Group therapy is the core of Kolmac’s approach
“Great! That’s just what I was looking for” is not the response that I ever hear from patients about to start outpatient addiction rehabilitation at Kolmac when I tell them that group therapy is the core of our approach. Most would prefer individual therapy. This is not, however, a situation in which the customer is always right. Group therapy has become the standard for treating addictions not because patients prefer it, but because it works. Because of their poor results, most clinicians are not willing to use individual therapy as their primary approach. The words of one of my supervisors during my training, referring to individual therapy were, “Psychotherapy is to addictions like penicillin is to cancer.”
Fortunately, most of the patients with whom I work get comfortable quickly in a group setting, come to see its advantages, and are able to make the most of it. Their addiction has typically stimulated painful feelings of shame and hopelessness, leading them to become isolated and secretive. Finding themselves in the company of others struggling with very similar issues allows new patients to begin to talk openly about their situation, leading to changes in the way that they think, feel, and behave. The ultimate result is to escape the quagmire of their addiction as they move on to recovery.
Environment of emotional safety in group therapy
This process can only evolve if the group therapy is designed so that it does not drive away the people who, although reluctant, are willing to give it a try. At Kolmac we find that our patients share a similar set of problems relating to their use of alcohol and drugs but are often unfamiliar with the psychological examination of their internal thoughts and feelings as well as external behavior. Our goal is to create an environment of emotional safety in which people are willing to take the risk of exposing their vulnerabilities. Our patients move at their own pace, more cautious at first and becoming more open with experience and increasing comfort. The staff leads the group in a way that strives to avoid extremes of long, anxiety-provoking silences or adversarial “hot seat” confrontations. Next week, I will describe some of the details about how we have designed and conduct the groups.
Contact us to learn more about group therapy at Kolmac.