Gang Up: How You Can Find Strength in Numbers

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

We all have days when people should approach with caution. We may even have days when solitary confinement sounds like a reward. But the truth of the matter is that we are all relational creatures at the core and this fundamental trait is one of the reasons group therapy is so effective.

Group therapy is particularly effective for substance abuse because it provides the relational CAGES we need to remain committed to recovery: Confrontation, Affiliation, Gratification, Empathy and Support.

(C)onfrontation

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  • When dealing with substance abuse, we often need others to confront us with the truth. Group therapy provides a dynamic that encourages this process.
  • Others who have endured similar trials confront us with authority based on common experiences. This makes us more likely to listen to what they have to say.
  • As members of a group, we are likely to participate in the confrontation of someone else who might be slipping. This can help everyone identify their own areas of denial.
  • Within the group, we must learn (or re-learn) the social skills needed to cope with life – and do it without turning to substances. We can confront our own behavior patterns, learn from others and practice new skills.
  • Other group members provide feedback about our values and abilities. This helps us acknowledge the lies we have believed about our own circumstances and the circumstances of others.

(A)ffiliation

  • When we are battling substance abuse, we often experience feelings of isolation. We are torn between reaching out and drawing deeper into ourselves. Group therapy creates a sense of affiliation with others who have been there, done that.
  • A group setting also offers a family-like experience. Since many of us lack a supportive and nurturing family, group offers an opportunity to experience something similar. Additionally, it allows us to practice positive ways of interacting with family members.
  • Group members can provide support outside the therapy setting. This additional contact encourages a sense of affiliation with others and helps us establish a sense of belonging.

(G)ratification

  • When we go through the group therapy process, we get to witness the success of others. Seeing these victories can be both fulfilling and encouraging.
  • Watching and hearing about the success of our fellow group members also gives us hope. Kind of gives that old adage “If he can do it, so can I” a whole new meaning, huh?
  • This setting gives us a place to share our own victories, which can be extremely gratifying.

(E)mpathy

  • As we struggle with addiction, it is important to feel that others are able to identify with us. We want to know someone understands what we are going through…and group therapy fills this need. We see others with similar problems, empathize with one another and teach each other how to handle common hardships.
  • When difficult tasks are looming in the near future, group members can offer a unique and genuine form of empathy. We know they truly “get it.”

We want to know someone understands what we are going through…and group therapy fills this need.

(S)upport

  • Group therapy provides the positive peer support and the pressure we need to stay on track. This setting encourages commitment to the group and its standards. As a result, abstinence is strongly encouraged.
  • Useful information is shared among members, such as how to avoid triggers and mindfulness techniques. These tips can be very helpful, especially for those who are new to recovery.
  • Therapy groups can provide a sense of calm and stability in a life that has otherwise been filled with chaos. The group gives us a soft place to land; it also gives us discipline when we desperately need it.

If you or a loved one could benefit from the CAGES of group therapy, take the next step and seek the help of a professional. You’ll thank yourself for it in the end.
Additional Reading:   Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Right for You?

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