Client celebrating a happy, healthy and sober life.

Individual Therapy & Group Therapy: What You Need to Know

When it comes to approaching a sustainable recovery, individual therapy and group therapy are two of the most important components that come to mind. While most people may think that these two therapies are at odds with each other, they actually complement one another in many ways than one. It helps to have a better understanding of how these modalities work in order to form an effective treatment plan. This article will discuss what individual therapy and group therapy is all about.

What is individual therapy?

As the name suggests, individual therapy is about a client working with a licensed mental health professional on a one-on-one basis. This private session allows the client to openly discuss their thoughts, emotions, and feelings to gain a better sense of identity and self-knowledge. The therapist creates the entire frame of the therapy from where the sessions will be conducted, how the client’s progress will be measured, and which approach best fit the client’s needs.

Usually, individual therapy is conducted in a therapist’s office, but this can be conducted in almost any outdoor setting provided that privacy can be reasonably maintained. A typical therapy session consists of both the client and the therapist working together and setting goals for the client to commit to. Such goals may include staying sober for the next three days or participating in a new recovery activity.

With modern therapeutic methods, the therapist focuses more on motivational interviewing instead of the traditional confrontational approach to encourage clients to make lasting life changes. Some recovery programs use contingency management to motivate clients and reward their commitment with either tokens or incentives.

Individual Therapy

There are plenty of benefits to individual therapy and it has enormous potential to positively affect a client’s life. Some of the major advantages of individual therapy are:

  • Learn to establish safe, trustworthy relationships
  • Identify bad habits and work on replacing them with healthy ones
  • Develop accountability for one’s own actions
  • Communicate feelings more openly
  • Improve one’s self-awareness

What is group therapy?

Compared to individual therapy, group therapy gives multiple people the opportunity to learn healthy coping methods, enhance their communication skills, and draw strength from their peers all in one session. For people who’ve succumbed to the grips of addiction, they’ve witnessed their interpersonal relationships become ravaged because of it. With group therapy, individuals can learn from each other’s experiences and use them to maintain strong, healthy relationships in the future.

A licensed mental health professional leads the group therapy session where everyone is encouraged to participate. Like with individual therapy, group therapy follows a detailed program constructed by the therapist with goals and progress in mind. Clients can open up and discuss things related to their struggles, successes, and setbacks. Of course, the therapeutic approach to group therapy is slightly different and the therapist must have specialised training to ensure the sessions are safe, dynamic, and collaborative in nature.

Group therapy sessions reinforce a very important message and that is regardless of the outcome of the treatment, the client is not alone when facing difficulties with recovery. Group therapy is entirely different from mutual or self-help support groups since the latter is often led by community members instead of trained professionals. The wealth of input can help group members better understand their life decisions and become more self-aware of their situations from a different perspective.

The benefits of group therapy come from our innate ability to relate to others. It’s the feelings of connection and understanding that empower each group member to make lasting life changes as they continue on with their recovery. Some of the benefits of group therapy are:

  • Develop better relationship skills
  • Build trust in other people
  • Improve communication skills
  • Be more open to other thoughts and perspectives
  • Learn to set healthy boundaries in relationships
  • How to listen and respond courteously

Which therapy is best for you?

No single treatment modality can cure the disease of addiction. Often times, it’s a combination of multiple therapies in order to improve one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state. This means that individual therapy and group therapy are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they form a yin-and-yang-type bond to give clients the best chance of recovery. If we’re talking about weighing the benefits of both modalities, it all comes down to these factors that are specific to you:

  • Your personal preference
  • Your needs and requirements
  • Which therapy you feel most comfortable with
  • The amount of support you receive
  • Desire for accountability

Individual therapy sets the stage for in-depth self-reflection while group therapy is more towards establishing a meaningful connection. In addition to both therapies, advanced treatment programs incorporate other modalities such as medication therapy, exercise therapy, expressive therapy, and nutritional therapy to help maximise their benefits.

You don’t have to choose a single therapy for your recovery. You’ll find that as you go through various modalities, you’ll gain a better understanding of yourself, the people around you, and your own addiction. This, in turn, will boost your chances of success and get you one step closer to achieving sobriety for the long haul. Individual and group therapy are equally effective and when combined together, can amplify their effects and help people make lasting life changes.

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