Psychotherapy is noted to be very beneficial for individuals struggling with substance abuse. The delivery model can be individual or group. Many leading substance abuse organizations (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and National Institute on Drug Abuse) have prepared literature pertaining to therapeutic treatment and practices.  Most of the literature focuses on a change in your environment and social network which individual and group therapeutic treatment can assist with when maintaining sobriety.

Individual therapy usually is done one on one with a therapist and the client weekly for about one hour.  The client usually can explore personal issues in a safe environment when they are not ready to interact and share their troubles with others.  Therapists performing individual therapy guide the client, but are focused on personal growth as it pertains to the individual. When participating in individual treatment pertaining to substance abuse, exploration is given to structuring one's life in order to not give time to substance abuse and relapse.  It also looks at personal thinking patterns that could lead to habitual behavior and attempts to change those patterns using cognitive behavioral techniques.  Individual treatment also supports the individual in identifying maladaptive behavior that may have damaged relationships with others or continues to cause distance with significant others.

Group psychotherapy pairs one to two therapists with around six to ten clients. Depending on the focus of the group many types of platforms can be used to facilitate treatment.  Some groups run like classrooms and are more psychoeduaction while others center on support and help with personal growth pertaining to the topic area of the group. Therapist facilitating group sessions usually try to shape the group to allow others to learn from one another and practice appropriate social skills. Group treatment can build upon therapeutic interventions in individual therapy, but also allow individuals other perspectives from group members experiencing similar issues.  In addition, clinicians can assist clients with applying therapeutic techniques that can not be used in individual treatment.  An example of therapeutic techniques would be group role playing, psychoeduacation or social skills development.  Group treatment can also be utilized for individuals who have anxiety pertaining to therapy.  It can be a first step to individual treatment due to the awareness of others sharing there experiences.

Research indicates that group and individual treatment is very effective but they both have benefits unique to their modal.  Individual treatment can assist individuals with support and also look at personal issues that an individual needs to work on in a more one on one format.  Where group treatment allows individuals to have social accountability with others who are experiencing the same therapeutic struggles they are facing.  It is effective because individuals are accountable to other group members who likely will be a support and reminder of maladaptive behavioral patterns that can affect sobriety.  However, it should be noted that the best practice is a combination of both individual and group treatment, but due to cost effectiveness most individuals do not attend both.

Tips for deciding if individual or group treatment is right for you:

  • Examine where you are at emotionally. Ask your self, "Do I have personal issues that I would rather discuss privately before taking them to a group setting?", or "Do I want to know that others are struggling too and maybe a group format would help with my personal recovery?"
  • If you have insurance, check with your provider and see want your benefits cover and the cost for services. Having this information will assist you with an informed decision pertaining to what you can afford.
  • Before making a final decision, discuss your options with a qualified mental health professional.  Usually they can help guide you to resources and therapeutic agencies that might be able to assist you with both types of treatment for low cost.