Addiction can seem like a distinctly individual challenge. This is true in a way. At the end of the day only an addict himself can avoid addictive behavior. It’s an individual process, and one that relies on personal discipline. But along the way, a great number of recovering addicts find solace in group therapy.
You hear about this most frequently with regard to the AA meetings that a lot of alcoholics and other addicts regularly attend in order to keep themselves straight. Typically these are scheduled sessions in which small communities of people struggling with addiction get together simply to talk openly about their progress and their struggles. Typically, there’s a moderator or therapist of some kind running the show. But why exactly does something like this help? Particularly when so many of us have such a difficult time discussing addictive behaviors in our own social circles, it can seem almost counterintuitive that airing everything out to a group can benefit people.
Every recovering addict would probably have a slightly different response as to what about communal therapy helps so much. But these are some of the benefits that tend to go a long way.
Often it’s the people who are closest and dearest to an addict that are hardest to talk to about the problem. People struggling with addiction feel all kinds of difficult emotions: shame, anger, and sometimes a deep desire to just be left alone. These emotions can make it difficult to confront even close friends and family. But it can be a lot easier to talk about things with other people who share a similar outlook or are dealing with a similar situation. Talking about the problem and any potential solutions is extremely important in addiction therapy, and thus getting together with the right group can make a major impact.
Lack Of Judgment
Unfortunately, we as a society still have a lot of negative stigmas attached to addiction. To be sure, addiction is negative – but that doesn’t mean it should be looked down upon. You’ve undoubtedly heard the cliché, but it happens to be true: addiction is a disease. And yet those of us who do not struggle with it tend to look at addicts more critically than we would, say, cancer patients or heart attack survivors. Communal therapy offers addicts the chance to work through their problems with other people who understand the problem and are therefore less likely to be judgmental (and by extension, more likely to be supportive).
More often than not, an AA meeting or a similar setup will involve a moderator or therapist who has professional experience. Seeking out this kind of help as an individual can be a difficult step, and again, addicts can easily feel that they’re being judged even when speaking to professionals. But in a group setting, professional therapy can almost blend in to the overall discussion. It’s there, and it should get through to everyone in attendance, but it’s not so direct as to make any one person feel pressure or judgment.
Perhaps most importantly, communal therapy gives each individual the chance to hear about other people’s struggles, and in some cases how they overcame them. You can always read similar stories online, of course, and there are plenty of forums in which addicts discuss issues with each other. But hearing about the journeys of others in person makes everything more human and more real. This can be incredibly beneficial for all involved, and is perhaps the main reason that this type of therapy can in many cases be so helpful.