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Counseling and Recovery: Three Types of Support Groups

Oct 9, 2021

Support groups are a valuable part of the recovery process for people with substance use disorders. Each type of group serves a different purpose, though. For newcomers to the support group format, let’s introduce the basics of individual counseling, group therapy, and family support.

Three forms of support are available for people in recovery. Individual therapy comes from one-on-one sessions. It helps a person understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have contributed to their substance use. In individual therapy sessions, they can learn how to replace negative behaviors with healthy ones.

Group therapy is another form of ongoing support for people in recovery. In these meetings, they can learn to build healthy relationships with peers and learn from the experiences of others working on their own recovery.

Family support is a third form and can come from sessions as a family unit as well as couples’ counseling.

Individual Counseling

The purpose of individual counseling is to better understand your relationship with substance use. That involves talking to a therapist, openly and honestly. You play an active role in the work to figure out what needs to happen to live a sober life.

Uncovering what’s led to your substance use and has kept it going takes time in this kind of counseling. Over time, you may get more comfortable opening up about yourself. Your therapist gets better acquainted with you this way. As you feel safe to share in more authentic ways, these sessions can become increasingly valuable.

Another big benefit of individual counseling can be to address mental health issues that are specific to you. The list may include depression, anxiety, or trauma. These issues may be connected to distress in family relationships, a loss of a loved one, codependent behaviors, or other factors.

Individual counseling provides an opportunity to receive support in responding to any substance use or mental health concerns. Beyond support, these sessions provide an introduction to healthy strategies and techniques to use instead of self-destructive behaviors. These strategies can come from a variety of approaches used by a therapist.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an example of a technique used in individual counseling. The goal of CBT is to teach people how their perceptions are affecting their behaviors. This may be somebody who obsesses over ideas or feelings. Their patterns of thinking tend to have a negative impact on them. CBT helps retrain a person to think in healthy ways and examine what they assume about themselves and others.

Another form of support to address unhealthy thoughts and behaviors comes with motivational interviewing. This technique is used to find the motivation to change within the person, not coming from the outside. Therapists work to help patients overcome a fear of change or an indecisive attitude about treatment in general.

Trauma therapy is another form of support within individual counseling. Trauma survivors may feel unsafe and unable to develop relationships because of a loss of trust. The trauma could be recent or unresolved trauma from years ago. In trauma therapy sessions, techniques like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be used to help people heal from emotional distress.

A person in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders may not be equipped to live independently or function productively without learning life skills. This form of support within individual counseling is highly valuable. It can help someone learn to take on personal responsibilities as well as develop healthy social connections. Life skills can also be strategies to respond to stressful situations in positive ways.

The meetings for individual counseling can be done in an office or virtually from the comfort of your own home. Online sessions may be a preferred option for some people. It allows them to fit one-on-one meetings into a busy weekly schedule of work and family responsibilities.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is an opportunity to hear from peers in recovery and share openly with them. This two-way street approach to therapy can be beneficial in many ways. It takes a person in recovery outside of their own experience to hear from people who have been facing their own struggles with addiction.

These sessions are centered around listening to others share their stories of setbacks and progress. For newcomers, it’s the chance to hear what strategies have worked for peers and how people just like them also have to work hard every day to stay in recovery. They may encounter peers who have been in recovery many times and start to accept the reality that achieving sobriety doesn’t come overnight.

Group therapy is also an opportunity to begin to take ownership of one’s recovery by sharing with others. The goal isn’t to make yourself look good during a session and focus on progress only. It’s better to be genuine about what you’re feeling and facing during your recovery. Struggling is a part of everyone’s recovery. Sharing honestly invites others to offer support as they understand what you’re going through.

A big advantage that comes from these sessions and the authentic sharing is the sense of community. You’re around people who have walked the same walk as you. They may not be identical in their diagnosis, but they get it. Building those bonds in a safe space is important. You’re choosing to connect in a way that’s meaningful and uplifting. You may even begin to notice that these types of connections begin to shape who you choose to connect with in your daily life outside of group therapy.

Group therapy can be broad with a wide variety of substance use and mental health backgrounds in the mix. It can also be more narrowly focused at times with a group dynamic fitting a specific theme. For example, a group created specifically for women in recovery can address needs and issues that are particular to that gender.

These are women who can find common ground with peers who are also facing challenges in their roles as mothers, wives, and caregivers. They may have issues with codependency, depression, anxiety, and shame.

Group therapy is designed for people who may be new to treatment or joining after residential treatment. The program expectation is that each person in group therapy has already gone through a medical detoxification process or has no current risk for withdrawal.

Ideally, they’re living in a stable home environment that contributes to the work they’re doing in group sessions or they have ongoing community support. Personal stability is important, too, as they’re expected to participate in group therapy twice a week.

Family Support

Substance use affects the whole family, and family support becomes a critical area for recovery. Trust can be lost. Communication can break down. Distress can be a routine feeling for family members. Yet, finding ways to support a loved one with a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder is still strongly encouraged by addiction experts.

Family support can be developed through family case management. This is a direct response to your loved one’s case and can be customized to meet your family’s needs. Education is a big part of case management. Helping you learn about addiction and mental health disorders can set you up for success as a support system member.

Family case management provides support and guidance throughout treatment in a variety of ways. It can be helping you plan or prepare for an intervention. You may need referrals to professional treatment services in your area.

Family coaching sessions are another service under case management. These can be handled through weekly phone calls or video chats. Encouragement and support continue through treatment and into post-treatment follow-up steps.

Family therapy is an active form of support where at least one family member participates in regular sessions with their loved one. It could be a parent, a child, a spouse or partner, a sibling, or other relatives who are close to the person in treatment. The amount of people participating is not important here. The choice to participate should come from each individual.

These family therapy sessions are set up as a safe space for a person in treatment and their loved ones. It can be a guided conversation to address specific topics within the family. Respecting others is always encouraged, and each person attending can be invited to share by taking turns.

The purpose of these sessions should be to talk openly about what changes are needed to restore the relationships in the family and begin healing for everyone. That may involve discussing ideas on how to make the home a safe and peaceful place. Together, the family can come up with ways to live in harmony and address any problems respectfully.

Family Support & Relapse Prevention

Reducing the risk of relapse is another potential valuable outcome of continuous family support. Family therapy can provide insight into how treatment works and set realistic expectations for what’s ahead in the recovery journey. Over time, these sessions can inform and educate family members and reduce their stress, confusion, and frustration related to their loved one’s drinking or drug use.

Family support isn’t limited to sessions with a loved one in treatment. Family support groups are an optimum way to draw from the experiences of other families going through similar circumstances. Topics in these meetings can range from why it’s common to avoid addressing feelings tied to substance use and mental health disorders to how to find an attitude of gratitude during a challenging experience of living with someone in recovery.

Couples counseling is another form of family support available. These sessions are designed to provide an equal amount of support to both the person in recovery and their spouse or partner. One main focus is on developing healthy communication skills. Couples are encouraged to listen to each other and recognize the needs of the other person.

In couples counseling, individuals may discover unhealthy communication has been contributing to their relationship strain. It may come from a lack of empathy, a difference in communication styles, a difference in how each person shows affection, or use of hostile tones when disagreeing. Ending these habits takes practice in the kind of safe, supportive environment offered by couples counseling.

Productive support from a spouse or partner also comes from being aware of what enabling behaviors may be common in the relationship. For example, someone may clean up messes or hide the problems caused by drinking or drug use. Learning to let a loved one be responsible for their own recovery while still supporting their efforts to get well is a pattern that can be identified in couples counseling and changed.

Effective Counseling starts with Origins

Origins Counseling is a new program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond.

Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 844.321.1003.

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