The Importance of the Addiction Recovery Group

Adapted from Group psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

Addiction recovery requires intensive therapy in a single and group setting. Many people are afraid of talking in groups, but once they start their rehab recovery process, it becomes much less daunting. The more important the members consider the addiction recovery group, the more effective it becomes. I believe that the ideal therapeutic condition is present when clients consider their addiction recovery group meeting to be the most important event in their lives each week.

The therapist is well advised to reinforce this belief in any available manner. If I am forced to miss a meeting, I inform the members well in advance and convey to them my concern about my absence. I arrive punctually for meetings. If I have been thinking about the group between sessions, I may share some of these thoughts with the members. Any self-disclosures I make are made in the service of the addiction recovery group. Though some therapists eschew such personal disclosure, I believe that it is important to articulate how much the group matters to you.

I reinforce members when they give testimony of the group’s usefulness or when they indicate that they have been thinking about other members during the week. If a member expresses regret that the group will not meet for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, I urge them to express their feelings about their connection to the group. What does it mean to them to cherish the addiction recovery group? To protest its disruption? To have a place in which to describe their concerns openly rather than submerge their longings?

The more continuity between meetings, the better. A well-functioning group continues to work through issues from one meeting to the next. The therapist does well to encourage continuity. More than anyone else, the therapist is the group historian, connecting events and fitting experiences into the temporal matrix of the group. “That sounds very much like what John was working on two weeks ago,” or, “Ruthellen, I’ve noticed that ever since you and Debbie had that run-in three weeks ago, you have become more depressed and withdrawn. What are your feelings now toward Debbie?”

The power of the an addiction recovery group

I rarely start a group meeting, but when I do, it is invariably in the service of providing continuity between meetings. Thus, when it seems appropriate, I might begin a meeting: “The last meeting was very intense! I wonder what types of feelings you took home from the group and what those feelings are now?”

Yalom describes what he calls the addiction recovery group summary, a technique that serves to increase the sense of continuity between meetings. I write a detailed summary of the group meeting each week (an editorialized narrative description of content and process) and mail it to the members between sessions. One of the many important functions of the summary is that it offers the client another weekly contact with the group and increases the likelihood that the themes of a particular meeting will be continued in the following one.

recovery and defence mechanisms

The group increases in importance when members come to recognize it as a rich reservoir of information and support. When members express curiosity about themselves, I, in one way or another, attempt to convey the belief that any information members might desire about themselves is available in the addiction recovery group room, provided they learn how to tap it. Thus, when Ken wonders whether he is too dominant and threatening to others, my reflex is to reply, in effect, “Ken, there are many people who know you very well in this room. Why not ask them?”

Events that strengthen bonds between members enhance the potency of the addiction recovery group. It bodes well when group members go out for coffee after a meeting, hold long discussions in the parking lot, or phone one another during the week in times of crisis.

For more information on drug rehab centres and addition treatment, or to find out more about addiction recovery group dynamics, contact Pathways Plett Rehab Centre.