Recovery Focus Groups

August 14, 2020 – Recovery Focus Groups – What are they and why are they important to Recovery?

Most individuals with substance use disorder have underlying mental health issues such as trauma, anxiety or depression. Getting to the root of the substance use disorder, then learning coping skills to deal with the root of the disorder is key to successful long-lasting sobriety.

But how do you get to the real root of the disorder? Clinical Director, Heather O’Donnell of Water Gap Wellness says it’s all about discovery.

“People need to talk it out in a trusting environment where they can feel free to discover the “whys” of their life,” she says. “Then, real healing can begin.”

Focus groups provide this opportunity.

Focus groups for Substance Use Disorder and Addiction are typically small groups within a larger group where there is a guided discussion about a particular topic. The focus group is usually led by a seasoned leader who is either credentialed or experienced in the topic. Focus groups allow individuals to identify and discover truths about their past. Once discovered, focus groups can provide feasible coping tools to help the client learn to manage their lives in a productive, safe and healthy manner.

The Water Gap Wellness Center offers numerous focus groups in PHP and IOP treatment where clients can discover their “why” and learn “how”

Trauma Focus Group – Trauma group entails discussion of current reactions to trauma and how members’ trauma affect their lives today. Trauma group is often small and consists of up to 6 members. Therapist provides a theme for each group to discuss and process. Members are encouraged to provide support to one another. Therapist provides psycho education where applicable, but mostly the group focuses on processing and learning to live with trauma.

Mindfulness Focus Group  – In Mindfulness skills group you will learn to be “Mindful” and live in the present moment.

The main points to mindfulness include:

Beginners Mind: seeing everything for the first time, free us of expectations and explore and discover.

Non-Judging: being and impartial witness to you own experience, – many things are labeled by our mind as good/bad, happy sad. Pulling back from judging can free us.

Non-Striving: The act of being not doing. Watching and observing self. Focus on process not progress. Not competing, not controlling.

Acceptance: Seeing things as they are in the present. Avoid denying and resisting what “Is”, reducing the desire to “force” situations to be the way we want them to be. “Letting Go” of “should have, would have, could have and if only.”

Substance Abuse and Recovery Focus Group – Clients are made aware of the types of recovery groups offered in the community to help in the treatment and recovery from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. They learn to identify their mismanagement with alcohol/drugs and are introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and the Big Book is explained to them. Clients will get an understanding of the 12-steps of AA by dissecting each step, one at a time.  Clients will discover how an AA meeting is run. They will be able to identify their fears in recovery and will develop a relapse prevention plan.

Life Skills Group – The life skills group is a large group that addresses many of the challenges of everyday life. This group allows each client to learn new skills that will help them be successful as they move out of treatment into independence. Different topics are chosen each day to meet the needs of the clients at the time, creating specialized groups. Topics include communication skills, processing grief and loss, family dynamics, etc.

Living in Recovery Group – The Living in Recovery group is an elective group that addresses many different aspects of becoming sober and living in a state of recovery. Topics are chosen to specifically meet the needs of the clients in the group. Topics include post-acute withdrawal symptoms, fear, resentment, forgiveness, powerlessness, surrender, humility, unmanageability, and numbing feelings. Chapters of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are also explored in the group.

Healthy Living Group – The Healthy Living group is an elective group designed to promote healthy living activities including, meal prepping, value of exercise, preventative health care, how to access health care/services, self-care, medication management and self-advocacy.

Relapse Prevention Group – Relapse Prevention is an elective group that provides clients with information about different recovery programs, how to find support groups, what to expect, how to obtain a sponsor and an introduction into what “step work” really means. Learning how to put supports into place is a major focus of this group.  Clients are encouraged to offer feedback about what they want to learn about and therefore this group is client centered and tailored to the specific needs of the client.

Tea Time Group – Tea time is an elective group and is an opportunity for reflection and processing in an outdoor setting for small groups. These groups are limited to five clients at a time for a more personal experience. Clients are taken off site to different areas to do activities using music/art therapy and or moving meditation. Games that involve teamwork and communication are also included.

Wilderness Therapy – Wilderness therapy is an elective group and is an opportunity for reflection and processing in an outdoor setting. The goal is to connect the mind body and spirit to make the body alive. Activities include hiking, music, art therapy and or moving meditation and games that involve teamwork and communication.

SASHA: Suicide and Self Harm Abstinence – This is an elective group limited to those who have attempted suicide, struggle with self harm and have experienced suicidal ideations. This is a peer led group with clinical oversight. The group offers support, encouragement and feedback to members. Client are recommended for this group by their primary therapist and agree to confidentiality.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Focus Group (ACT) – Acceptance and commitment therapy is an empirically based therapy intervention that uses mindfulness and acceptance strategies along with behavioral change and commitment strategies to promote a different way of thinking. In this focus group, clients will learn and practice strategies to live life more in the present and to live life more in the present with focus on life values and goals.  Clients will also gain skills to learn how to focus less on painful thoughts, feelings and experiences so these do not dominate their lives.


written by Annette Kaiser

About WGWC

Water Gap Wellness Center offers expert and compassionate treatment for mental health and substance abuse at our Pennsylvania facility, just outside New Jersey, a short drive from New York. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today. 

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