The Pros and Cons of Individual and
Group Therapies in Substance Rehab
Substance abuse and past trauma often go hand in hand. During the recovery process, speaking with a therapist or counselor is often helpful to help unpack traumatic experiences.
Deciding whether individual or group therapy is better is a personal choice, with advantages and disadvantages to each. Here are some key considerations to remember when determining which option is right for you.
Pro: A Sense of Community and Recognition
One of the overarching benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences. Experts from Behavioral Health Centers suggest that facing substance abuse and addiction can be an isolating experience. As humans are naturally inclined to seek social connection, group therapy is an excellent way to relate to others and find a sense of community and recognition. Many people find group therapies more successful than individual therapies.
Con: Hesitation to Share
One of the primary concerns with group therapy is the hesitation to share and be authentic in front of an audience. This proverbial stage fright might limit an individual from sharing their feelings or take longer for a person to open up.
Many patients are also hesitant to share out of potential confidentiality breaches. While all group therapy sessions are designed to be confidential, with individuals forbidden to share information about other patients, peers lack the same professional and legal restrictions as counselors. While confidentiality breaches are rare, the fear of this issue can hold people back from sharing. The one-on-one format lacks this issue.
It's worth noting that some people feel more compelled to share during a group session, as they feel a sense of belonging and community among people who will understand.
Pro: Practicing Interpersonal Communication
Substance abuse and addiction often lead to broken relationships. It's common for people struggling with addiction to make choices that harm their family members and friends. Mending broken relationships and taking ownership are a big part of the recovery process.
Working with a group can help improve interpersonal communication and navigate difficult conversations ahead. It provides an opportunity to run through those conversations and get feedback from a diverse group.
Individual therapy can also help improve interpersonal communication, as you can practice with your counselor. However, the group provides a live environment with more variability, which is more aligned with real-world communication.
Con: Potential for Mismatched Personalities
Another notable downside to group therapy is the potential for personality mismatches. Feeling a sense of dislike or animosity toward someone in the group, or having those feelings targeted at you, can be damaging. People who are hurting tend to hurt others. If the goal is to be vulnerable and share emotions, this can be limiting.
While it's possible to experience a mismatch of personalities with a one-on-one therapist, it's typically easier to navigate; a therapist isn't likely to project their hurt at you. Group sessions are moderated by a professional to help minimize conflict, but it can still create a tense atmosphere that's not conducive to sharing.
Pro: Improved Perspective
A therapist is a skilled, educated professional who can offer guidance during the recovery journey. In a group session, you get the benefit of perspective and feedback from people who have been in your shoes, in addition to professional guidance. This aspect of group therapy is a clear advantage over individual treatment.
Con: Limited Relationships
Many people who partake in group therapy form an emotional bond with their peers. However, treatment ends eventually, and it's unlikely that you'll see those people again. This aspect of group therapy can be challenging for many. Depending on your treatment program, there's also the potential for group instability with people constantly coming and going.
Keep these considerations in mind when assessing which type of treatment is right for you. Many substance abuse programs offer a mix of both. Keep an open mind and try to get the most of each session.