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Enhancing Addiction Recovery for Veterans Through Group Therapy

Last Updated: March 2, 2024

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Within the realm of substance use treatment, individuals are introduced to a comprehensive suite of therapeutic interventions, encompassing both individual and group-based therapy sessions. For veterans advancing toward recovery, group therapy sessions that are thoughtfully adapted to their distinct experiences and needs stand as a critical element of their recovery journey.

Group Therapy as a Pillar of Veteran Rehabilitation

Group therapy serves a pivotal role in the rehabilitation process for veterans, offering a collaborative therapeutic environment distinct from individual therapy sessions. This engagement is a fundamental component of their overall treatment plan, providing a structured framework of support. Participation in group therapy empowers veterans with the opportunity to build connections with fellow participants who are also navigating through similar challenges, thus fostering an atmosphere conducive to positive development.

Group Therapy’s Role in Mental Health Management

Veterans enrolled in rehabilitation initiatives are often encouraged to participate in group therapy sessions focused on mental health management. The array of mental health issues that can be addressed within this setting includes:

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

Research on veterans with PTSD indicates group therapy is equally beneficial when compared to individual therapy for the reduction of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, its effectiveness in diminishing the symptoms of depression and PTSD has been documented, providing a substantial foundation for its use.

With approximately 14–16% of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq affected by depression or PTSD, the significance of group therapy in treating these conditions cannot be overstated.

Key Benefits of Group Therapy for Veterans

The Veterans Administration identifies a range of benefits associated with group therapy for veterans, as outlined by VA clinical psychologists. These benefits include:

  • Improved social interaction: Group therapy promotes interaction among participants, enhancing social skills and communication.
  • Emotional bonding and support: Veterans often experience a sense of isolation stemming from their service experiences. Group therapy offers a sense of belonging and emotional support from peers who understand those experiences.
  • Coping skills development: The group setting provides an ideal environment for learning new coping strategies and improving existing ones.
  • Supportive network: Group therapy sessions create a supportive community that helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Safe sharing space: Veterans find a safe environment in group therapy to share their experiences and challenges among peers with similar backgrounds.
  • Diverse perspectives: Through group discussions, participants are exposed to various coping mechanisms and viewpoints, which can offer new insights into their own recovery process.
  • Enhanced empathy: Engaging with others in the group fosters empathy and understanding as participants listen to and support each other.

Exploring Key Themes in Group Therapy

The content and focus of group therapy sessions can vary based on the therapeutic approach and the specific needs of the participants. However, common themes often explored in veterans’ group therapy sessions include:

  • Adjusting to civilian life post-service
  • Enhancing family and personal relationships
  • Effective management of daily stress
  • Understanding and managing symptoms of mental health disorders, such as PTSD and depression
  • Strategies to reduce substance misuse and prevent relapse
  • Altering negative thought processes and behaviors

Therapeutic Approaches in Group Therapy

A variety of therapeutic techniques are employed in group therapy, tailored to address the specific needs of veterans. These include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD, aiding in the examination and reevaluation of trauma-related thoughts.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), conducted in a group setting to help change negative thought patterns and foster a supportive network.
  • Present-Centered Therapy, focusing on educating about PTSD symptoms and improving current interpersonal relationships.
  • Mindfulness-based interventions, which emphasize stress management, relaxation, and present-moment awareness to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.

Facilitating Group Therapy Sessions

Sessions should be led by licensed mental health professionals with specialized knowledge in veteran care, such as clinical social workers, psychologists, or counselors. At facilities like The Recovery Village, leaders of programs such as the FORTITUDE initiative are equipped with military cultural competency training, ensuring an understanding of the unique challenges faced by veterans.

Frequency and Importance of Group Therapy

The frequency of group therapy sessions varies depending on the treatment setting. Inpatient and residential programs often offer more frequent sessions, while outpatient programs may have sessions less often. Regardless of frequency, group therapy remains a crucial component of treatment, providing a space for shared healing and growth.

Maximizing Benefits of Group Therapy for Veterans

Veterans are encouraged to actively engage in group therapy to maximize its benefits. This involves participating openly in discussions, sharing experiences, and listening to others. Such active engagement can lead to valuable insights, enhanced coping strategies, and a deeper sense of community.

The Recovery Village’s FORTITUDE Program

For veterans seeking specialized support, The Recovery Village’s FORTITUDE program offers targeted group therapy sessions to address addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, such as PTSD and depression. The program provides a supportive environment tailored to the unique needs of veterans, facilitated by experienced professionals ready to assist veterans in their recovery journey. Contact a Veteran Advocate today to learn more. 


Resick, Patricia A., et al. “Effect of Group vs Individual Cognitive Processing Therapy in Active-Duty Military Seeking Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Psychiatry, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2023. 

Lamp, K.E., et al. “Individual and group cognitive processing therapy: Effectiveness across two Veterans Affairs posttraumatic stress disorder treatment clinics.” Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 2019. Accessed November 12, 2023. 

Inoue, Catarina, et al. “Veteran and Military Mental Health Issues.” StatPearls Publishing, January 2023. Accessed November 12, 2023. 

Patín-Betancourt, Yahaira. “Benefits of Group Therapy Sessions for PTSD.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, June 26, 2023. Accessed November 13, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “PTSD.” August 23, 2023. Accessed November 13, 2023.

Thompson-Hollands, Johanna, et al. “Alliance across group treatment for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: The role of interpersonal trauma and treatment type.” Group Dynamics, March 2018. Accessed November 13, 2023. 

Marchand, William R., et al. “Mindfulness-based interventions for military veterans: A systematic review and analysis of the literature.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, February 2021. Accessed November 13, 2023.