivew Co-Occuring Institute, and many addiction treatment centers offer some form of group psychotherapy.
1. Cultivate Social Skills
By participating in a group, you have the opportunity to build new social skills. When we fall into a state of addiction or are living with a mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder, we often isolate. Even if we do engage with other people, we lose the ability to interact with others in a healthy and honest manner.
Engaging with a group allows us to re-learn how to interact with others, and in a safe and healthy manner. We learn when to speak, when to listen, and how to respond in ways that are helpful and skillful. The group dynamic acts as a social facilitator and helps us to grow in our ability to have relationships. This is crucial for those newly in recovery from addiction and mental health disorders, and a powerful benefit of group therapy.
2. Find Connection
Both addiction and mental health disorders can lead to a sense of intense loneliness. Even if we are using a relatively social drug, we still feel alone in the world. For example, when we get sober from marijuana addiction, we may need to learn how to connect with people without the drug present. Other experiences like depression or severe anxiety may leave us feeling the same.
Group therapy gives us a chance to see that we are not alone in our experience. Even if the conditions are a bit different, we can often relate to the experience of others. When we tune into the feelings and experiences that other members of the group have, we learn that we are not as alone as we may think with our experiences.
3. Conformity in Groups
Conformity is a powerful social psychology phenomenon in which beliefs and actions of individuals in a group tend to align with the group consensus. This can be both a risk of group therapy and a strong benefit. If the group is serious about getting help and working toward recovery, newcomers to the group may feel a slight pressure to work on themselves as well. When the group is kept on track, speaking honestly, and working together to grow, it facilitates a dynamic in which others are encouraged to participate in a similar way.
Conformity can also lead to the deterioration of the group, and this can be a danger. This is why it is important that group sessions are led by a trained professional. Without proper facilitation and moderation, conformity can cause a dynamic in which nobody is honest, open, or willing to change.
4. Different Perpectives
Although individual therapy sessions are absolutely useful, group therapy offers the opportunity for individuals to hear different perspectives. Although two people may be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, they may have completely different ways of dealing and recovering. The different personalities and experiences can help us to understand things in a new way and gain a newfound perspective.
If an individual is open to learning new ways to approach their mental health disorders and addictions, a group can be greatly beneficial. By listening to how others face their difficulties, we can learn and adapt the solutions and methods to our own situations.
Participating in a group can help us to increase self-acceptance. As we share about our experience, we find that the group accepts us. Many things we find ourselves experiencing in the process of mental health disorders and addiction cause us to feel shame or guilt. When we share and the group responds with acceptance, we can internalize this acceptance. For example, you may be embarrassed about having to to rehab for depression. When you realize that others support you and do not judge, you may internalize this acceptance and grow to accept yourself more deeply.