Why I Seek Group Counseling for Addiction

So often in my conversations with others, I get upset or the other person gets upset and I don’t know why it’s happening or, in spite of my or the other person’s best intentions, how to address what’s going on well enough to reconnect in a way that feels reassuring and meaningful.

For me, having alcoholism, I have to be really, really careful about feeling upset. If I don’t find a way to ease my distress, I may again raise the glass of wine to my lips to re-experience the greatest source of solace I have ever known.

Not my favorite part of being me at 57, but as they say, it is what it is.

I made huge progress in addressing distress when I was in weekly group therapy in Tampa. I was a member of two therapy groups, first one for women, and then one for both men and women, each for several years.

Group therapy asks each person to bring his or her truest self to the process. Because we met weekly and got to know each other, group members began to recognize in me patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving that I had trouble seeing in myself – and I could do the same for them. Sometimes those patterns would emerge during group itself and the group facilitator helped us navigate interactions in ways that helped us grow in compassion and understanding. We could then use those same ways outside of group.

Group therapy calls forth our truest selves

Before I moved from Tampa back to my hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia in 2006, I made sure to have two appointments set with two professionals: an individual counselor and a personal trainer. When my first marriage ended in 2000, I developed an anxiety-based sleep disorder for which multiple treatments, including individual and group therapy, had been prescribed. In the previous year, I injured my back and had only found extreme exercise able to ease what became chronic pain. At my first individual session, I eagerly asked my counselor if I could join one of her therapy groups. She replied, “We don’t have group therapy in Blacksburg.”

How could that be possible?! Yet, every counselor in private practice I have worked with or met in Blacksburg has told me the same: they’ve tried to form groups but enough people didn’t sign up. The theory is that Blacksburg has been too small of a town. Neighbors didn’t want to do group therapy with neighbors.

Here’s a series of ironies: I finished training as an addictions counselor in Tampa, literally days before I moved back to Blacksburg in 2006. I began to develop addiction to alcohol myself in 2007, have been attempting abstinence-based recovery from alcoholism since 2012, was hired in 2014 by our community agency as a substance use disorder (SUD) counselor and, with colleagues at my agency, provide SUD group therapy, a treatment which I would welcome for myself!

If my situation became urgent, what’s a small town to do but take care of its people? I would be admitted to a therapy group at my agency but how weird would that be to have a co-worker as a counselor?! No weirder than working out at one’s gym with one’s gynecologist. But still.

With 3.5 years in recovery from addiction, I welcome group therapy with others, who, like I am, are semi-stable with regard to substance use but can find other issues troubling them. O, how I long to run by my fellow group members my desire for equanimity but my loss of it in spite of my best efforts!

Given that our town is not exempt from the challenges facing our country, and given, thanks to Facebook, we know each other’s expression of feelings and thoughts in pretty much any kind of setting or situation, surely now is the time when a group for people with substance use disorder would be embraced in Blacksburg!

This was just announced on Friday!

Group therapy for people in recovery from addictions will be offered in Blacksburg, Virginia. Dr. Stephanie Fearer of Associates in Brief Therapy, Inc. will be offering cognitive behavior group therapy for adults with substance use disorders who are in recovery. The group is semi-structured and will include education, discussion, and interaction. The group will meet for 8 weeks on Wednesdays, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM, beginning on August 31, 2016. Members are welcome to bring their lunches if this is their lunch hour. The fee is $300, payable by check or credit card at the first session. Clients pay directly for services and ABT does not bill insurance. To reserve a place in the group, please leave a voice mail message with your name and phone number for Dr. Stephanie Fearer, 540-951-2227 (press 5). She will return your call with further information on how to register for the group.

I can’t believe this is finally happening after 10 years…

I’ve signed up! The group is capped at 6 people!

I’m so looking forward to meeting my fellow group members on August 31!

Image: iStock

Falling in Love with My Life
What You Can Do to Help Fight Addiction