By Nicky Adams, programme leader at The Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies, Action on Addiction


Group therapy can help people with many different types of problems. Irvin Yalom, who published The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy in 1970, believed his fundamental group model could be modified to fit any specialised situation including people with substance misuse problems.1


In fact, we believe that interpersonal group therapy and addiction treatment are natural allies.2


Regular group therapy sessions are at the centre of Action on Addiction treatment programmes. Clients are encouraged to focus on their relationships with peers, family members and friends. By understanding these relationships and making changes, individuals can begin developing healthier ways of relating, remove obstacles to recovery and enhance their ability to build productive lives.


Interpersonal group therapy helps people make sense of themselves. It provides opportunities for individuals to discover how they are seen and experienced by others and can lead to significant character change.


It also helps overcome experiences of isolation and loneliness, and inspires hope. Finding out from other group members that you are not alone can be greatly comforting and reassuring – as Irvin Yalom said: "Despite the complexities of human problems, certain common denominators are clearly evident, and the members of a therapy group soon perceive their similarities.3"


At the end of their treatment many clients describe group therapy as the most valuable part of their experience, rating it above individual counselling. One said: "I met people just like me – all struggling with addiction, facing challenges. I started to hope that my life could be better."


During group therapy people learn effective social skills that will help sustain long-term recovery, such as demonstrating respect and consideration for others, and becoming more responsible and confident. They learn how to be more trusting and honest, to listen, and to care.


Aims – regular group therapy will help participants to:

  • understand how their behaviour affects others and how this affects their own experience in relationships;
  • develop interpersonal and social skills;
  • gain emotional and psychological support by identifying with their peers and thus discovering they are not alone with their experiences, problems, fears and needs;
  • have the opportunity to explore historical patterns of behaviour, self-defeating beliefs, and old hurts that may be at work in the present.


Outcomes – by engaging in regular group therapy session, participants will:

  • develop a sense of unity (and begin to appreciate 'the therapeutic value of one addict helping another') which can contribute to a sense of connectedness that builds recovery capital;
  • gain awareness of how they interact with others, and become willing to make appropriate changes to their behaviour resulting in healthier relationships, increased self-esteem and self-efficacy;
  • begin to recognise how they are affected by the behaviour of others and take responsibility for giving constructive feedback and support to their peers.


One of the most important points to consider, when modifying Yalom's model, is that group leaders and participants should collaborate to develop achievable goals for the work. Preparation for group work is also very important and helps alleviate any anxiety experienced by newcomers


Summer School 2019
Tutor: Nicky Adams


If you're looking for resources on group therapy, addiction and recovery, our five-day CPD training, accredited by the University of Bath, will teach you all the necessary theory and skills for leading successful interpersonal therapy groups. Students will be supported to develop group facilitation skills, to evaluate the supporting evidence of group therapy and to understand the modifications needed to use Yalom's model effectively with addicted clients.


Course dates: 22-26 July 2019
Registration by: 1 July 2019
Course fee: 5 days, £700 (includes fee for accreditation with the University of Bath).


Entry requirements: Due to the level this course is taught at, previous experience of working with addiction is required. You may be asked to discuss your experience and existing knowledge with the unit tutor.


Assignment: this course is taught at degree level and you will be required to complete a 2,400 word assignment in accordance with University of Bath regulations.


As a student studying a University of Bath standalone unit on a franchised basis, you will have access to all the primary resources at the University of Bath library, as well as online resources provided by the Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies.


Successful completion of the assignment will earn you 6 ECTS credits with the University of Bath.


Location: This course is taught onsite at The Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies based in Warminster, Wiltshire, UK.



  1. Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, M., 2005, The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
  2. SAMHSA. 2014. A Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 41. Available from:
  3. Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, 2005, p6