Group Therapy in Adolescent Substance Use Treatment

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We Specialize In Adolescent Treatment

At Guardian Recovery, we stand by the credence that connection is the opposite of addiction. For this reason, group therapy plays an integral role in our adolescent substance use disorder treatment program. Our group therapy program aids each teen in defining their own personal identity and building positive connections, all while gaining the tools needed for healthy adolescent development. 

Group therapy involves the treatment of multiple individuals at once and is conducted by one or more licensed healthcare providers. (1) Group therapy, catered for adolescents, helps each teen develop psychologically, and develop the necessary skills needed to reach and maintain their treatment goals. Whether you are a teen, or a parent, group therapy for adolescents can help inspire each individual receiving treatment to tackle their internal struggles head on. Contact us today to learn more about our teen substance use group therapy programs.

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The Benefits of Group Therapy for Teen Substance Use & Mental Health Treatment

Group therapy is an essential part of the substance use recovery process. Group therapy allows for adolescents to develop a built-in support system. Many of our clients develop lasting, mutually beneficial friendships with their peers while engaged in therapeutic group sessions. Not only do they learn how to communicate with one another effectively, they learn the importance of reaching out for help and relying on one another for support. Substance use recovery has little to do with self-reliance and everything to do with developing a sense of community.

According to the book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy Fourth Edition, benefits of group therapy for adolescents include: (2) 

  • Having a safe environment for an individual to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
  • Having the opportunity to explore the severity of their mental health or substance use disorder. 
  • Having a safe space to provide and receive support to others experiencing similar circumstances. 
  • Having the opportunity to learn new, adaptive behaviors. 
  • Providing individuals with a place where they can connect with others, build support systems, and not feel isolated. 
  • Having a more affordable alternative to one-on-one psychotherapy sessions that is just as effective. 

Additionally, group therapy is beneficial in adolescent substance use and mental health treatment due to the fact that group therapy can be utilized for various conditions. 

Mental health conditions that group therapy helps treat includes, but is not limited to: (3) 

  • Depressive disorders.
  • Anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Substance use disorders.

Our Approach to Group Therapy

At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing the most integrated care available, treating adolescents who have been struggling with substance use issues. During group therapy sessions, our clients dive deep into a range of pertinent, recovery-related topics as they are both challenged and supported by their peers. 

In our adolescent group therapy sessions, there is a strong emphasis placed on age-specific issues and challenges that may be influencing their current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, some topics addressed during our group therapy sessions may include the impact of social media, peer pressure at school, family dynamics, and the stress associated with preparing for a transition to college/independent living. Additionally, our adolescent group therapy sessions focus on emotional regulation and the development of healthy coping skills.

The Effectiveness of Group Therapy in Teen Recovery

Research has found that group therapy is effective for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. A meta-analysis research study looking at 56 studies over a 20 year timeframe found that when comparing teens receiving group therapy treatment to those receiving other therapy options, there was found to be a 73 percent improvement. (4) Additionally, research has found that those who engage in group therapy are more likely to abstain from substance use following treatment when compared to those not receiving treatment. (5) 

What to Expect During Group Therapy Sessions

If you have never actively participated in a group therapy session prior to substance use treatment, you might be curious as to what group therapy entails. While every group therapy session is structured differently based on the topic that is being covered that day, there are some general rules of thumb. 

Below is a list of what you can expect from our standard group therapy sessions during any phase of the recovery process:

  • A recovery-related topic is addressed, and explained in detail by one of our licensed and experienced therapeutic professionals.
  • Clients take turns voicing their own opinion on the subject matter. Clients speak one at a time, and are encouraged to participate during every group therapy session.
  • Clients have the opportunity to offer peer support and encouragement, or offer advice to their peers whenever they see fit. This helps foster healthy communication techniques and helps clients develop friendships over time, as they learn to relate to one another in a deep and meaningful way.

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What Topics Are Covered During Group Therapy Sessions?

The topics covered during our teen addiction group therapy sessions are designed to promote healthy, psychoeducational discussions. 

At Guardian Recovery, we cover a wide range of topics during group therapy sessions, including:

  • The Disease Model of Addiction.
  • The ways in which substance use impacts an individual and their family.
  • Trauma resolution techniques.
  • The lasting impact of childhood trauma.
  • Personal treatment goals.
  • Effective methods of relapse prevention.
  • Relapse triggers.
  • The importance of self-care.
  • The role of gratitude in substance use recovery.
  • The relationship between substance use and mental health.
  • Stress management techniques.

These are only several examples of the topics we cover in our comprehensive therapeutic group sessions. At Guardian Recovery, we are dedicated to making sure that no stone is left unturned, and that all pertinent subjects are covered in depth.

Therapeutic Services We Provide

At Guardian Recovery, our therapy sessions utilize various treatment modalities, depending on the location. 

The therapeutic methods we utilize in group sessions include, but are not limited to following: 

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is an effective and widely utilized method of psychotherapy geared towards helping people identify and change negative thought and behavioral patterns. The main focus of this therapeutic method is changing automatic responses to situations, altering the automatic negative thoughts that lead to unhealthy behaviors.
  • Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – DBT is an evidence-based method of psychotherapy that focuses on teaching clients how to live in the present moment, learn to regulate stress and potentially uncomfortable or triggering emotions, and improve their interpersonal relationships. 
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) – This client-centered approach to counseling helps clients resolve any ambivalence they may be experiencing towards recovery. Four main processes are focused on, including engaging, focusing, evoking and planning. 
  • Relapse Prevention Training – Relapse prevention is essential to the maintenance of long-term sobriety. Clients identify their personal relapse triggers, and learn how to effectively work through them should they have to face them after treatment.
  • Life Skills Training – Active substance use strips individuals of their ability to function at a basic level. Many life skills are compromised. Our life skills training services help clients find and maintain a job, re-enter school, communicate in a healthy way, and develop authentic and mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Holistic Therapy – We offer a wide range of holistically-based therapies as part of our integrated program of addiction treatment. Some of our locations utilize holistic approaches such as, yoga therapy, mindfulness meditation,nutrition therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, neurofeedback and biofeedback.
  • Experiential Therapy – In some cases, group therapy sessions will revolve around a specific method of experiential therapy, like psychodrama or art therapy. Experiential therapy helps clients process past trauma and effectively express their emotions in unique ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding group therapy in adolescent substance use and mental health treatment. 

How Does Group Therapy Help My Teen?

Group therapy helps teens in a variety of ways, such as developing healthy coping techniques, sharing their experiences with others experiencing similar circumstances, and developing adaptive communication techniques.   

Is It Beneficial for My Child to Be Around Other Teens Also in Recovery & Treatment?

Yes, allowing teens the opportunity to be around others receiving treatment provides them with a sense of community, which is beneficial for the recovery process. 

Are Parents or Guardians Allowed to Observe to Attend Group Therapy?

Adolescent group therapy sessions are strictly conducted for teens experiencing mental health or substance use conditions. During group therapy sessions there is a strong emphasis on restoring healthy family dynamics and building healthy relationships with friends and family members. 

For those parents or guardians wanting to work on building skills that facilitate this process, like communication, conflict resolution, and setting and maintaining boundaries with their adolescent, family therapy is an excellent treatment option. 

How Often Are Group Therapy Sessions?

The frequency of group therapy sessions depends on the severity of the individual’s substance use or mental health condition, and the individual’s treatment plan. 

Who Will Be Leading the Group Therapy Sessions?

Group therapy sessions are conducted by licensed mental health counselors or licensed professional counselors. 

How Long Are Group Therapy Sessions?

Each group therapy session typically runs for about an hour. 

How Is My Child’s Confidentiality Protected During Group Therapy?

All services provided by Guardian Recovery are HIPPA compliant, and confidentiality must be maintained for legal and ethical purposes. The rules of confidentiality are discussed in detail with each client at the beginning of group therapy sessions. 

Are Group Therapy Sessions Age-Specific?

At Guardian Recovery, group therapy sessions for adolescents typically range from ages 13 to 17. 

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Our Simple Admissions Process 

At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to keeping our entire recovery program as simple and straightforward as possible from start to finish. One of our Treatment Advisors is ready to speak with you, and help guide you and your teen through our simple admissions process. A complimentary initial assessment will be provided to help determine which one of our evidence-based treatment options is best for you and your teen. Ask about our free, no obligation insurance benefits check to help determine which of our treatment programs is covered by your health insurance plan. Start your road to recovery today at Guardian Recovery.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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