Group Therapy

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Many professionals suggest that group therapy is an invaluable component of cocaine abuse treatment. Most groups are structured to include persons of different backgrounds and at different stages of recovery (1) to help deal with feelings of uniqueness, (2) to expose those in the early stage of treatment to positive role models, and (3) to help instill hope for success. Those who promote group therapy view peer pressure and support as necessary to overcome ambivalence about abstaining from cocaine. Providing support for others and the development of intimate social interaction (e.g., sharing of feelings) is facilitated and presumed to be therapeutic.

Topics of discussion in group therapy vary depending on the group members and the orientation of the therapist. Topics may include early abstinence issues, guilt resolution, marital conflict, or lifestyle changes. Education about adverse effects of cocaine is often included. Group therapy occurs in outpatient or inpatient settings. It is sometimes used as the sole source of treatment or combined with individual counseling and other treatment components. Researchers have acknowledged a number of possible limitations to group therapy. They include loss of confidentiality for the individual, likelihood of avoidance of group therapy because of social anxiety, and negative peer influences.

Research on the efficacy of group vs. individual therapy alone or in combination continues. A European review of 22 controlled outcome studies regarding comparisons between individual and group psychotherapy treatments in general found that there is no superiority of one treatment over the other. The study noted, however, that group therapy has an economic advantage over individual therapy. Another study has shown that there are no significant differences in demographic, personality, or addiction severity variables or in treatment retention or 9-month outcome between cocaine abusers who choose individual therapy and those who choose group therapy.

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