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Individual vs. Group Therapy in Addiction Rehab Settings

In this post, we discuss both individual and group therapy in the context of professional addiction treatment. Both approaches are complementary and not at odds with one another. Modern rehab clinics offer both group and individual therapy sessions at each stage of the treatment process including aftercare and extended care.

Below, we outline the strengths and shortcomings of both group and individual therapy sessions. By combining both, maximum benefits are achieved by clients attending a particular rehab programme.

Some of the benefits offered by both group and individual therapy include:

  • Improving the desire to live life without drugs and alcohol
  • Acquiring an appreciation of the disease of addiction
  • Gaining valuable coping and avoidance skills
  • Stress management techniques
  • Building strong bonds with others who are in recovery
  • Building self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-worth

Uncovering the underlying causes of addiction is perhaps the most challenging task for those who are fortunate enough to attend a residential rehab programme. Group therapy sessions allow clients to discover these causes as a collective, whilst individual therapy offers clients a more private and intermate environment in which to discuss thoughts and experiences that might be difficult to uncover in a group environment.

It’s important to note that a trained therapist will influence the flow of discussion in both group and individual therapy sessions. The therapist will offer clients both the encouragement and guidance they will need to make the most of these forms of therapy.

What therapeutic modalities are implemented?

Some common therapeutic modalities that are incorporated into both group and individual therapy sessions include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT seeks to help clients challenge destructive thoughts and behaviours and replace these thoughts and behaviours with healthier alternatives. The emphasis is on helping clients develop positive coping skills that are needed to sustain their recovery once they have left the rehab clinic’s care
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): MI was developed in the early 1990s and it is now a staple of many rehab clinics’ offerings. During MI sessions, the therapist will encourage the client to develop their own tools for staying sober
  • Relapse prevention training (RPT): RPT is another major therapeutic modality that’s common amongst UK rehab clinics. RPT helps clients vastly reduce the risk of relapse once they have returned home. The aim is to help clients identify, recognise and cope with addiction triggers that arise during everyday life
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): DBT was initially developed to assist people who experience suicidal thoughts. DBT assists clients in developing the motivation to make lasting changes in their lives and to build self-acceptance. DBT incorporates mindfulness. Mindfulness is a meditative practice developed over thousands of years in Asia. Because DBT incorporates mindfulness, clients are thought how to combat stress and anxiety and taught how to live in the present moment

What happens during individual therapy sessions?

During individual therapy sessions, clients will work closely with a trained counsellor in private settings. The therapist will assist the client in developing self-knowledge and deep insight into why he or she may be abusing drugs and alcohol. This self-knowledge will help the client develop the insight that’s needed to attain long-term recovery from substance misuse.

Individual therapy sessions will run over the course of an hour. Most rehabs will offer daily individual therapy sessions to ensure the more intermate causes of addiction are addressed. However, the volume of individual therapy sessions offered will reflect the client’s needs. Some clients will require a greater volume of individual therapy sessions than others.

Some of the topics that will arise during individual therapy sessions include:

  • Discussing the client’s motivation to stop abusing substances and living life in recovery
  • Addiction education
  • Stress management during specific situations the client is likely to face during day-to-day life
  • Overcoming negative emotions such as anger, loneliness, shame, and grief
  • Identifying and coping with addiction triggers
  • Overcoming emotional trauma
  • Relapse prevention and how to handle relapse if it occurs
  • How to form and then maintain healthy relationships with others
  • Coping with mental health conditions

Towards the conclusion of each individual therapy session, the client and therapist will work cooperatively in helping the client formulate treatment goals. These goals are both short and long-term in nature. Examples of these goals include attending mutual support group meetings, attempting a new activity that will help the client maintain their recovery and to remain sober.

During individual therapy sessions, the therapist may also implement something known as contingency management. This is where the client will be given a token or some other reward for meeting goals set in prior meetings. This is also known as ‘token economy’.

Throughout individual therapy sessions, the therapist will adopt a collaborative stance. This means the therapist will not negatively judge the client in any way. The focus is instead on helping the client build self-worth and motivation to succeed in recovery.

What happens during group therapy sessions?

Group therapy sessions are so prevalent amongst rehab clinics for one simple reason: they work. It’s been known for well over a century that the concept of ‘one addict helping another’ is highly effective at helping both the giver of the help and the receiver of the help in attaining abstinence.

This concept was initially developed by mutual support groups such as the Oxford Group in the early 20th Century and then by Alcoholics Anonymous during the mid-20th Century. The idea of fellowship meetings is now embraced by professional therapists and counsellors in the form of modern group therapy sessions.

Below, we outline some of the more common types of group therapy sessions:

  • Mutual support groups
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy group sessions
  • Educational sessions
  • Experimental groups

All of the above aim to offer clients mutual support and feedback in a safe environment. Group therapy allows clients to sharpen their communication skills and confront their challenges in a cooperative and constructive manner. Clients will work together in identifying negative thoughts and other addiction triggers. They will then work together in formulating practical strategies to cope with these triggers without resorting to substance misuse.

Individual vs. Group therapy

As mentioned above, these two forms of therapy are complementary and not competitive with one another. It’s ideal if clients are exposed to both forms of therapy early on in the rehab process. Individual therapy sessions allow clients to address the more intermate and personal causes of addiction in private with a professional therapist whilst group therapy allows clients to cooperatively and constructively discuss less intermate causes of addiction.

It’s important to note that there exists no magic combination of therapies that are able to ‘cure’ addiction. Instead, therapists must devise a programme that hits the client’s needs in as many ways as possible. As well as offering group and individual therapy sessions, modern rehabs will also offer a range of holistic therapies and educational workshops. This ensures the ‘whole person’ is treated and not merely addiction. Incidentally, addiction is often considered a symptom and not the cause of client’s problems, and so we feel it’s vital for treatment to address the ‘whole person’ so that the underlying causes of addiction are fully tackled.

Getting help now

If you would like to attend a rehab clinic that offers group therapy, individual therapy and a range of holistic therapies that are tailored to your needs, contact ADT Healthcare today on 0800 138 0722. Our advisors will help you select a treatment programme that is entirely personalised to your needs and within your local area.