Before we enter recovery for substance use disorder, we may hear the terms individual therapy and group therapy tossed around. For many, these terms are vague and conjure mental images of Sigmund Freud scribbling notes as a hysterical woman lies on a fancy couch, spilling her innermost secrets.
Examining Two Types of Therapy
In reality, individual and group therapy offer different ways for a client to interact with a therapist to increase self-awareness, set goals, and improve well-being. Let’s examine each form and see more clearly what they offer to someone receiving treatment for substance abuse.
Individual Therapy: Aren’t We Just Talking?
Well, yes and no. Individual therapy involves just two people: the therapist and the client. This type of setup goes by many names, some of which include:
- Psychosocial therapy
- Talk therapy
The main difference between ‘just talking’ and individual therapy is the intended outcome of the conversation. The therapist and the client have a shared goal to reach. Often, the objective is to better the client’s life in some way via discussion.
What Happens in Individual Therapy?
Normally, the first meeting between the therapist and the person in therapy involves getting to know one another. The therapist often asks questions and gathers information to better understand what issues should be addressed. A full understanding of their client’s needs may not solidify until after the completion of several sessions. Once the therapist identifies specific problem areas and determines a helpful path of action, the client can then expect any of the following:
- Questions or conversations that may produce feelings of anger, sadness, or negativity in the client
- Tasks assigned by the therapist to the client to work on between sessions
- Complete confidentiality, barring cases in which the client may cause harm to themselves or to others
What Does Individual Therapy Help Combat?
This depends on the person, but common reasons people seek talk therapy include but are not restricted to the following:
- Anxiety and stress
- Eating disorders
- Anger management
- Relationship, familial or marriage problems
- Substance abuse
- Mental, physical or sexual abuse
- Sleep issues
- Sexuality, gender, and body issues
Who Chooses Individual Therapy?
Anyone may choose to participate in individual therapy, as it is one approach to increasing a person’s quality of life. One-on-one therapy helps people eradicate obstacles which bar them from optimal health and wellness. It serves to unlock and augment feelings of positivity, a strong sense of self-esteem, skills for managing stress and setbacks, as well as habits for healthy decision-making and follow-through. Additionally, individual therapy helps people to see themselves, to identify problems they didn’t realize interfered with their social, familial, work, and romantic lives. You don’t have to be battling addiction to enter into talk therapy. Many people utilize individual therapy for issues such as those listed above.
So, What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is an offshoot of individual therapy and became popular after the second world war. Unlike individual therapy, it usually involves one therapist and up to or more than fifteen people during a session. The people in the therapy group normally share a crucial issue, such as obesity, addiction, mental illness, or some shared trauma. Like individual therapy, group therapy aims to help individuals reach goals but with the added support and insight of the larger group.
The main difference between individual and group therapy is that those in your group can offer more perspective and the chance to engage in conversation that may prove richer and more illuminating than that shared between a therapist and a single person. Most importantly, the group offers a sense of unity. It helps each individual realize they are not alone in their experience. This can prove incredibly comforting, especially to those struggling with substance abuse. Other benefits of group therapy include:
- Diversity within a social network of people
- A sounding board effect when discussing and analyzing your issues
- A chance to study or complete assigned tasks with other people
- An opportunity to attempt different strategies in pairs or small groups during the therapy
How Do I Decide Which Type of Therapy Is Best for Me?
Both individual and group therapy are viable, helpful options. Depending on your unique situation, one or both may help you reach your personal goals. However, group therapy does tend to be less involved with the individual. The main focus of the group is to tackle the shared issue among the individuals attending therapy. In individual talk therapy, there’s more opportunity to go deeper, touch on an array of issues pertaining to a single person, and to develop a bond between therapist and patient.
Here at St. Gregory Recovery Center, you don’t have to choose between the two. We offer individual counseling to our clients and group counseling within the Family Program. Family members of the resident may come and have individual sessions with a therapist or engage in a group therapy format with the resident and a therapist. Contact us today to receive more information about each form of counseling.