A.A Gill, who was a Scottish writer and critic penned down a compelling piece in his first-ever article for Tatler three decades ago; the article details his struggles with alcoholism, but what raises great interest is when he described the role of group therapy in the management of alcoholism. As a ‘central core for treatment’. He continues to say, rightly, ‘If the group doesn’t work, treatment doesn’t work. There is no particular magic involved, just a lot of talking.’
A therapy group involves a number of individuals, usually between 6 to 10 clients meeting regularly to speak about their personal challenges, guided by a professional who assesses and screens and guides member induction into the group and also guides the discussions. The professional may also be tasked to draw ultimate treatment plans for every individual in the group. A clear plan tailored for every client is paramount and so therapists have to be meticulous with each client.
Why group therapy? The very nature of alcoholism usually dictates that addicts’ overdependence on alcohol as their ultimate problem solver leaves them dangerously isolated from the people around them. And hence the glaring reluctance to ask or even receive help when it is offered. Because addicts are more often isolated, the superficial nature of relationships they have with people around them makes it much harder for them to ask for or receive help when it is voluntarily offered. Group therapy usually works well to break this barrier and open up an individual and set them on the way to recovery.
Group therapy has been seen to be surprisingly effective, in relation to many other more sophisticated treatments that fail, also where many self-help routines have faltered. The discussions cultivate a vulnerability in everyone who is part of the group and create an interdependency within the group that drives treatment. Since the people suffering from the addiction are usually in self-denial; they are guilt-stricken and suffer remorse in isolation and imagine that the people around them can’t understand what they are going through. Group therapy offers a camaraderie that allows them to understand and relate their situation making the clients more receptive to other treatments.
Resistance to group therapy has widely witnessed, but for some countries where involuntary admission of people with substance dependence is part of the legal framework, attendance rates have increased when backed with family support. Resistance to group therapy is usually due to preconceived notions that society throws harsh judgment at the people suffering from Alcohol abuse disorder. But education about the condition has been seen to greatly assist caretakers and the community to understand and sympathize with the plight of substance abuse victims.
Many people believe they understand alcoholism because they have been drunk before but it’s not really the same, the dependence is much more harmful and impedes other parts of life than an occasional hungover after a drink.
It is not to be said that group therapy achieves a 100% success rate, but the numbers are better than you can find elsewhere. The road to recovery isn’t smooth, but there is a glimmer of hope with the increasing knowledge about the condition that has spurred on more innovative therapy modules. More and more people are having their conditions well managed and go on to live normal productive lives after alcoholism.