When you hear the words “group therapy,” you probably picture a room of people with chairs formed into an awkward, enclosed circle. You imagine there are people who want to monopolize the therapy session, there are others who are squirming in hopes of not having to speak, someone who is getting annoyed with the monopolizing member, and another who is sound asleep.
Truth is, when it comes to something as serious and important as your recovery, you never want to go it alone. If you do, the time will come when you will need someone to lean on and you will have no one. So, it doesn’t matter what your imagination wants to make you believe – you need to go! Still not convinced? Maybe the following ways in which group therapy can enhance recovery will open your eyes to this great tool.
Learn from the experiences of others
As kids, we may have bawled, crossed our arms, and stomped in our best tantrum formation when we were told we couldn’t get that pack of gum in the checkout line that we so desperately wanted. This often resulted in our mother getting real close to our ear and pointing to the closest behaving little kid, saying – “Look how good that kid is. You don’t see him crying, do you?”
While we never like or want to be compared to others, we can learn from their behavior – whether we like it or not. Each person in the world goes through different experiences. We make different choices, take different actions, and have different reactions than the next person. In addition, what works for one person may not work for another.
Spending time with people from varying walks of life can teach us a lot. We can learn from their experiences and they can learn from ours. Of course, no two situations will be the same, but you can still learn how situations are handled. Should you find yourself or someone you love in a comparable situation in the future, you will have some insight.
Understand that you are not alone
Heading into recovery can be scary. The friends that you had before you were clean may not necessarily fit into your newly sober life. It is important to find support in a group of like-minded individuals. You can find this in group therapy. Sure, you may not all like the same type of music or cuisine, but you have a very important common goal – to stay sober.
The others in your group will help you realize that you are not alone. There are others who are going through the same struggles you are. And they likely feel scared and alone, too. Coming together and forming a bond through therapy can eliminate this problem.
Feel comfortable in a group
Group therapy takes place in a controlled environment. Confidentiality is extremely important for the main purpose that the leader wants everyone in the group to be open and feel comfortable doing so. This is a judgment free zone.
Many outside individuals do not comprehend what those in recovery are going through, despite how badly they want to. Having a group of individuals that are dealing with the same struggles means that you have a place where you can ask questions, share stories, and seek support without the fear of someone not understanding your circumstances. What a comforting experience.
Build a support team inside and outside of the group
One of the most important things you will learn in recovery is that you need a support team. You will not hear that it is strongly suggested or that you may want to find one. No, no. Instead you will hear repeatedly that you need a support group. Why? Because you do.
Support groups are there for you when you encounter temptation, find yourself in moments of weakness, come face to face with hurdles, and will even celebrate milestones with you. Because some individuals can understand some things more than others, it can be beneficial to have more than one.
You will have likely formed a support team outside of any type of therapy. This could include sober friends, mentors, a sober living community, family members, spouses, sponsors, etc. These individuals have a close connection with you and want what is best for you – even if they don’t fully understand what it is you are going through. On the other hand, the support you get from your team in group therapy isn’t due to a personal connection, but rather a bond with the struggles of sobriety.
Both support groups have their benefits and serve a purpose.
Other ways to benefit from group therapy
While the above are some of the most important (and clear) ways to benefit from group therapy, there are still more benefits. However, to reap these benefits, you must try. You get out what you put in, so-to-speak.
- Participate in the group. Share your story and your experiences and listen actively to what others are going through.
- Offer reassurance, praise, and cheer to those in the group. When they are down, inspire them to want to keep moving forward in recovery.
- Be present. Don’t just show up at the meeting to say you did it.
- Offer hard critiques to others and be willing to accept the criticism yourself. Sometimes (most times) we don’t want to hear what others say about our lives. It is easier to put up and wall and pretend they just don’t understand. But, without being honest and hearing those hard truths, we don’t grow. Sugar coating things can hinder us.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are struggling in recovery and you think you are missing something or that there may be a better way, ask!
Group therapy offers many benefits – inclusion, ability to learn from others, ability to build a support system, and the chance to grow. Instead of viewing them as a waste of time, embrace all that they can offer you. You have a backpack full of tools to use for a successful recovery – group therapy should be one of them!