Addictions are among the most widespread psychological pathologies in the population, to the point that the abuse of certain substances with addictive potential is strongly normalized (despite the disastrous consequences on physical and mental health).
Fortunately, however, research in clinical psychology and the health sciences has led to the development of valuable and highly versatile therapeutic resources to help people with these disorders. In addition, much of the effectiveness and flexibility of these forms of patient intervention is due to the fact that today addiction treatment is not seen as something that always has to come through. work with dependents as individual entities, but also involve other people.
In this article we will see which is one of these therapeutic approaches in which there is the participation of several people: group treatment of addictions.
Overcoming addiction is not an individual process
Addictions are caused by changes in the nervous system; changes in the brain that have been induced by the use of a certain drug or by the repeated performance of an addictive behavior (for example, betting money on “slot machines”).
These transformations of certain structures of the nervous system make the person much more predisposed to continue to nourish this dependence (or even to develop new addictions in parallel), and at the same time participate in the appearance of the withdrawal syndrome: when the person takes more long than usual without satisfying the addiction, he begins to feel very bad quickly, and may even suffer from more or less severe psychiatric symptoms.
However, beyond the biomedical facet of addictions, there is also a psychosocial facet. The drug addict not only suffers from organic alterations generated by the pathology (tremors when going for a long time without consuming, more sensitivity to stimuli, etc.), he also builds a way of life, of thinking and of feeling that contributes to addiction. For example, it is very common for people with a deeply rooted addiction in their life to orient their social life towards interacting with other people who are also addicted, leaving friendships, family relationships, etc.
This social and contextual element, the activities, the people and the environments to which the person is exposed, participate in the maintenance of the addiction … but it means that by this way it is also possible to help the person who wants to overcome the disease.
This is why in recent decades, therapeutic intervention processes have emerged in patients that go beyond the individual. For example, through what is called a therapeutic community, the patient is encouraged to get involved in a dynamic of activities carried out collectively and mutual aid in an open and inclusive space for people with similar problems.
But in this article, we will focus on a specific context of therapeutic group intervention: group psychotherapy to help addicts.
The 5 keys to treating addictions
It is the characteristics of group addiction treatment that make this type of intervention an effective resource for exiting drug addiction or addictive behavior.
1. Participants motivate each other
We must not forget the human component of group therapy sessions; in them it is easier to find understanding people with those who are addicted, and empathy is generated. From this empathy arises the desire for the group therapy partner to break out of their addiction, and this is reflected in the way participants relate to each other.
2. Patients have theoretical and practical information
A lot of valuable information on how to treat this pathology circulates in group therapy applied to addictions. This information is provided by both therapists and other participants., which provide their experiential perspective.
3. A therapeutic experience full of memorable moments is generated, which are “anchored” in the memory of the person.
Much of the effectiveness of different forms of therapy lies in their ability to grab the person’s attention at key times, so that they behave in a manner consistent with what has been learned on a daily basis.
When performed in a group, group therapy dinstead of many moments that remain etched in the memory of the participants, because it is an experience rich in nuances and in which you interact with several people, each with their own history and identity. Thanks to this, many situations that patients will experience on a daily basis will evoke memories of what happened in previous sessions.
4. The expectation of speaking about oneself in front of several people motivates not to back down
Having made the commitment to overcome addiction in front of several people, the degree of motivation with the therapeutic process and the overcoming of this pathology grows.
Patients are less exposed to the temptation to give in to drugs or addictive behaviors because it is only a “personal decision”, and they also begin to reflect on the interests of this community of which they are a part and on their own. image they project. above.
5. Each person has several examples to draw inspiration from
Finally, we must not forget that group therapy is also a place to find referrals; people who, through their history or their attitude, make other patients feel identified with her and see firsthand that it is possible to get out of addiction.
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