When a person enters an addiction treatment program, they can expect to participate in a variety of services, including individual and group therapy. For veterans in recovery, group therapy sessions tailored toward their unique needs and experiences can be essential for healing.
Group Therapy in Rehab: A Supportive Community
Group therapy programs provide psychological interventions in a group format rather than one-on-one. For veterans in rehab, group therapy is often a part of the daily schedule. Participating in group sessions provides veterans in recovery with access to a supportive community. They will have the opportunity to connect with others experiencing similar challenges, which can help promote positive change.
Group Therapy for Mental Health Needs
Veterans in a rehab program are likely to participate in group therapy to address mental health needs. Some common behavioral health conditions that can be treated with group therapy include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders
A recent study with veterans with PTSD found that group therapy was just as effective as individual therapy for reducing depression and suicidal ideation. Another study with veterans found that group therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of depression and PTSD.
Given that 14–16% of veterans deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq experience depression or PTSD, the benefits of group therapy for treating these conditions are encouraging.
The Benefits of Group Therapy for Veterans
The Veterans Administration recognizes group therapy as being beneficial for veterans. According to a VA clinical psychologist, group therapy brings the following benefits to veteran populations:
- Improved social skills: Being part of a group therapy program means interacting with others and learning healthy communication patterns. This can improve social skills.
- Sense of emotional connection to others: Coping with the challenges that come with veteran life can make you feel quite isolated. In group therapy, you’ll connect to others because they know what you’re going through.
- Better coping skills: Group therapy sessions are often a setting for learning and practicing new coping skills.
- Access to a support network: Other members of your group can be an important source of support. They can listen and help you feel less alone.
- A sense of safety: Group therapy can be a safe setting for veterans to share their experiences because they will be surrounded by others experiencing the same challenges.
- Chance to learn new perspectives: In group therapy sessions, you’ll learn how others have coped with mental and emotional health problems. This can expose you to new perspectives that may be helpful.
- Greater empathy for and understanding of others: In group therapy, you’ll have to offer a listening ear to others who are struggling. This can improve your empathy.
Topics Explored in Group Therapy Sessions
The specific topics covered in group therapy can vary based on the type of therapy program you’re attending. For instance, some group therapy modalities address depression, whereas others teach social skills.
While there is variation, some topics commonly covered in veteran group therapy include:
- How to cope with the return to civilian life
- Improving relationships with spouses and children
- Managing daily stressors in a healthy way
- Learning about symptoms of mental health disorders, such as PTSD or depression
- Developing strategies for alleviating mental health symptoms
- Reducing the harmful effects of substance misuse
- Preventing relapse to substance abuse
- Changing unhelpful thinking patterns
Therapeutic Approaches in Group Therapy
There are a variety of different therapeutic approaches used in group therapy. Some common modalities utilized with veterans include:
- Cognitive processing therapy: Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a modality used in the treatment of PTSD. It helps people explore how trauma has affected their thought processes so they can move toward healing.
- Cognitive behavior therapy: General cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often delivered in group format. This therapeutic approach helps veterans change unhelpful thinking patterns and develop sources of social support.
- Present-centered therapy: This modality has been used in group settings with veteran populations to provide education about typical PTSD symptoms. Present-centered therapy can help veterans access support, improve interpersonal relationships and correct unhelpful behaviors in the present.
- Mindfulness interventions: Veterans may also benefit from mindfulness interventions delivered in a group format. Mindfulness groups can teach skills for stress management and relaxation. Modalities teaching mindfulness help people attend to the present moment without judgment. Becoming more mindful can help veterans to reduce negative emotions and stress levels.
Leading Group Therapy: Who Facilitates the Sessions?
A licensed counselor or therapist should lead group therapy sessions. For instance, a clinical social worker, professional counselor or psychologist may lead group sessions. Ideally, this person should be trained in working with veterans.
At The Recovery Village, clinicians leading groups in our FORTITUDE program have completed training in military cultural competency. This means they are trained to understand the unique needs of veteran populations.
Frequency of Group Therapy at Different Levels of Care
How often you participate in group therapy will vary based on your level of care. In general, inpatient and residential treatment centers offer more group therapy. This is because patients live on-site at these facilities and follow a structured daily schedule, which includes group therapy sessions.
Partial hospitalization programs provide 20 or more hours of service each week and may offer daily group therapy. Intensive outpatient programs offer nine or more but fewer than 20 hours per week and may have group sessions two to three times per week.
Maximizing the Benefits: Tips for Veterans
Group therapy can be highly beneficial for veterans with an addiction and/or a co-occurring mental health diagnosis. It’s important to actively engage in the process to achieve the full benefits. This means keeping an open mind and sharing during group sessions.
Rather than shutting others out, take the time to listen to what group members are saying. You can learn valuable skills and strategies from fellow veterans in group therapy.
Feeling nervous about sharing in groups is natural, but this is a safe setting. You can make great progress when you show the courage to share in a group.
Explore Our FORTITUDE Specialty Track for Veterans
If you’re seeking veteran services, The Recovery Village can help. We can treat addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders like PTSD or depression. We offer a specialty FORTITUDE program with exclusive support groups for veterans and first responders. Contact one of our Veteran Advocates today to get started with treatment.
Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission
The Recovery Village is an industry-leading treatment provider for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
- Experienced clinicians: Our clinicians are specially trained in trauma-informed care, military culture and treating veteran-specific addiction and mental health needs.
- Dual diagnosis: We treat addiction and mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety or depression simultaneously for a better recovery.
- EMDR: A revolutionary treatment available at several facilities, EMDR therapy alleviates mental pain and emotional recession from trauma, which can lead to better outcomes for your addiction.
- FORTITUDE: Our specialty track for veterans and first responders at select facilities puts you in exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers.
If you’re a veteran struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need.
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Patín-Betancourt, Yahaira. “Benefits of Group Therapy Sessions for P[…]ons for PTSD.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, June 26, 2023. Accessed November 13, 2023.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.