Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment

In my last post I wrote about self-help groups organized by certain professions to help their therapy.jpg That got me thinking about group therapy. Recovery programs and centers employ numerous tools, depending on the program and center: 1-on-1 counseling with an addiction specialist, nutrition education, natural remedies, medication, books, meditation, yoga, and a person who becomes a sponsor. 

Many recovery center programs, but not all, offer group therapy as well. The ones that don’t seem to appeal to people who might want confidentiality, like executives. WebMD holds that one of the greatest benefits of group therapy is that it can make people realize they’re not alone. Do a search on your state for some of the self-help groups and you’ll see how true that is—at least by sheer numbers.

Whatever is said in group therapy is supposed to be confidential, so for many people a group is a place to feel safe.  Group therapy can be run by a professional, as in a recovery center or even at a college,  or in a self-help group, by a facilitator, a group member.Thumbnail image for group therapy 2.jpg

The Georgetown University webpage on group therapy—which is directed at students—says

“Not only do students receive tremendous understanding, support, and encouragement from others facing similar issues, but they also gain different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints on those issues.”

There’s an interesting group listed on the site that may attract students before their drinking develops into a full-blown addiction:

Alcohol and Other Drugs Explorations Group

This is a group designed for Georgetown students who are reassessing their use of alcohol or other substances.  There is no requirement of abstinence.  The only requirement is a willingness to examine what is happening around one's use of substances.  This is a confidential counseling group, not an AA group or a 12-step group.  Students are welcome to refer themselves, and faculty and staff may also make referrals.  Students may join at any point in the semester.  The Group Facilitator is Phil Meilman, PhD.  A brief screening and orientation meeting will be needed beforehand to ensure that students are matched appropriately to the group. No Fee.


Professionals in Recovery

A big part of recovery, for most people, is the support they get from their peers, people who have been female judge in court room.jpgthrough what they face, to keep them strong, relate to what they’re saying, be a shoulder. There are several recovery groups for professionals in recovery, including lawyers and medical professionals who have banded together to help their own. 

Although no one is immune from addiction, some time ago I read that the field with the highest number of employees who abuse alcohol is construction.  Construction members may not fall into the category of professionals, but that’s beside the point. They’re certainly professionals in their chosen work. Wouldn’t it be nice if more fields would join together to help their members?

Here are a few recovery groups for various professionals:


  • Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers   angIndividual states seem to have their own groups; nowhere could I find a national group. Pennsylvania’s group,, has this on its website:

LCL has a network of nearly 250 volunteers located throughout the Commonwealth. These lawyers and judges are in recovery from alcoholism, addiction to medication or other drugs, stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, process addiction, sexual addiction, various emotional problems and other mental health issues. 

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc., does not disclose any identifying information about those we help to the Disciplinary Board, Judicial Conduct Board, Board of Law Examiners, or the Pennsylvania Bar Association.


 This is a California organization for lawyers and judges in recovery.


  •  Physicians’ Recovery Network (PRN)

PRN is an umbrella term relating to the Impaired Practitioners Program. There are several of these for doctors in recovery, including one organization for podiatrists, started by the Podiatric Medical Association. It includes those in recovery from physical impairments.


 This is a forum for nurses in recovery.


Relationships in Early Recovery

I’ve heard that it’s not a good idea for two people in rehab, or new to recovery, to start dating each other. This was from a friend in recovery, not an addiction expert. Joan told me that when someone already in recovery starts dating a newcomer it is known in "Recovery Speak" as "thirteenth stepping" and generally frowned on.

I don’t personally know if the prevailing wisdom about sex and love in early recovery is correct or not, but the idea seems to makes sense, for several reasons. I’m no expert, but I imagine that there’s so much to focus on in rehab or when you’re newly sober that having a new love interest – especially someone in the same boat -- would muddy the waters. Wouldn’t someone newly sober have a fragile ego and perhaps link up with the first person they’re attracted to (or is attracted to them) without thinking it through? What about confusing neediness with love? Not even knowing what one actually feels yet, needing to clear one's head over several months?easy does it guide to recovery.jpg

Pamela Graham, an MRBC counselor, says that “often, an alcoholic or addict has an obsession to use alcohol or another drug for a sense of ease and comfort. If they’re no longer getting that from alcohol and drugs, left untreated, they’ll often latch onto a relationship for a sense of ease and comfort. That’s why in recovery people need to focus on recovery first -- complete treatment, and get through the 12 steps. Otherwise they may get into a codependent relationship. It’s like a drug for them. An obsession -- a recurring, persistent idea, which is more powerful than anything --can transfer to a relationship, where people get a sense of validation from others.”   The 12 steps, Graham reminds people, work on compulsive behavior as well as other conditions.

As human nature isn’t always wise, here’s a book therapist Mary Faulkner has written about this issue: Easy Does It Dating Guide: For People in Recovery. advertises it as the only book written about this specific topic.

There are always exceptions to every rule.  MBRC Counselor Allen Glass knew about one.  Here is another I recently I read about.  A Sacramento couple after dating in recovery, went on to forge a life together. They met at a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting in 2008 and got married the next year.

The two are an unlikely couple. Paul had spent years in prison and had a drug problem.  Jennifer, also an addict, had a daughter from a previous relationship and was close to losing custody. Paul is a drug counselor now, and Jennifer, who went to cooking school after getting clean, is working at a steak house. They’re engaged with life, productive, and happy. Last year, thanks to Habitat for Humanity, they got a house. First they had to clean up their credit report, and then they had to reapply because Habitat had rejected them initially. By then they had another child in addition to Jennifer’s daughter from a prior relationship.

Jennifer volunteers at church and is a sponsor for others in NA. Paul’s pursuing not one, but two college degrees. They know that relapse is a possibility but it doesn’t weigh on them. They’re too busy grabbing onto this second chance and being thankful they finally have a family life.