Group therapy is often an important part of all levels of recovery. As human beings, we have a need for fellowship— especially during times of stress or hardship. Group therapy offers multiple benefits, including:
- Reduced isolation, which is a contributing factor to substance abuse and addiction
- The ability to engage with other individuals who may be farther along in recovery and can offer some encouragement
- A proven method for treating co-occurring diagnoses such as depression or anxiety
As with any group activity, you usually get out of group Christian addiction therapy what you put in. Here are some tips for being a good member of a Christian therapy group.
Follow Confidentiality Rules
Inside an inpatient facility, it’s easy to follow confidentiality rules. What’s said in the group should remain in the group. Plus, you don’t have many options for sharing private information within an inpatient environment. When you transition to outpatient or aftercare treatment, you might take part in group therapy during partial hospitalization or AA and NA meetings. It can be tempting to share stories outside of treatment— especially with people you trust— but repeating anything that someone shared in confidence is wrong.
As a Christian, you might not even mean to breach a confidence or engage in gossip. You might simply be inspired by someone’s story and want to share it with others. It’s not your story to tell, though; instead, work on creating your own story so you can share personal testimony instead.
Pray When You Say You Will
It’s easy to say “I’ll pray for you” and a lot harder to actually remember and make a point of praying. Prayer is often a big component of Christian recovery efforts, so promising to pray for someone else dealing with an addiction or substance abuse disorder is a big deal. If you say you’ll pray, do it sooner rather than later so you don’t forget. Even better, instead of promising to pray later, ask if you can pray now.
You might be uncomfortable praying alongside another person, but chances are if you’re in recovery, you’re developing a lot of new habits and coping skills. Try making prayer one of them; if you aren’t comfortable praying aloud with someone else, then pray immediately but silently when you see a need.
Help and Care for Others
Studies have shown that those who listen to others or perform helpful acts reap emotional and psychological rewards. Being part of a group in a caring, involved manner does as much for your spiritual and mental health as it does for your addiction recovery.
While group addiction therapy doesn’t always lend itself to helping others outside of the sessions, you can always take advantage of opportunities to assist in the group. Help set up if you arrive early, or help clean up snacks or other items after the group is over.
Be kind to people: remember their names, smile when you see them and build them up with words of affirmation. Don’t fake it ’til you make it on this one; get to know people enough to offer legitimate and meaningful kind words. Remember that everyone in group addiction therapy is dealing with recovery too, and you never know when a compliment or caring smile might be what gets them through the next hour.
Share and Listen
The foundation of group therapy is that everyone shares and everyone listens. When participating in groups, you should share in some way — think of it as your price of admission. You can sit back and learn from what everyone else says for a while, but eventually, it’s important to speak up with your own story. It’s okay to be confused or “unfinished” in what you say in the group — it’s one place where you’re unlikely to experience judgment from your peers.
In return, you should avoid judging others and be a good listener. Good listeners don’t interrupt, make others feel wrong, provide advice when it wasn’t solicited or attempt to one-up what was just said with a better — or worse — story.
Don’t Try to Fix Things for Others
It’s difficult to listen to what others have to say without wanting to help or provide some type of fix, especially if you are compassionate and caring. But someone who is dealing with addiction must face their own battles, so you can’t fix things for them. Instead of providing actionable advice on what to do in a certain situation, consider simply sharing your own story and letting others draw conclusions at the same time that you learn from their stories.
Know that group therapy isn’t a time to “fix” everything that’s wrong. It’s a time to reflect on and discuss drug use, what has happened to you, triggers and coping mechanisms and any struggles you are having with sobriety. By participating in group therapy as a caring Christian, you can enhance everyone’s ability to do these things.