Same-day admissions available. Call Now.

Group Therapy for Veterans: Tailoring Treatment for Addiction and Mental Wellness

& 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.

Editorial Policy

Last Updated - 03/02/2024

View our editorial policy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling 561-340-7269 now.

Updated 03/02/2024

When individuals embark on a journey through a substance use treatment regimen, they are introduced to a spectrum of therapeutic engagements, including both one-on-one and group therapy sessions. For veterans navigating the path to recovery, group therapy sessions, meticulously designed to reflect their specific needs, become a cornerstone of their therapeutic journey.

Group Therapy in Treatment: Fostering a Supportive Ecosystem

Group therapy introduces therapeutic engagement within a collective context, diverging from the individual therapy approach. It constitutes an integral part of the rehabilitation itinerary for veterans, providing a platform for engagement in a supportive system. Participation in group therapy enables veterans to forge connections with fellow participants who are likewise confronting similar adversities, fostering an environment conducive to healing. 

Mental Wellness Through Group Therapy

Veterans enlisted in rehabilitation programs benefit from partaking in group therapy aimed at promoting mental health. The spectrum of mental health issues addressed through group therapy can include:

  • Clinical depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Simultaneous substance use and mental health challenges

Research directed at veterans with PTSD reveals that group therapy is just as effective as individual therapy for mitigating depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies. Further investigation affirms its effectiveness in alleviating depressive states and PTSD symptoms.

With a significant fraction of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, estimated between 14–16%, grappling with depression or PTSD, the promise of group therapy in managing these conditions is noteworthy.

Advantages of Group Therapy for Veterans

The Veterans Administration champions group therapy for its manifold benefits to veterans, as highlighted by a VA clinical psychologist. The benefits include:

  • Advanced interpersonal capabilities: Engaging in group therapy enhances interaction with peers, fostering the cultivation of healthy communication skills and advancing interpersonal capabilities.
  • Connection on an emotional level: The realities of veteran life often lead to  isolation. Group therapy bridges emotional connections amongst participants, anchored in shared experiences.
  • Coping strategy enhancement: Group therapy sessions emerge as ideal settings  for the development and refinement of coping mechanisms.
  • Establishment of a support network: The collective dimension of group therapy offers an essential support network, providing solace and reducing feelings of isolation in veterans. 
  • Provision of a secure setting: Group therapy offers a sanctuary for veterans to divulge their experiences in a safe setting with peers navigating similar waters. 
  • Exposure to different recovery narratives: These sessions unveil various different strategies for coping,  potentially beneficial to participants.
  • Enhanced empathy: Providing support and lending an ear to fellow group members amplifies one’s empathy towards others.

Themes in Group Therapy Sessions

 The themes and topics explored in group therapy sessions are diverse and dependent on the treatment modality. Nonetheless, themes prevalently addressed in veterans’ group therapy sessions include:

  • Transitioning back to civilian life 
  • Creating strong family bonds 
  • Effective stress management in daily life
  • Insight into mental health disorder symptoms, like PTSD or depression
  • Formulation of strategies to mitigate mental health symptoms
  • Counteraction of substance misuse
  • Relapse prevention strategies
  • Changing unhelpful thinking patterns

Approaches Employed in Group Therapy

Group therapy is characterized by an array of therapeutic approaches, with certain strategies proving particularly efficacious for veterans, including:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD management, facilitating an exploration into how trauma reshapes thought processes towards healing.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in a group setting, aiding veterans in altering detrimental thinking patterns and fostering social support networks.
  • Present-Centered Therapy, aimed at educating veterans about prevalent PTSD symptoms and aiding them in enhancing current interpersonal dynamics and behaviors.
  • Mindfulness practices in a group setting, equipping veterans with stress management and relaxation techniques, fostering a non-judgmental present-moment awareness to mitigate negative emotions and stress.

Facilitation of Group Therapy Sessions

Group therapy sessions necessitate leadership by a licensed mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker, counselor, or psychologist, with a specialization in veteran affairs. For instance, at The Recovery Village, group therapy leaders in our FORTITUDE program complete military cultural competency training, ensuring adeptness in addressing the unique demands of the veteran population.

Group Therapy Frequency Across Treatment Modalities

The frequency at which group therapy is conducted varies with the treatment modality. Inpatient and residential centers typically schedule more frequent group therapy sessions, which is attributed to the structured program and residential setting. Partial hospitalization may include daily group therapy, whereas intensive outpatient programs might feature sessions a few times a week.

Enhancing Outcomes Through Group Therapy for Veterans

Group therapy stands as a powerful tool for veterans contending with addiction and/or concurrent mental health diagnoses. To fully leverage these benefits, active participation and an open mindset during sessions are imperative.

Embracing the collective sharing experience and listening actively to the insights shared within the group, veterans can glean invaluable coping strategies and perspectives from their peers.

Though initial apprehensions about group sharing are natural, the supportive and confidential nature of group therapy fosters profound progress through shared experiences and vulnerabilities.

Introducing the FORTITUDE Specialty Track for Veterans

The Recovery Village is poised to extend specialized support to veterans through our FORTITUDE program, tailored to address addiction and co-existing mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression. Our team of Veteran Advocates is ready to facilitate the commencement of treatment and provide ongoing support throughout the recovery journey. 

View Sources

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.