What is group therapy? How is it used in treatment for substance abuse? Learn more about how group therapy can help you reconnect with yourself and others during addiction recovery.

Group therapy dates back to 1905 when Doctor Joseph Hersey Pratt of Boston began working with a group of tuberculosis patients. He noticed that by talking to each other about their common problems, the patient’s emotional states were improved.

Today, group therapy is a staple treatment approach of providing therapy for clients. At South Coast Behavioral Health, we provide a safe space for clients to explore emotions and develop communication skills. For this reason, our group therapy services can help you develop a wide range of skills that will serve you long after each session has ended.

Group therapy

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of therapy in which one or more therapists treat a small group of clients together as a group. The idea behind it is other participants can provide each other with moral support and encouragement. It’s often used in conjunction with individual therapy and medication. Group sessions can be a powerful addiction treatment tool for addressing psychological issues.

By allowing individuals to interact with others who are dealing with similar issues, feelings of stigma and isolation are reduced. Group therapy also allows individuals to see how others handle similar problems, which can give them new insights into their difficulties.

Group therapy sessions are typically guided by a healthcare professional. This therapist can ensure that the discussion remains safe and constructive for everyone involved. Sessions are a bit longer than the ones in individual psychotherapy – typically around 45 to 90 minutes. Groups usually meet once or twice a week.

We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Types of Group Therapy

Group therapy is not limited to discussions surrounding drug and alcohol addiction. It can also offer a space for those in recovery to connect with others. While in treatment for substance abuse, our clients can enjoy a wide range of group therapy services. These services can allow clients to find new ways to cope with problems and manage triggers in healthy ways.

The different group therapy types have benefits for people receiving addiction treatment because many aspects of addiction can cause mistrust. As clients participate in groups, they can work on developing better communication skills and, in turn, more healthy relationships.

Group therapy

There are a variety of approaches to group therapy that incorporate unique techniques to help clients process their emotions and practice healthy forms of communication. Each of our group therapies focuses on different themes to address a variety of issues that can arise during recovery.

Key types of group therapy include:

Different Kinds of Group Therapy Exercises

We offer several specialized group therapy services. These exercises may focus on the following:

Gender-Specific Groups

Gender-specific groups are separated by gender to address issues unique to each gender and to promote open, honest discussions without the risk of fear or judgment. For example, women's groups might discuss societal pressures, body image, or abuse, while men's groups might focus on emotional expression, societal expectations, or masculinity. These groups provide a space where clients feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics.

Trauma-Informed Groups

Trauma-informed groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, learn from each other, and develop coping strategies. These groups can help create a sense of community and belonging as clients work together to build resilience and healing. By creating a safe and supportive space, trauma-informed groups can provide the tools needed to recover. With the right support, individuals can gain insight into their struggles and become empowered on their path toward healing.

Psychoeducational Groups

Psychoeducational groups can provide a beneficial platform for people to learn more about substance use disorders and mental health. Our education-based groups often consist of educational lectures, skill-building exercises, and peer-led discussions. As clients learn about the science of addiction, they gain insight into their struggles and can find hope that recovery is attainable.

Skills-Building Groups

Skills-building groups focus on teaching and developing practical skills that participants can use to manage their conditions. Skills-building groups often teach CBT techniques for managing symptoms like anxiety or negative self-talk. These groups can also incorporate DBT skills such as mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Relapse Prevention Groups

Similar to recovery support groups, these groups specifically focus on strategies to prevent relapse in individuals recovering from addiction. They may cover topics like identifying triggers, managing cravings, and developing healthy coping mechanisms.

Experiential Groups

This type of group therapy uses expressive tools, such as art, music, drama, or movement, to help participants express and process their emotions. These therapies can be particularly beneficial for those who find it difficult to verbalize their feelings or experiences.

What To Expect in Group Therapy

Group therapy typically consists of roughly 15 patients and one or more therapists. Groups will meet once or twice per week, usually on a consistent day and time.

While each group therapy session can vary depending on the therapist and the participants involved, here are some general things you can expect:

Introductions and Setting Ground Rules

At the beginning of group therapy, participants often introduce themselves and discuss why they’re there. The therapist may also set ground rules to ensure a safe, respectful, and comfortable environment. This can include rules about maintaining confidentiality, respecting others when they speak, being nonjudgmental, and committing to regular attendance.

Structure and Format

Group therapy can vary widely in format. Some groups may be more structured, with the therapist leading discussions and activities. Other groups may be more open, with participants encouraged to bring up topics or issues they want to discuss. The frequency and duration of meetings also can vary, but weekly 90-minute sessions are quite common.

Sharing Experiences and Feelings

Most group therapy involves participants sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can be an emotional process, but it can also be validating to realize others are going through similar experiences.

Feedback and Support

In addition to sharing, group therapy often involves giving and receiving feedback and support. This can help participants see their issues from new perspectives and learn new ways to cope with their problems.

Learning Through Observation

Even when you’re not the one sharing or receiving feedback, there’s a lot to be learned in group therapy. By observing how others handle their issues, you can gain insights and ideas that may apply to your own life.

Group Therapy Topics in Rehab

We believe in using evidence-based techniques to foster a safe and therapeutic environment for our clients. Our group sessions incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness approaches, and more. The goal is to create an atmosphere of learning and healing for our clients.

Within our group therapy sessions, our trained facilitators guide clients in a variety of discussions, some of which include:

Throughout the treatment process, clients learn to address emotional, physical, and spiritual issues. At the same time they do this, they are also building valuable connections with their peers.

By participating in group therapy exercises, the support and compassion of your peers can empower you to live an authentic, addiction-free life. With the right support and treatment, we believe recovery is possible for everyone.

Remember that the specific methods and goals of group therapy can vary widely. They depend on the group’s focus and the therapist’s approach. It’s important to find a group that fits your needs and feels comfortable for you.

Tips for Listening and Communication in Group Settings

Our groups at South Coast strive to create a comfortable atmosphere where clients can feel seen, heard, and supported in their recovery journey. To help our clients build interpersonal skills, we incorporate several tips for listening and communicating in group settings such as:

We understand that the therapeutic process can be challenging at times, so we strive to provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for clients to explore their feelings. Our counselors encourage a supportive atmosphere of collaboration and open discussion between clients and therapists. This helps to create an empowering experience. Similarly, we practice empathy in all our sessions so that each client has the opportunity to express themselves freely.

As clients practice these tips, they become active participants in our supportive group environment. In learning interpersonal communication skills,  our clients allow space for everyone to be heard and benefit from the session. 

Everyone’s experience in group therapy is unique, and it’s okay if it takes you a little time to feel comfortable. Just keep an open mind, be respectful, and remember that everyone else in the group is there for the same reason: to heal and grow.

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

Group therapy offers a variety of benefits including:

Sense of Belonging

Group therapy provides a sense of community. As you listen to others share stories about similar struggles and experiences, you can feel less alone. This knowledge can also offer reassurance and comfort.

Learning Through Observation

Group therapy allows you to observe how others handle conflict, express emotions, or cope with stress. These observations can inform your behavior and coping mechanisms.

Improved Social Skills

Group therapy provides a chance to practice new behaviors in a safe and supportive environment, which can enhance your social skills and improve your interactions with people in and out of the group.

Normalization of Experiences

Sharing experiences and feelings that you might have thought were unique to you can help to normalize them, reducing feelings of isolation, shame, or being misunderstood.

Shared Experience and Support

Sharing experiences and emotions in a safe, supportive environment can provide relief and validation. Hearing how others cope with their issues can offer insight and potentially helpful strategies to solve your own issues.

Feedback and Perspective

In a group setting, you can receive diverse feedback and viewpoints from your peers. This can help you view your situation from different perspectives, challenge your beliefs, and adjust your unhealthy behaviors.

Enhanced Self-Awareness

By seeing how others respond to your behavior and being encouraged to reflect on this, you may enhance your self-awareness and understanding of how you interact with others.


Seeing others make progress in group therapy can be inspiring and provide a model for change in yourself. When you see a peer succeed, it can give you hope that the same success is possible for you.

Remember, while there are many benefits, group therapy may not be the best choice for everyone. The type of therapy that will be most beneficial for your healing process will depend on your particular needs, circumstances, and personal comfort.

Group Therapy at South Coast Behavioral Health

During treatment for substance abuse, South Coast incorporates a wide variety of therapeutic modalities. This is so our clients can most benefit from our services. We emphasize a holistic treatment approach to recovery, utilizing evidence-based interventions and innovative approaches tailored to the individual’s strengths and needs. Our comprehensive group counseling services incorporate evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Both CBT and DBT have proven effective in treating anxiety disorder, stress disorders, panic disorder and other mental health conditions.

CBT Groups

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that focuses on identifying and changing negative or destructive thought patterns. It also addresses behaviors directly, often through exercises or homework assignments that build new skills or habits.

DBT Groups

Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) on the other hand, is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. It’s called “dialectical” because it involves finding a balance between accepting reality as it is and working towards a change, and the therapy itself often involves balancing opposites.

Looking For An In-Network Substance Abuse Therapist?

Substance Abuse Treatment at South Coast

Throughout each our of substance abuse treatment programs, we provide an environment of trust and support, which allows individuals to truly explore themselves and their emotions. This is because group therapy can be a great way to get out of your own head and connect with others who are on similar journeys. With the help of one of our highly trained clinicians, you or a loved one can find the help and support needed to reach your goals.

At South Coast Behavioral Health, we believe that all individuals have the right to quality treatment for substance use disorders. Our compassionate team is dedicated to providing evidence-based therapy practices to help you or a loved one make positive changes. If you or a loved one are interested in group therapy, South Coast Behavioral Health is happy to help. 

Residential Treatment in California

Residential treatment, also known as inpatient treatment, is our highest level of care. Here, you’ll receive round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring from a mental healthcare professional while living at one of our facilities full-time. Group therapy within this level of care would focus on education, support, and skill development.

Partial Hospitalization in California

This is a slightly less intensive level of care than residential treatment. Here, our clients can receive care five to seven days a week for several hours each day, returning to their homes in the evening. This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense group sessions in skill development and personal growth. PHP is a great place to overcome substance abuse or find excellent mental health care. 

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

Clients undergoing intensive outpatient treatment in Newport Beach can expect to meet three to five days a week of therapy, with each session lasting three hours. This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility. Group therapy sessions here emphasize job readiness, life skills, and relapse management training. IOP offers participants the ability to continue their employment or academic obligations, receiving support and therapy as needed as they prepare to reenter society. We also offer special training like continuing education and interpersonal learning as part of our aftercare training programs. 

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Group Therapy in Orange County, CA

If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, group therapy may be an effective treatment option for you. It is important to note that group sessions require active participation in order for them to be successful. If you think group therapy might be right for you, please reach out to us today!

We provide group therapy for men within our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Irvine, CA.

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We offer group therapy for women at our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Huntington Beach, CA.

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We provide group therapy for men within our residential inpatient facility in Costa Mesa, CA.

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We provide group therapy during our PHP and IOP programs in Newport Beach, CA.

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Along with group therapy, our treatment centers in California offer a wide range of services and dedicated addiction specialists who will help you begin your journey. We believe in empowering real people to get real, lasting results in recovery. 

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