The World Health Organization implemented the Indigenous Peoples and Substance Use project as a way of empowering communities and giving them control over their health. A definition of indigenous is “a group of international people who have a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory.” Substance abuse problems affect several types of individuals but are one of the major health issues facing indigenous groups. Indigenous therapy can help indigenous people find the support and community they need to become clean and sober and maintain their sobriety.
The Principles of Group Therapy
Indigenous group therapy helps in many ways by bringing similar people together to discuss and support one another.
The principles of group therapy include:
- Inspiration and hope: Group therapy contains group members who are at different stages of the treatment process. This allows people to see how others are coping or recovering, which gives hope and inspires others to get through their treatment program.
- A sense of community: Being around others who have gone through the same or similar experiences helps people see that they are not alone in the recovery process. Many patients feel as though they are part of a community and have a strong support system.
- Provide information and advice: Group members are all able to provide information based on their own experiences, along with advising other group members in any stressful situations they may be experiencing.
- Social development: The environment that group therapy provides is a great way for patients to practice new behaviors. The safe and confidential environment allows group members to experiment without fear of failure.
- Interpersonal learning: Group members are encouraged to interact with each other, along with receiving feedback from the group and the therapist. Members of the group can gain a greater insight into who they are and who the other group members are.
How Group Therapy Works
The size of the group can be as small as three or four people, but more often than not, groups will contain seven to twelve people. Groups usually meet once or twice each week for about an hour or two. In general, the group will meet in a room with chairs arranged in a large circle so everyone can see each other. A session can begin with each member introducing themselves and sharing why they are in group therapy, along with sharing their experiences and progress since the last meeting. Each group has different goals, and the way each session is conducted depends on those goals and the type of therapist who is supervising. Group therapy often results in individuals who feel supported, encouraged and confident in maintaining their sobriety.
INDIGENOUS: Recovery based upon the Native American Wellbriety model.
Coping with addiction involves ridding the body of the toxins that have been an escape for an extended period. A Forever Recovery’s Indigenous therapy path focuses on those toxins as a way to get rid of an addiction. Instead of seeing alcohol or drugs as the problem, this philosophy sees them as a symptom of a deeper issue.
A year ago I was sitting in the airport waiting for this program to come pick me up, wanting to die,” said John A. at A Forever Recovery’s annual reunion picnic. “Wanting to run. Because I don’t know how to deal with life on my own. I realized finally that I wasn’t going just to be able to stay sober by having a good job and having things in my life. Because all that means nothing if I’m not happy on the inside.”
The indigenous philosophy believes in the Four Laws of Change: change is from within; for development to occur, it must be preceded by a vision; a great learning must take place; you must create a Healing Forest. To those who have never heard of this program, “creating a Healing Forest” may sound silly, but it is a model for overcoming addiction. The diagram shows trees labeled as “alcoholic,” “drug abuser,” “prison,” “co-dependency” and others, rooted in fear, shame, guilt, and anger. These roots are the key to overcoming addiction.
“This place changed my life,” said Tara, a graduate of A Forever Recovery. “It saved my life. I would say it gave me a second chance, but it didn’t really. It was like the fourth, the fifth, the sixth chance.”
Just as Alcoholics Anonymous is rooted in looking to an undefined higher power, so is the Wellbriety program. The White Bison Philosophy states that all Native people believe in a Supreme Being. With that being undefined the way it is, it opens up the possibility for clients to explore that recovery method without identifying with a particular religion.
“I tell real people outside that, ‘okay is not okay,’” said Adam, a graduate of A Forever Recovery. “I work hard on myself every single day because I want to be able to come back here to you guys (clients at AFR) –people like me –and tell you that once you get out of here, your program is all you have and you’ve got to work it. I take it as seriously as possible.”
The programs these clients learn throughout their time at A Forever Recovery are crucial to their maintained sobriety. That is why the Five Tracks Indigenous is offered at the facility to give those who attend a much better chance at success – they can choose the road that best fits who they are.
Indigenous Therapy at A Forever Recovery
It is important for patients to enter a group therapy that works specifically for them and their needs. This is why there are so many different types of group therapies, such as Indigenous therapy. This way, people of similar nature can come together and share their experiences and pieces of advice with one another to gain a better insight into themselves and others around them. At A Forever Recovery, we have sought to bring together several trained and licensed professionals or certified recovering members of many different modalities that have a background in the addiction field. We aim to provide a recovering environment that is unique by bringing together many different types of counselors.
We want to guide our clients into finding the kind of treatments that are best for their specific needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and would like to learn more about indigenous group therapy, call us at our toll-free number to speak with one of our advisors.