10 Common Topics In Substance Abuse Group Therapy

Many people who struggle with substance abuse feel misunderstood and isolated. That’s why group therapy often plays an essential role in substance abuse treatment. 

During group therapy, a trained group leader facilitates discussions on topics related to drug use and recovery. Here are some of the most popular group therapy topics

1. Triggers

Triggers are people, places, emotions, or other things that make you want to abuse drugs. Common triggers include:

  • people you used to drugs with
  • bars, clubs, or other places where drug use is common
  • stress, grief, or other challenging emotions
  • the smell of alcohol or other drugs

No matter what your triggers are, they can cause intense drug cravings that increase your risk of relapse. In group therapy sessions, you and your fellow group members will identify your triggers and discuss coping skills to help you deal with them. 

2. Mindfulness

During recovery and addiction treatment, you may experience anxiety, sadness, guilt, and a variety of other overwhelming feelings. 

One of the most effective coping strategies for these feelings is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to observe your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. It can help you accept difficult emotions and find healthy ways to manage them.

Many group therapy leaders highlight mindfulness as a key tool in addiction recovery. They will discuss specific ways to become more mindful, such as mindfulness meditation. 

3. Self-Care

When you live with addiction, it’s difficult to focus on anything besides drugs. That’s why many people with the disease stop taking care of themselves and develop bad habits like eating poorly and not getting enough sleep. 

In group therapy, you and your peers will explore ways to practice self-care, such as:

  • getting at least seven-hour of sleep per night
  • eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods
  • getting enough physical activity
  • spending time with loved ones who support your recovery journey

4. Self-Esteem

Drug or alcohol addiction can take a serious toll on your self-esteem. Even though addiction is a disease, some people might make you think it’s your fault. 

In group therapy, you will discuss specific ways to overcome this guilt, show more compassion toward yourself, and develop a positive self-image. For example, your group leader might encourage you to write daily self-affirmations, such as “I am strong enough to recover.” 

5. Anger Management

When recovering from addiction, you may sometimes feel frustrated, irritable, or even aggressive. In group therapy, you can discuss what makes you angry, what happens when your anger gets out of control, and how to effectively manage your anger. 

Your group leader may also organize roleplaying group therapy activities in which you and your peers practice managing your anger in stressful situations. 

6. Mental Illness

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 37.9% of people with drug addiction also have a co-occurring mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. 

When recovering from addiction, it’s important to address any co-occurring mental illnesses at the same time. If you don’t, you face a much higher risk of relapse.

In group therapy, your leader will likely discuss the various mental health conditions that can occur alongside addiction. Group members can share their personal experiences with these conditions as well as helpful coping tips 

7. Healthy Relationships

Throughout your recovery, you need a strong support system. Unfortunately, addiction can easily damage your relationships. If your addiction has caused you to hurt people you love, group therapy can teach you how to rebuild strong relationships.

In particular, you and your peers can discuss how to strengthen your interpersonal skills, make amends with loved ones you have harmed, and surround yourself with people who support your sobriety. 

8. Forgiveness

As you try to recover, resentments toward friends or family members can fill you with stress, anger, and other difficult feelings. These feelings can quickly lead to relapse. That’s why it’s important to learn to let go of resentments and forgive people who have hurt you. 

In group therapy, you will discuss what exactly forgiveness means, how to forgive people, and how forgiveness can support your recovery and overall mental health.

9. Gratitude 

Recovery is not easy. Throughout the process, you may find yourself focusing only on the negatives. This type of thinking can make you feel hopeless and increase your risk of relapse. 

Your group therapy leader can help you overcome negative thinking and practice gratitude instead. 

For instance, you and your fellow group members may be asked to start a gratitude journal. Each day, you will write down a few things you’re grateful for. This practice can boost your mood and inspire you to keep progressing in your recovery.

10. Future Plans

Once you finish group therapy, it’s important to continue building your recovery skills. That’s why your group leader will share various strategies to support your long-term recovery, such as:

You and your fellow group members can also discuss your plans for your careers, relationships, and other areas of life. 

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified treatment providers offer personalized, comprehensive care to help you stay sober and healthy.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — How Much Sleep Do I Need?

National Institutes of Health — Practicing Gratitude

United States National Library of Medicine — 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment

United States National Library of Medicine — Group Therapy

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.