Substance Abuse Group Topics & Activities

Group therapy can play a vital role in recovery for those struggling with substance abuse. It can help people communicate their thoughts and feelings, connect with others, and begin to understand their behaviors and addiction in a safe and confidential space.

Group therapy also encourages support by promoting positive behaviors and actions, helping group members through difficult scenarios, and offering constructive criticism.

In group therapy, a wide range of substance abuse group activities and topics help those in attendance work through issues to aid addiction recovery and cope with mental illness. Working through these as part of a group can be incredibly helpful as it provides members with various perspectives, ideas, and social support.

Group therapy activities in support groups can help people learn and actively engage, build skills in self-care, and find role models to help them in their daily life. In this blog, we discuss some topics and activities that can help facilitate a successful recovery.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a common form of psychotherapy that entails one or more therapists facilitating and leading groups of people with a common struggle. A trained therapist typically guides group therapy, but it is through communicating with the other group members that the benefits lie.

These groups treat multiple people at once, differing from individual therapy, which centers on a therapist treating someone on a one-on-one basis. Group therapy sessions can be the only form of therapy that someone engages in. However, it is often used in conjunction with individual therapy as part of a treatment plan, as many people benefit from the different skills each form can offer.

Group therapy provides people with a safe space to engage with others and listen to their experiences. It also helps many navigate different methods of communication, enabling them to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Group sessions are strictly confidential, ensuring that people feel safe enough to express themselves honestly.

Like other therapy sessions, substance abuse group sessions can be conducted in various spaces such as hospitals, private therapy practices, community centers, and mental health clinics. However, group therapy is frequently conducted at a drug or alcohol rehab facility as part of treatment for substance use disorders. Group therapy differs from support groups as group therapy aims to help people change, whereas support groups exist to support people in coping.

What Is Group Therapy Used for, and What Are the Benefits Of Group Therapy Sessions?

Group therapy treats a wide range of psychological problems, including substance abuse. In a group therapy session, members investigate core problems that make their addiction worse and work on ways to overcome these. Group members support one another in exploring their substance abuse and work to improve each other’s self-confidence.

Many people find the thought of group therapy more intimidating than individual therapy due to the vulnerability of communicating their personal life and emotions with strangers. However, a huge range of benefits come hand-in-hand with sharing feelings in a group setting that many people can’t get from individual therapy alone.

Some of the things people gain from group therapy include:

  • Inspiration from other people’s recovery journeys
  • A sense of connection and solidarity
  • Support from other group members
  • A chance to hear other people’s perspectives and learn from each other
  • An opportunity to develop communication and social skills
  • The ability to identify healthy coping strategies through learning from others and gaining outside perspectives

Both the group leader and other group members will work to encourage honest feedback constructively and create a nurturing space in which people can grow and heal.

Support systems, such as therapy groups, can help members gain greater self-awareness and a sense of community. Group sessions also provide people with structure, which can be very useful when it comes to addiction recovery, as substance abuse can make people feel chaotic and out of control.

Group Therapy Topics for Addiction

It is common to discuss many different topics in substance abuse group therapy. The following are some typical discussion topics for substance use group therapy sessions. However, the list is not exhaustive.

  • Triggers. Triggers are environmental, social, or other factors that remind a person of using drugs and put them at risk of relapse. Therapy groups often discuss ways to avoid triggers or how to deal with them when they arise, as well as specific triggers that each person faces.
  • Anger management skills. In group therapy, anger management and finding healthy ways to cope with negative thinking and feelings are common topics.
  • Trauma. Many people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse have often experienced trauma.
  • Bad habits. Bad habits often leave people struggling with a substance use disorder in a vicious cycle, so identifying these can help them become more aware.
  • Mindfulness. Being in the present moment is important in addiction recovery as it helps people manage stress, accept things they can’t change, and feel less overwhelmed.
  • Cravings and healthy coping strategies. In group therapy, many people are encouraged to list activities they can do to reduce cravings. This can include healthy behaviors such as fitness goals, physical fitness, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
  • Gratitude. Discussing gratitude can help encourage positive thinking.
  • Isolation risks. Talking about ways to prevent isolation is essential, as too much alone time can be a trigger for substance use.
  • Stress management. Brainstorming ways to reduce stress and form healthy stress management techniques can help people discover new coping skills and protect their mental health.
  • Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a big topic in addiction treatment as practicing it can be difficult, and people often need guidance and advice.
  • Conflict resolution. Discussing conflict resolution can help people gain positive coping skills.

What Are Some Ideas for Group Therapy Activities?

There are a broad range of activities that group participants can engage in to improve their mental health and begin to overcome substance abuse.

Some common substance abuse group activities include:

  • Introducing new members. Letting new members explain why they are attending the substance abuse group and introducing them is an everyday substance abuse group activity.
  • Exploring the importance of body language and communication skills. This activity could include practicing expressing oneself without speaking.
  • Writing a stream of consciousness. This allows people to understand some subconscious thoughts, which can be very therapeutic.
  • Discussing the advice people would tell their childhood selves. For those in recovery, thinking about their younger self can be a very powerful and emotive activity that allows them to reconnect with themselves and talk to themselves with compassion.
  • Brainstorming self-care techniques. Self-care is very important and can help to improve self-esteem, reduce cravings, and manage mental health.
  • Thinking about the best and worst moments of life. This allows group members to see how subjective experiences are. It can also help them to foster a more healthy relationship with themselves.
  • Discussing questions and requests. Listening to other group members’ questions and requests and discussing these can help build interpersonal skills and communication.
  • Finding ways to combat negative thinking. Uncovering different ways to reduce negative thinking can help many people adopt a more positive mindset.


Group therapy is an important part of the recovery journey for many people who are overcoming addiction and going through substance abuse treatment. As well as helping people understand their own addiction, triggers, and coping mechanisms, it also functions to improve self-esteem.

The topics covered in group therapy sessions can start to provoke thoughts in members and spark important discussions, leading many people to reflect on their behaviors and actions and explore positive ways to change. Developing interpersonal skills, building resilience, and group talks around addiction topics can help someone change their mindset and begin to heal.

Practical activities and discussions enable many people to reinforce new skills and open group members’ minds to alternative ways of thinking and behaving. This can ultimately change their lives for the better by breaking the cycle of substance abuse and enabling them to cope with addiction.

Contact Us Today

If you would like to learn more about substance abuse group topics, please get in touch with us today. Likewise, if you are ready to start your recovery journey, we are here to help you.