Chambless Johnston Explains Why Individual and Group Therapy Combined Provide Added Effectiveness to Addiction Treatments

When it comes to managing addiction, it’s not a journey that needs to be taken alone. In fact, it shouldn’t be. But while individual therapy on its own can be very helpful, group therapy adds another dimension that you may not have considered, says Dr. Chambless Johnston, founder and CEO of East Tennessee Recovery Center, located in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Chambless Johnston from Johnson City, Tennessee, on Therapy and Addiction

Counseling has long been a way to address substance abuse, as well as manage stress and avoid triggers. However, while there’s not always a clear winner when it comes to one-on-one versus group therapy — it often comes down to the situation — there are definite pluses when they are combined.

Talking to a qualified addictions counselor one-on-one is often the approach when there’s a co-morbid condition alongside the addiction itself, explains Chambless Johnston. For example, if the patient has a history of anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, this approach can be beneficial in addressing that directly, he explains.

There are a number of other ways an individual therapist can help your recovery. For example, some clinics use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge existing behaviors. This is another popular approach that can be delivered individually or in a group. A qualified therapist may also prescribe medications to ease withdrawal or maintain recovery.

Group Therapy Can Help Add Perspective

Techniques aside, having “private” sessions (not in a group) is an effective way for a counselor to really get to know their patient and the experiences they’ve had that might be driving the behavior. They allow the therapist to develop a more comprehensive plan based on individual needs. It also helps to build trust when talking to someone regarding their challenges, which can translate to sharing more openly when talking in a group.

Which moves us to the next topic — group therapy. This typically is not a room full of therapists, but more often one professional that leads the group with others in recovery sharing their thoughts and experiences (that is, other people going through rehabilitation). These anecdotal sessions can help a patient gain more perspective about their own situations and learn how others are coping without drugs, explains Dr. Chambless Johnston.

Aside from group sessions led by a trained professional, there’s also value in family therapy that brings family members into the discussion to provide additional support and motivation, while strengthening relationships.

Ongoing Support Needed to Succeed, Says Dr. Chambless Johnston

To recap, while one-on-one counseling can be helpful to address underlying issues and to develop a specific treatment plan, talking in a group can help from an emotional angle as others can identify with the situation. When combined together, you get a clinical and social support benefit.

The thing about addiction, says Chambless Johnston, is that it doesn’t just end when the sessions are over — although a person can grow and change over time. It takes ongoing support from addictions professionals and friends/family to lower the chance of relapsing.