Group therapy is an important aspect of every treatment for substance abuse. However, it’s not enough that a collection of like-minded people come together and talk – it’s also important that the topic of the conversations lend towards the ultimate goal: recovery.
Here are some of the most important issues that every group therapy should tackle:
Family and Home Life
Talking about your family and home life situation can do so much for how a therapist perceives existing problems. The way you interact with your family offers tremendous insight into how and why substance abuse disorder started in a person. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that family life is the cause of the substance abuse. However, it could help provide answers on how the habit progressed. Be open in discussing not just how you interact with your parents but also siblings and other extended family.
Another common topic would be the negative habits of the patient, on top of substance abuse. It’s important to do this because negative habits often lead to more negative actions. Habits function much like a cycle where you do one thing which triggers another. The goal is to identify these habits and replace them with positive ones, therefore managing to “break” the cycle. In a group setting, sharing your habits with each other lets you develop new ideas for more positive habits.
Trauma is a very common topic in group therapy but it’s also the hardest to approach. The fact is that most people like to keep their trauma private. However, keep in mind that keeping things in will not help your road towards recovery. Trauma is often the primary reason why a person started substance abuse, therefore giving therapists an idea of how to suggest coping mechanisms for treatment. In group therapy, every person is encouraged to talk about their past trauma so this common vulnerability should help you get past your own.
Triggers of Substance Use
Talk about what sets you off – what activities or events makes you start looking for drugs or alcohol. Saying it out loud in a group helps confirm these triggers in your head, making it easier to spot them when it happens. Talking it out can even help you discover triggers you aren’t completely conscious of. More importantly – the conversation can be an exchange of ideas on how to avoid or minimize these triggers so that you can stop the cravings before they happen.
This topic encourages the identification of people you consider to be a good role model. Talk about someone you admire and why you consider this person to be a good example in how you live your life. Explain how you are changing your life in order to be more like them. Note that this person doesn’t have to be a celebrity or someone popular – it can be anyone you admire because of their character.
Looking ahead and talking about what you hope to become can do so much to how you handle your present. Do not be ashamed to talk about how you see yourself a year or ten years from now. Positive plans for the future help with motivation, giving you something to envision whenever you find yourself struggling to cope with cravings. Your plans can be anything from your ideal family relationships, careers, and more.
When most of your days are dedicated towards finding the next source of alcohol or drugs, self-care becomes a non-priority. In group therapy, this particular issue is often discussed to help you gain a better perspective of yourself. Managing to take care of yourself both physically and mentally can go a long way in helping you maintain progress during recovery. Ask other members of the group about how they take care of themselves outside of substance use.
Some of these topics are sensitive and it would take time for patients to open up about their home life or past trauma that led them to abusing substances in the first place. Take it slow and once trust has been earned, sharing to the group becomes easier. Remember that group therapy is a give-and-take situation so listening is a large part of the process.