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Group Therapy for Alcoholism: Definition, Benefits, and Effectiveness

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 7/6/2023

Group therapy is a commonly used therapeutic approach in addiction treatment, offering individuals with alcoholism an environment in which they can explore their experiences, learn new strategies for sobriety, and build a support network. This article delves into the concept of group therapy, its benefits, effectiveness, and its role in the recovery process from alcoholism.

What is Group Therapy for Alcoholism?

Group therapy involves one or more therapists working with several individuals at the same time. It provides a supportive community where individuals can discuss their struggles, share their recovery journeys, and learn from the experiences of others. Groups are often led by a licensed mental health professional who guides recovering alcoholics on their journey to recovery.

Group therapy is common within most alcohol rehab facilities. This is because it encourages people to open up and share their unique experiences with one another. In doing so, recovering alcoholics begin to bond with one another. 

Overall, group therapy for alcoholism is one of the best types of treatment for the condition.

What is the Role of Group Therapy in Alcoholism Treatment?

In the context of alcoholism, group therapy serves several purposes. It assists individuals in understanding the nature of their addiction, developing coping strategies, improving social skills, and building a sense of accountability. It provides an empathetic environment in which individuals can express their feelings and challenges without fear of judgment.

Is Group Therapy Inpatient or Outpatient Alcohol Rehab?

Group therapy can be a component of both inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab programs, catering to the varying needs and schedules of individuals.

In an inpatient or residential treatment setting, group therapy is often a daily activity. In these intensive programs, patients reside at the treatment center and engage in a variety of therapeutic activities, one of which is group therapy. These sessions may involve other forms of therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), or other specialized group activities, all conducted in a group setting

Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, allows individuals to live at home and attend to their everyday responsibilities while participating in treatment. Group therapy is a common component of outpatient programs too. It provides an opportunity for patients to engage in therapy, gain peer support, and learn coping strategies while maintaining their regular work or home life.

It’s important to note that the choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment depends largely on the individual’s condition, the severity of the addiction, and their personal circumstances. It’s recommended to seek advice from a healthcare provider or a mental health professional to determine the best treatment approach.

What Are the Types of Group Therapy for Alcoholism?

Various forms of group therapy can be beneficial for individuals with alcoholism. Each type of therapy has benefits but might not work for everyone. Always speak with your healthcare provider before making a treatment choice.

Below we list the types of group therapy for alcoholism.

  • Psychoeducational Groups
  • Cognitive Behavioral Groups
  • Skills Development Groups
  • Support Groups

Learn more about each type of group therapy below.

Psychoeducational Groups

Psychoeducational groups are designed to educate individuals about substance abuse, its effects on the body and mind, the process of addiction, and the journey to recovery. They also discuss strategies to maintain sobriety, cope with cravings, manage stress, and rebuild relationships damaged by addiction. The primary goal of these groups is to equip individuals with the knowledge they need to understand and combat their addiction, creating a firm foundation for recovery

Cognitive-Behavioral Groups

These groups use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles to help individuals identify, challenge, and change the distorted thoughts and destructive behavior patterns that contribute to their alcohol abuse. These groups guide individuals in developing healthier and more productive responses to stressors or triggers that typically lead to alcohol consumption. By doing so, individuals can gain a better control over their actions and make better decisions in the face of potential relapse triggers

Skills Development Groups

These groups focus on teaching practical skills that aid in recovery from alcoholism. This could include stress management techniques, coping mechanisms for handling cravings, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and methods for avoiding triggers. The goal of these groups is to arm individuals with a toolkit of strategies they can use to maintain their sobriety and effectively navigate the challenges of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups provide a supportive and non-judgmental space where individuals can share their experiences, challenges, and successes with others who are facing similar struggles. These groups foster a sense of community and mutual understanding, helping individuals feel less alone in their journey. By sharing personal experiences, individuals can gain insights, learn from each other’s coping strategies, and receive encouragement and motivation to continue their recovery journey.

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy for Alcoholism?

Group Therapy has several benefits that make it unique when compared to other alcoholism treatment methods. These benefits usually involve the group dynamic and how members of a group can express themselves in a place where people understand what they’re going through.

We take you through the benefits of group therapy for alcoholism below.

  • Peer Support
  • Increased Accountability
  • Shared Experience

Learn more about each benefit below.

Peer Support

One of the significant advantages of group therapy is the peer support it offers. Members of the group, all dealing with similar issues related to alcoholism, can provide a unique level of understanding, encouragement, and advice that stems from their shared experiences. This support is invaluable as individuals navigate the recovery process, and it can serve to motivate and inspire them as they witness the progress of their peers.

Increased Accountability

Group therapy inherently promotes a sense of responsibility and accountability. As members participate and share within the group setting, they make a commitment to uphold the group’s norms and expectations. This increased accountability can be a powerful motivator in maintaining sobriety, as individuals often feel a sense of responsibility not to let the group down.

Shared Experience

The shared experience that group therapy offers can significantly reduce feelings of isolation and shame that often accompany alcoholism. By interacting with others who are facing similar struggles, individuals can gain a greater understanding that they are not alone in their recovery journey. This collective experience can promote a sense of belonging and community, which is critical in fostering resilience and strength throughout the recovery process.

Effectiveness of Group Therapy for Alcoholism

Group therapy has been shown to be an effective approach for treating alcoholism. It is often used in combination with individual therapy and medication. Research has shown that individuals who participate in group therapy for alcoholism can benefit from reduced cravings, improved mood, better interpersonal relationships, and decreased rates of relapse.

Studies and Evidence of Group Therapy’s Effectiveness in Treating Alcoholism

Group therapy is backed by a significant body of research demonstrating its effectiveness in treating alcoholism.

Learn about some of the studies that have been done on group therapy for alcoholism below.

  • A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that individuals who participated in group therapy demonstrated decreased alcohol use, improved psychological health, and better overall treatment outcomes compared to those who did not receive group therapy.
  • A notable study from the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse indicated that group therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral groups, can be as effective as individual therapy in reducing alcohol consumption and promoting sobriety.
  • A meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that group therapy increased continuous abstinence rates among individuals with alcoholism, pointing to the value of group therapy in long-term recovery.
  • The mutual-help group model, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), has been well studied for its role in supporting recovery. A review published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice noted that engagement in AA and other similar groups was associated with greater chances of maintaining sobriety.

Importantly, while these studies support the efficacy of group therapy, the specific type and approach of group therapy may be more or less effective depending on the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

Understanding group therapy is only part of the recovery process and the next step is to seek help.

What Are the Other Treatments for Alcoholism?

Several treatment modalities are available for alcoholism and some methods will even incorporate group therapy. Learning about each treatment type and what makes them different can help you get the appropriate treatment.

Below we list the most common alcoholism treatment options.

Alcoholism treatment should always be provided by a professional. Make sure you speak with a healthcare provider before selecting any treatments for alcoholism.

Get Help for Alcoholism Today

Group therapy is a powerful tool in the treatment of alcoholism, offering both therapeutic intervention and a community of support. It’s a pathway towards recovery, helping individuals gain insight, develop resilience, and foster a sense of belonging in their journey to sobriety. features a vetted network of the best alcohol rehabs in the United States. We also include alcohol rehabs for each state and provide reviews of each program.


  • Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
  • American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  • Addiction Science & Clinical Practice