Topics for Substance Abuse Groups

Substance abuse affects over 3 million people in the United States and can lead to a myriad of problems. Consequences of substance abuse and addiction include problems in major life areas, such as work, family and school as well as health and mental health issues. Group therapy is the most widely used and recommended treatment for people with substance abuse problems. There are many types of therapy groups, but most cover a few fundamental topics.


Psychoeducation is an important topic for people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. The goal is to educate participants and their families about the biological effects of addiction, including how the body becomes addicted to a specific drug, what the biological consequences of short and long-term use might be. These groups also look at topics of withdrawal, detoxification and long-term physiological effects of being clean or sober. Psychoeducational topics also include mental health issues related to substance abuse. This is important because some people use alcohol or drugs as a way to treat an underlying mental health issue, while others experience mental health issues related to drug abuse.

Coping Skills

These topics often are discussed in terms of relapse prevention and include skills and coping methods for recovery 1. Participants learn about what relapse means, what high-risk situations or triggers are for relapse and how to recognize and anticipate these triggers. Topics may include the 12 steps or traditions used by Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous and the process of completing these steps. Discussion may also revolve around stages of change, how to talk to loved ones about addiction and recovery, and what it means to be in recovery from substance addiction.


Open processing groups may take the form of self-help or 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or psychotherapy groups. A processing group can either be client-run, as in AA or facilitated by a counselor. These groups may have a broad topic, such as family or work issues related to recovery, but the point of the group is for participants to supply support and encouragement to each other. In this way, group participants can “normalize” others' experiences, helping each other to feel less isolated in their problems.