What is group therapy?
Group therapy is a powerful vehicle for growth, change and support. Not only will you receive tremendous understanding, support, and encouragement from others, but you will also gain different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints that can make a difference in how you experience yourself and others. Many clients, though somewhat apprehensive at first, say that the group experience was helpful far beyond their expectations.
In group, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the way you interact with others. What makes the group unique is that it is a closed and safe system. The content of the group sessions is confidential; what members talk about or disclose is not discussed outside the group.
The first few sessions of a group usually focus on the establishment of trust. During this time, members work to establish a level of trust that allows them to talk personally and honestly. Group trust is achieved when all members make a commitment to the group.
How does group therapy work?
Most personal problems are interpersonal in nature. Very often they stem from our relationships with our family of origin. Group therapy offers the rare opportunity to explore and understand how you relate to others and get specific feedback on how others react to you.
For many people, groups can be more effective and produce quicker results than individual therapy. The opportunity to work through problems with other people who share similar concerns is what makes group therapy special. Only in group therapy can you directly work on how you relate to others. The group environment of trust and safety can help you build the skills you need to create the same kind of trust and safety in your everyday life with friends, family, and intimate partners.
The group experience can help you learn about your style of relating, your ability to be close, and your personal effectiveness in relationships, and gives you the unique opportunity to see how others struggle with these same concerns. It also offers the opportunity to explore a broad range of personal issues and situations.
Some of the many benefits of group therapy
- The group experience affords the opportunity to be real with others in an environment of safety and respect.
- Being in a group can counteract feelings of isolation and a sense of being alone with your feelings.
- Members are able to try out new behaviors.
- Group can provide members with diverse views, responses, and feedback.
- In group, members often see their usual patterns of relating to people, allowing for an opportunity to challenge these patterns.
- Groups can allow members the chance to explore and better understand themselves, learn new ways of relating, and how to better cope with difficulties.
What do I talk about in group therapy?
The issues you choose to talk about are typically those that relate directly to your present difficulty or concerns. How much you talk about yourself depends upon what you are comfortable with. Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties. Revealing your feelings about the issue you are struggling with (self-disclosure) is an important part of group therapy and affects how much you will gain from it. If you have any questions about what might or might not be helpful, you can always ask the group.
Some common misperceptions about group therapy
“I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group.”
You decide what, how much, and when you share with the group. Most people find that when they feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. I encourage you not to share what you are not ready to disclose. You can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.
“Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy because I will have to share the time with others.”
Actually, group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you say very little but listen carefully to others. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, and as they work on a concern, you can learn more about yourself. Secondly, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but that you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.
“I will be verbally attacked by the leaders and by other group members.”
It is essential that group members feel safe to explore and share their concerns in a non-judgmental atmosphere. As your group therapist my job is to help create that safe environment. Feedback is often difficult to hear. As group members come to trust and accept one another, they generally experience feedback and even confrontation as positive, as if it were coming from their best friend. One of the benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to receive feedback from others in a supportive environment. It is rare to find friends who will gently point out how you might be behaving in ways that hurt yourself or others, but this is precisely what the group can offer. This will be done in a respectful, gentle way, so that you can hear it and make use of it.
“I have so much trouble talking with people, I’ll never be able to share in a group.”
Most people are anxious about being able to talk in group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people find that they do begin to talk in the group. You will most likely get a lot of support for sharing in the group.
When are the groups held?
If you are interested in being in a group or have any questions call or email me and I will be glad to discuss this opportunity with you.