'What is Group Recovery?'

'What is Group Recovery?'

Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash




‘Tell us how you feel.’


In 1905, Dr. Joseph Hersey Pratt organized a tuberculosis class of eight patients in his clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.   He started seeing significant changes in his patients’ emotional states whenever they discussed their everyday problems with the others in the group.   This was the beginning of the use of groups in medical therapy, and Dr. Pratt was the forerunner in the evolvement of this method.    


The concept took off, and by 1936, group therapy was officially practiced among prison inmates and discharged patients of psychiatric hospitals.


The definition of group recovery.   


Strength in numbers


Group recovery, also known as ‘group therapy,' is a form of psychotherapy.   There is no limit to the number of people a group in recovery can have. The group's purpose can vary from relationship therapy and grief counseling to addiction and mental health education.   


People come together to discuss what they struggle with, and they have the freedom to share their stories or common problems with the group without feeling judged or insecure.


A group is a safe space for someone to feel, talk, cry, or listen.   Groups usually meet once or twice per week and can be open (where new participants are welcome to drop in) or closed (where participants are part of a particular group and are invited to join.)


Today, therapists use group therapy in hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice, and community centers. Usually, it is integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that includes individual therapy.    


What group therapy treat.


Group therapy can treat a variety of conditions, including:


  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic pain, illness, or stress
  • Grief and loss, divorce, or domestic violence.


Why should you consider group therapy?

  • Who doesn’t like to feel safe?   It can feel intimidating to walk into a group therapy session for the first time. However, you'll be surprised at how quickly strangers can become friends and how fast you'll become comfortable enough to share your story.   Groups act as a sounding board, and you get a wide range of perspectives on your situation that you did not have before.


  • The other group members will become your new support system, and because they know what you are going through, they can give great reassurance and cheer you on.   In a group, you'll learn about yourself and how others see you. It is also about uncovering blind spots that may be blocking your ability to see the wood for the trees.


  • It is a confidence booster.Encouragement gives you confidence, and confidence help with self-worth.   There is a circle of hope in group therapy that gets strengthened every time you attend. Hearing how other group members overcame challenges can be very encouraging and motivate you to push yourself harder.


  • Find a mentor. By spending time in a recovery group, you'll soon identify people who inspire you. Group therapy can therefore be a way of getting to know someone who can be a role model in your life. In time, you'll be able to do the same for others and have the satisfaction of making a difference in someone else's life.


  • A cost-efficient option.Group therapy can be more affordable than one-on-one therapy, depending on your treatment plan. Psychologists usually recommend a more comprehensive treatment plan in the case of addiction or mental health issues. Still, if a group session is the only therapy you can afford, it is way better than nothing.   In addition, group therapy can be very powerful and, in some cases, is just as good as individual therapy.


  • You are not alone.Group therapy gives you the insight that you are not just drifting along, struggling to keep your head above water.   There are others with you, going through the same thing and cheering you on.   If you keep at it, you'll reach the shore together.   Many people experience a tremendous sense of relief when they realize this.   Groups also allow you to re-engage with people and ease your sense of isolation.


How to get started


  • Consult with your doctor for a group recommendation for your condition.
  • What type of group will be good for you? This is for you to decide if you want an open or closed group. These days, various online options are also available.
  • Contact your health insurance.   Some of them cover group therapy.


How to get the most out of group recovery.


Come first, to understand - not to be understood.


You must be ready to give but also to receive support from others.   It is normal to feel uncomfortable at first. But, as others talk about their challenges and struggles, you are likely to get more comfortable and willing to make yourself vulnerable.   There is strength in vulnerability!   


Ask questions if you disagree with someone's perspective.   In the end, you'll be able to learn and grow.



Sharing is healing

The success of group therapy lies in people not feeling judged anymore.   Judgment creates fear. Addicts often think: ‘Will I ever be respected again?’ ‘Will people accept me?’


Group therapy creates a space where you can expel these questions. You realize that since you don't judge others in the group, they don't judge you as harshly as you thought. You might need to try a few groups before finding one that fits you best.   


Once you feel safe, you'll start to look at the world and your family and friends with fresh eyes.   It is the beginning of healing.