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Group Therapy for Veterans: Customized Approaches for Addiction and Mental Health Recovery

Written by The Orlando Recovery Center

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 03/02/2024

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When individuals engage in a substance use treatment journey, they encounter a broad array of therapeutic interventions, including both individual sessions and group therapy. For veterans moving towards recovery, group therapy sessions that are carefully customized to acknowledge their unique experiences and needs are vital for their path to healing.

Creating a Supportive Framework Through Group Therapy in Treatment

Group therapy offers a collective therapeutic approach, distinct from individual therapy, playing a crucial role in the rehabilitation process for veterans. This form of therapy is an essential element of their treatment schedule, creating a supportive framework. Through group therapy, veterans gain the opportunity to connect with others who are similarly striving to overcome challenges, cultivating an environment that encourages positive growth.

Addressing Mental Health with Group Therapy

Veterans participating in rehabilitation programs are expected to engage in group therapy sessions that focus on mental health. The range of mental health conditions that can be addressed through group therapy includes:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Concurrent disorders involving substance use and mental health

Evidence from studies involving veterans with PTSD suggests that group therapy is comparable to individual therapy in reducing symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts. Additional research has shown its effectiveness in decreasing symptoms of depression and PTSD.

With an estimated 14–16% of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffering from depression or PTSD, the potential of group therapy to address these issues is significant.

Benefits of Group Therapy for Veteran Populations

The Veterans Administration identifies several benefits of group therapy for veterans, underlined by insights from VA clinical psychologists. These benefits include:

  • Enhanced social interaction skills: Group therapy facilitates meaningful interactions among participants, helping to develop and reinforce healthy communication skills and social interaction abilities.
  • Emotional bonding: Veterans often face a sense of isolation due to their experiences. Group therapy provides a space for emotional bonding with others who have a deep understanding of such experiences.
  • Development of coping mechanisms: The group therapy environment is conducive to learning and improving coping skills.
  • Access to a supportive community: Being part of a group therapy session offers veterans a crucial support network, aiding in the reduction of feelings of isolation.
  • Safe and secure environment: Group therapy creates a safe space for veterans to share their experiences among peers with similar challenges.
  • Exposure to diverse perspectives and strategies: Participants in group therapy can learn from the coping strategies and perspectives of others, which may offer new insights into managing their own challenges.
  • Increased empathy and understanding: Listening to and supporting others in the group fosters a greater sense of empathy and understanding among participants.

Themes and Topics in Group Therapy Sessions

The content of group therapy sessions can vary, depending on the specific therapeutic approach adopted. Common topics that are explored in group therapy sessions for veterans include:

  • Adjusting to civilian life
  • Improving relationships with family members
  • Managing daily stressors effectively
  • Learning about symptoms and management strategies for mental health disorders like PTSD or depression
  • Techniques for reducing substance misuse
  • Strategies for preventing relapse
  • Changing negative thought patterns

Therapeutic Techniques Utilized in Group Therapy

Group therapy employs a variety of therapeutic techniques, some of which are particularly beneficial for veterans, such as:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD, helping individuals to understand and reframe thoughts influenced by trauma.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in a group setting, assisting veterans in identifying and changing harmful thought patterns and fostering social support.
  • Present-Centered Therapy, focusing on education about PTSD symptoms and improving interpersonal relations and behaviors in the present.
  • Mindfulness-based interventions, which teach stress management and relaxation skills, which encourages an awareness of the present moment without judgment to alleviate stress and negative emotions.

Leadership and Facilitation of Group Therapy Sessions

Group therapy sessions should be led by licensed mental health professionals with expertise in working with veterans, such as clinical social workers, counselors, or psychologists. At The Recovery Village, for example, leaders of the FORTITUDE program have received training in military cultural competency, ensuring they are well-prepared to meet the unique needs of veteran participants.

Frequency and Structure of Group Therapy Sessions

The frequency of group therapy sessions varies according to the level of care provided. Inpatient and residential treatment programs often include more frequent group therapy sessions, reflecting the structured nature of these settings. Partial hospitalization programs may offer group therapy daily, while intensive outpatient programs typically schedule sessions several times per week.

Maximizing the Impact of Group Therapy for Veterans

Group therapy is highly beneficial for veterans dealing with addiction and/or mental health diagnoses. To maximize the benefits, veterans are encouraged to actively engage in the process, keeping an open mind and participating fully in sessions.

By embracing the shared experiences within the group and listening actively to others, veterans can learn valuable coping strategies and gain insights from their peers.

Although it may initially feel daunting to share in a group setting, the supportive and confidential nature of group therapy encourages significant progress through collective sharing and understanding.

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome a drug or alcohol addiction. At Orlando Recovery Center, our treatment programs offer veterans:

  • Veteran Advocates who can navigate the VA on your behalf to enter treatment faster
  • Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and trauma-informed care
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  
  • EMDR, a revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms

Exploring the FORTITUDE Program for Veterans

The Recovery Village offers specialized support for veterans through the FORTITUDE program, designed to address addiction and co-occurring mental health issues such as PTSD and depression. Our team of Veteran Advocates is dedicated to helping veterans start their treatment journey and providing support throughout the recovery process.


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What To Expect

When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

All calls are 100% free and confidential.