Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

Group therapy is a valuable treatment intervention for individuals seeking recovery from both mental health and substance use disorders. Despite the benefit that it can have on one’s recovery journey, some people may find it intimidating to enter group therapy for the first time. Other participants may have already been attending the group for several weeks or months, which may make newcomers feel on the outside. Additionally, some people may struggle with social anxiety as a result of their substance use disorder (SUD), which can make the idea of attending group therapy even more overwhelming.

Whether it is your first time trying group therapy altogether or your first time attending a new therapy group, there are several things to understand that can help mitigate your feelings of intimidation and overwhelm before you attend your first therapy session. Above all else, understand that you are making a huge step in the right direction to achieve and sustain your goal of sobriety. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, you may be shocked at the benefits you can gain from this experience.

Group therapy provides social interaction, which aids in the addiction recovery process.

Perhaps the thing you are most nervous about when beginning group therapy is the initial experience of meeting new people. However, it is vital to recognize the impact that social support has on one’s ability to achieve and maintain abstinence from substance use.

Briefly reflect on your past experiences in active addiction. More than likely, you surrounded yourself with peers who also engaged in drug use. As you work to establish your recovery, you will have to determine whether certain relationships will be healthy or unhealthy for your healing process. You will likely have to separate yourself from individuals who continue to engage in substance use, as these people can make you vulnerable to relapse. Similarly, you will need to surround yourself with optimistic and sober people who are also working to sustain their sobriety. Social support acts as a protective factor against relapse.

Although you may feel intimidated upon entering your first group therapy session, keep in mind that the participants you are preparing to meet have walked in your very shoes. They are not there to judge your choices or your story because they understand where you’ve been. Many of them may still struggle with substance use and relapse, so they use group therapy as a safe place to seek advice and support. Group therapy is meant to be a safe place.

Group therapy serves as a reminder that you are not going through addiction recovery alone.

Addiction and recovery often seem like isolating experiences, especially if you have friends or family who do not support your recovery. The recovery journey can be a lonely one. Therefore, it is important to recognize that group therapy serves as a reminder that you are not going through the hardships of recovery alone.

During group therapy sessions, there is often a psychologist or other mental health professional who leads the group in a discussion. Sessions will focus on helping participants process their thoughts, emotions and behaviors in appropriate and healthy ways, which is facilitated through group discussion. Depending on the type of group therapy program, activities performed during sessions will vary based on the needs and goals of the group. However, all group therapy interventions stress the importance of honest, open communication as well as establishing trust with one another and the professional leading the group.

Group therapy offers rewarding forces that enable lifelong recovery.

Another thing that you can expect from group therapy is to feel rewarded through various factors, including:

  • Affiliation
  • Confrontation
  • Support
  • Gratification
  • Identification

Group therapy is inherently a bonding experience, not only to connect person to person but also to connect people to treatment. It can keep you engaged in the treatment process as it allows you to feel a sense of belonging. In addition, you can feel as if your recovery has deeper meaning and purpose not just for yourself but also for your community.

Support groups help people keep one another accountable throughout recovery. If you do not have other people to lean on to encourage your treatment engagement, you could easily fall away from the healing path. Individuals who complete a long-term treatment program may feel that their treatment journey is over. In reality, they could be one trigger away from a relapse. Group therapy, then, becomes an essential component for individuals both in the beginning stages of sobriety and who have been in recovery for several months or years.

Try not to view group therapy as a chore. Instead, learn to view it as a valuable opportunity for connection.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a premier drug and alcohol treatment center that offers a range of therapeutic modalities for our patients. We strongly encourage attendance at weekly group therapy sessions regardless of where you stand in your recovery journey from substance use. To learn more about our treatment programs and support groups, call (877) 557-5372.