Updated on August 11th, 2020
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) may consist of various types of group therapy such as psychoeducational groups, skill development groups, and process/support groups. Regardless of the type of group, IOP group therapy provides essential support and growth opportunities for people who are newly sober.1 Here are six of the main benefits of group therapy in addiction recovery.
Personal Growth and Skills Development
Group therapy during IOP provides education on specific problems and issues that people in recovery are learning how to manage. Often, this includes communication skills, coping strategies, stress management, relapse prevention and management, and life skills development. As clients make the natural transition from rehab to an independent life in recovery, IOP helps them develop healthy coping mechanisms and skills to deal with stress and prevent a return to drug or alcohol abuse.
During IOP, clients also learn the importance of having a peer recovery support community. Through regular participation in group sessions, meetings, and activities, individuals form lasting relationships and learn valuable lessons, like how addiction can affect behaviors and interactions in social situations.
Group therapy also allows clients to learn through shared experiences and practice being vulnerable by opening up and sharing their own life experiences. Team-building exercises, 12-Step speaker presentations, and workshops also promote individual healing and encourage interpersonal skill-building that are important for sustained sobriety, such as resolving conflicts and establishing accountability in various types of relationships.
Staff members at the outpatient rehab facility or sober living home are also available to provide guidance and support as newly sober individuals learn and practice these new behaviors and skills at home, at work, and in social situations.
Group therapy is an excellent time for clients to give and receive support from peers who are also recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. A support group is designed to be an environment where clients help and confront one another to encourage personal growth and promote lasting success in sobriety. In addition, this environment is an ideal place for clients who are further along in their recovery journey to help other clients who are new to a sober lifestyle.
IOP group therapy promotes acceptance and healing during a very difficult and transitional time. Early sobriety comes with a unique set of challenges as newly sober people learn how to juggle the daily stressors of life, new jobs, educational goals, and family responsibilities, all without falling back on drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Not surprisingly, some people relapse during this time, which can be detrimental to the recovery process. However, with a solid peer support system, individuals can feel comfortable being open and honest about the relapse and asking for help when it is needed the most. With the right support and treatment, the person can get back on track with a modified treatment plan and keep working toward a lifestyle of sustained sobriety.
Getting sober can be an incredibly humbling and positive experience, but it can also be isolating, especially if a client’s friends or loved ones are abusing drugs or are unsupportive of their recovery. In many instances, a person may feel like they are alone in their recovery journey or like their loved ones don’t understand what they’re going through. Regardless of a client’s home environment or the presence of an outside support system, group therapy during IOP supports clients by reminding them that they are not alone in their recovery journey and that other people are facing the same struggles.
Recovery is a shared experience and IOP group therapy provides a consistent link to a supportive community as clients experience many different life changes in early recovery.
One major function of IOP group therapy is to provide education for people in early recovery. From basic life skills to practical relapse prevention strategies, this low-stress group environment is a great place to discuss things have a huge impact on a person’s ability to stay sober, such as:
- 12-Step group progress
- Relapse prevention strategies
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Proper nutrition and sleep hygiene
- Having fun and being social without giving in to the temptation to use substances
- Balancing time between recovery and work (or other responsibilities)
Outpatient group therapy offers a supportive, safe place to discuss these topics and begin implementing them in “real life” after rehab. Putting this education into practice can be difficult without the support of a sober network, but implementing these new behaviors while in treatment is an excellent way to gradually grow into a lifestyle of sobriety and reduce the risk for relapse.
Healthy Social Experiences
When a person is tied to a lifestyle of addiction, social experiences often revolve around drug and alcohol abuse. Many of the person’s friends also abuse drugs or alcohol and social outings, events, and relationships often revolve around the substance abuse itself.
One of the main reasons people shy away from rehab and addiction treatment is because they can’t imagine a fun life without drugs or alcohol. They don’t want life to lose its luster once they get sober. Unfortunately, due to the way the brain’s pleasure and motivation centers are influenced by drugs, changing this mindset can be very difficult.
Outpatient group therapy helps clients break through this barrier by providing healthy social experiences and strategies to challenge the toxic mindset that sobriety is boring. For example, IOP clients learn how to think critically and achieve an objective perspective on their cravings and triggers by asking themselves questions like:
- “Why do I want to drink or use drugs right now?”
- “Do I feel stressed or anxious right now?”
- “Do I think drugs or alcohol will make me have more fun in this situation?”
- “Am I feeling depressed?”
Outpatient group therapy can also help clients heal by providing healthy social experiences that don’t revolve around drugs or alcohol. By regularly participating in these group sessions, clients often come to find that sober social experiences are much more rewarding, enjoyable, and valuable than their previous idea of “fun.”
During outpatient group therapy sessions, clients not only learn important relapse prevention strategies, but in the process, they also learn how to interact with sober peers, respectfully hold discussions and work through disagreements, practice mindfulness meditation, and cope with social anxiety that may be exacerbated by their newfound sobriety. All of these skills will encourage clients to redefine the way they view fun and social experiences so they can learn how to enjoy a lifestyle of recovery.
Structure and Discipline
Not surprisingly, a lifestyle of addiction is full of chaos and self-indulgence, but outpatient group therapy introduces a different way of living. By introducing structure and discipline, group therapy fosters healthy lifestyle changes and provides an environment that is conducive to learning, growing, and changing. The structure also provides an outlet for clients to practice new skills, realize their strengths, and establish new habits.
The flexible schedule of IOP group therapy provides consistency but also gives clients practice learning how to balance other responsibilities such as work and childcare while still focusing on their recovery. Structured outpatient group therapy also encourages self-reflection, thinking about the impact and motivation behind past choices, and considering future goals.
For individuals who struggle with stress and anxiety, the structure and discipline provided by outpatient group therapy can also ease these feelings and remove additional feelings of discomfort that can keep a person from moving forward in life and participating in self-reflection.
Changing addictive behavioral patterns is extremely challenging, but ultimately, outpatient group therapy empowers individuals to consciously practice good habits that will promote long-term recovery. Instead of automatically falling back on bad habits, clients will learn how to make more purposeful decisions that combat impulses and promote awareness in all areas of life.
A Safe and Supportive Environment
A safe and supportive environment is extremely important for recovery, and similarly, a harmful environment can have a very negative impact on sobriety. For a person to thrive in recovery, they must have both practical and emotional support. Not surprisingly, the people we choose to surround ourselves with have a direct impact on our behavior and decision-making process, and research has proven that people in addiction treatment who connect with other sober people in similar circumstances and conditions have better long-term recovery rates.2
Outpatient group therapy during IOP offers a peer support system that promotes long-term sobriety with productive discussion, skills development, and education. When a person in recovery receives treatment in this type of low-pressure group environment, they are more likely to let down their emotional defenses and break through barriers that have previously kept them from achieving a full recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Feeling safe and supported in recovery paves the way to personal growth by reinforcing healthy ways of thinking, behaving, and ultimately, living.
Group therapy during IOP serves a very clear purpose for people in recovery and has many benefits for clients in sober living homes and other aftercare programs. If you have additional questions about group therapy, IOP, or other continuing care services like a sober living program, call (512) 580-3131 to speak with a Eudaimonia Recovery Homes representative today.