Group therapy techniques for substance abuse (BOOK REVIEW)

Are you a therapist looking for a practical handbook on working with groups? Check out this workbook for real-life methods and techniques for treating substance abuse. More on why we like this new title from Guildford Press here.

minute read

Harness the power of a peer group

Working with people diagnosed with substance use disorders can be really challenging. So, how can you maximize the power of a peer group? And how can you work with groups in a treatment setting?

We’ve found a book written by expert authors that provides therapists with step-by-step guidelines for implementing structured sessions, along with strategies for enhancing motivation. That’s right step-by-step guidelines!

We review why you should check out this group therapy and addiction treatment workbook: for its practical methods and techniques for treating substance abuse. Plus, new material on the psycholinguistics of change and how to better facilitate client progress by attending to certain types of client language.

Looking to best help your clients? More here.

Group treatment for substance abuse: What are the advantages?

The integrated group program outlined in this book helps people move through the stages of change to get sober. It is a very methodical guide to this change and will lead you in developing specific skill sets about clients. You will learn to help clients:

  • build skills for acknowledging a problem
  • decide to act
  • develop and executing a plan
  • accomplish other critical tasks

But why move from individual to group therapy?

While motivational interviewing, change management, or other therapeutic techniques have been used to do accomplish similar goals, you may be able to influence more people WHERE THEY ARE IN THE CHANGE PROCESS. Here are some of the numerous advantages why the authors suggest using groups in substance abuse treatment.


  • Add needed structure and discipline.
  • Effectively confront individual members about harmful behaviors.
  • Effectively confront individual members about substance abuse.
  • Enable people to witness the recovery of others.
  • Help members undertake difficult or anxiety-provoking tasks.
  • Help members learn to cope through others’ examples.
  • Instill hope.
  • Offer family-like experiences.
  • Offer the opportunity to learn or relearn social skills.
  • Provide feedback concerning other values and abilities.
  • Provide positive peer support to abstain.
  • Provide useful information to clients who are new to recovery.
  • Reduce the sense of isolation.
  • Support and provide encouragement to one another outside the group setting.

What will you learn from this manual?

This manual is for clinicians who work with clients who struggle with addiction. It offers treatment strategies based on the transtheoretical model (TTM) of behavior change. TTM draws from a wide range of major psychological theories and approaches – which is why it is called “transtheoretical”- and it offers a well established and research-based framework for understanding, measuring, evaluating and intervening in behavior change. TTM has three (3) major dimensions:

  1. The stages
  2. Processes
  3. Makers of change

These three (3) dimensions are used to determine how ready a person is to change and to help that person use the strategies that are most effective, based on his or her stage of readiness.

In this manual, each session targets one or more of the transtheoretical model change processes. Using this approach, clinicians can guide clients in the use of the processes and markers of change by facilitating their completion of the critical tasks needed to progress on to the next stage of change. Step-by-step guidelines for implementation are provided for each session, as well as handouts and exercise forms that can be photocopied and distributed to clients.

How is the book structured?

“Group Treatment for Substance Abuse: A Stages-of-Change Therapy Manual” divides group treatment for substance abuse into three (3) main parts:

Part I contains explanation of the transtheoretical model (TTM) in detail and review strategies and techniques that will be used to trigger change process in the sessions. This part also contains descriptions of the practical details of setting up and carying out the intervention and introduce the basic session structure for all sessions.

Part II covers sessions titled as Precontemplation – Contemplation – Preparaation “P/C/p” for people in the early stages of change through reparation

Part III details sessions titled Action – Maintenance “A/M” for clients in the later stages of change. For each session the is a presentation of its rationale and content objectives, offered list of materials which are required and a list of step-by- step session tasks. All of them followed by an explanation how to carry out those tasks to accomplish the session objectives.

Why Do We Recommend This Book?

You can customize sessions to fit your own practice!

It’s our opinion that this manual provides you with examples of specific strategies and exercises that can HELP DRIVE CHANGE. The workbook is meant as a implementable and direct clinical tool. It provides direction and structure to clinicians, but the sequence and related techniques are not “cast in stone”. Therefore, you’ll be able to select those sessions that are most appropriate for a group or an individual at any particular stage or time in treatment.

Once you become familiar with all of the processes of change, you will be able to recognize other strategies, beyond those included in this manual, that correspond to process movement.

You and your clients will find the group sessions in this manual to be informative, motivational, and fun. Because they are based on the latest research and strategies in the substance abuse field and are quite different from traditional treatment approaches, they may feel unfamiliar at first. But as you begin to use this intervention, you may notice a somewhat different response from clients than you have seen in the past.

Since you will be working with clients “where they are” in terms of readiness to change, it is likely that they will be less resistant to treatment. Can you imagine a group full of people more willing to draw upon their own resources and intrinsic motivations to change? Start envisioning now!

Wondering where you can find “Group Treatment for Substance Abuse, Second Edition: A Stages-of-Change Therapy Manual”? To buy, download and read the book, check this link Additionally, if you are left with any questions about this book, we ask you to post them in the section below. We also welcome your feedback if you’ve read the book, and would like to comment and share your opinion.

About the Authors: Mary Marden Velasquez, PhD, is the Director of the Health Behavior Research and Training (HBRT) Institute at the School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin. For more than 20 years, Dr. Velasquez has developed and studied behavioral interventions in the areas of group therapy, integrated primary care, screening and brief interventions, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, alcohol and other drug abuse, prenatal health, sexually transmitted disease and HIV prevention, and smoking cessation. With particular expertise in the use of evidence-based brief interventions in health care, substance abuse treatment, and criminal justice settings, she is the author of numerous publications on motivational interventions in high-risk settings. She is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT).


Cathy Crouch, LCSW, is Executive Vice-President of SEARCH Homeless Services, a large multi-service organization in Houston, Texas, which works with persons who have substance use problems and other issues. She has 27 years of management experience in nonprofit, corporate, and academic settings, and a strong commitment to using evidence-based practices and conducting research and evaluation. Over her career she has served as co-principal investigator or consultant on a number of large federally funded research grants, including several clinical trials. Ms. Crouch is a clinical social worker, a state board-approved clinical supervisor, and a member of MINT.


Nanette Stokes Stephens, PhD, a clinical psychologist, is Director of Training and Research Scientist at the HBRT Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. She has more than 20 years of experience working with the transtheoretical model and utilizing MI as a trainer, clinician, consultant, coach, and supervisor, and has published peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Stephens is a member of MINT and has worked in a wide range of settings and agencies, including those that provide substance abuse services for veterans, homeless people, the military, juvenile probationers, college students, and women at risk for alcohol- and tobacco-exposed pregnancies.


Carlo C. DiClemente, PhD, ABPP, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Director of the MDQuit tobacco resource center and the Center for Community Collaboration at UMBC. He is co-developer of the transtheoretical model of behavior change and is the author of numerous scientific publications on motivation and behavior change. His books include Substance Abuse Treatment and the Stages of Change, Second Edition (coauthored with Gerard J. Connors, Mary Marden Velasquez, and Dennis M. Donovan), Addiction and Change: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover, and the self-help resource Changing for Good. Dr. DiClemente is a recipient of numerous awards, including, most recently, a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Addictive Behaviors Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?