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Advancing Veteran Recovery with Group Therapy

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 03/03/2024

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Updated 03/03/2024

As individuals embark on the journey of substance use treatment, they are met with an array of therapeutic interventions that span from individual counseling to group therapy sessions. For veterans striving towards recovery, the incorporation of group therapy, specifically tailored to their unique life experiences and needs, is a vital component of their therapeutic process.

Group Therapy: A Cornerstone of Veteran Rehabilitation Efforts

Group therapy stands out as a crucial aspect of rehabilitation for veterans, providing a unique and collective therapeutic approach that complements individual therapy. This mode of therapy is central to their treatment regimen, offering a structured and supportive environment. It enables veterans to forge meaningful connections with peers facing similar struggles, thereby creating a nurturing space conducive to growth and healing.

Mental Health Focus in Group Therapy for Veterans

In rehabilitation programs, veterans are likely to participate in group therapy sessions centered around mental health. These sessions are designed to address a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Co-occurring disorders of substance use and mental health

Studies have shown that group therapy can be as effective as individual therapy in reducing symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in veterans with PTSD. Additionally, its success in lessening symptoms of depression and PTSD highlights its value in the therapeutic landscape for veterans.

Considering that a significant proportion of veterans from recent conflicts experience depression or PTSD, group therapy’s role in addressing these issues is of paramount importance.

Group Therapy Benefits for Veterans: A Comprehensive Overview

The Veterans Administration has acknowledged the numerous benefits that group therapy offers to veterans, emphasizing its effectiveness in fostering social skills, emotional support, and coping strategies. These benefits are outlined as follows:

  • Enhanced social interactions: Group therapy sessions encourage veterans to engage with others, fostering the development of communication skills and healthy social interactions.
  • Emotional support and connection: Veterans facing feelings of isolation find solace and understanding in group therapy, connecting with others who share similar experiences.
  • Coping skills development: The group setting is an excellent environment for veterans to learn and refine coping strategies for managing stress and mental health symptoms.
  • Supportive community: Group therapy provides a vital network of support, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and providing a sense of belonging.
  • Safe environment for sharing: Veterans can share their experiences and challenges in a supportive and understanding setting, promoting healing and understanding.
  • Exposure to diverse strategies and perspectives: Participants in group therapy benefit from the shared experiences and coping strategies of their peers, gaining new insights and approaches to their own challenges.
  • Increased empathy and understanding: By engaging with and supporting others in the group, veterans enhance their empathy and understanding of different perspectives.

Exploring Topics in Group Therapy Sessions

Group therapy sessions for veterans cover a wide range of topics tailored to the needs and experiences of the participants. Common themes include adjusting to civilian life, improving personal relationships, managing stress, understanding and managing mental health symptoms, and strategies for substance use reduction and relapse prevention.

Therapeutic Techniques and Approaches

Group therapy for veterans employs a variety of therapeutic techniques suited to their specific needs, including Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Present-Centered Therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions. These approaches are aimed at helping veterans process trauma, develop healthier thought patterns, and engage in the present moment with greater awareness and less judgment.

Leadership in Group Therapy Sessions

Professional mental health providers with specialized training in working with veterans, such as clinical social workers, psychologists, or counselors, lead group therapy sessions. Programs like The Recovery Village’s FORTITUDE initiative ensure that group leaders are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the unique challenges veterans face.

Importance and Frequency of Group Therapy

The frequency of group therapy sessions varies by treatment setting but is a critical element of the therapeutic process for veterans. These sessions offer a platform for shared experiences and collective healing, underscoring the importance of group therapy in the broader context of veteran rehabilitation.

Engagement and Participation for Optimal Recovery

Veterans are encouraged to actively participate in group therapy to achieve the best outcomes. Sharing experiences, listening to peers, and engaging in the therapeutic process can lead to profound insights, enhanced coping mechanisms, and a strengthened sense of community among participants.

The FORTITUDE Program: Specialized Support for Veterans

The Recovery Village’s FORTITUDE program provides specialized group therapy sessions aimed at treating addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, such as PTSD and depression, in veterans. This program offers a tailored therapeutic environment supported by professionals committed to assisting veterans on their journey to recovery. Contact a Veteran Advocate today to learn more. 

View Sources

Tracy, Kathlene; Wallace, Samantha. “Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 2016. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

Wilson, G.; Hill, M.; Kiernan, M.D. “Loneliness and social isolation of military veterans: systematic narrative review.” Occupational Medicine, December 2018. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

Leigh-Hunt, N., et al. “An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness.” Public Health, November 2017. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Peer Support Groups.” September 13, 2023. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “VA Caregiver Support Program.” October 31, 2023. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

Department of Health and Human Services. “Medicare Coverage of Substance Abuse Services.” April 28, 2016. Accessed November 5, 2023. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorders.” 2021. Accessed November 5, 2023.