February 26th, 2019
The thought of sitting in a group for therapy can be quite intimidating and often provokes various responses. From a simple “no thanks,” to “are you out of your mind?!,” sitting in a room full of strangers with similar issues, while divulging your personal thoughts, may seem like a bizarre aspect of treatment. However, it has benefits you may not otherwise see in individual therapy or in your personal life.
So, while this recommendation is initially met with resistance and doubt around my competency as a therapist, once clients understand why a group setting is a helpful addition to their treatment the option to participate is met with willingness and intrigue (and belief in my competency restored). Here’s why:
Some individuals with a mental health diagnosis do not like to talk about their difficulties or minimize what they are going through to reduce possibly burdening others in their life. In this type of therapy, you will be part of a collection of people that have similar problems as your own and who can relate to your experiences in a manner that others in your life, including your individual therapist, may not have been able to.
This form of connectedness can provide a sense of relief and validation that you are not alone in your experience. Whether you are in for depression, to learn general skills, or to manage an eating disorder, having a place to openly discuss these topics and be vulnerable in your experience may have profound benefits to your growth in treatment.
Group sessions can also be a sounding board if you are having a difficult experience and need some feedback on how to maneuver through it. The use of a support group and feedback can be very healing and powerful for group members.
Group therapy sessions will provide insights into social skills and provide teachable moments that you may not otherwise have available to you. In individual therapy, it is just you and your therapist, and the naturally built-in power differential that presents in the professional relationship. In group therapy, you are among peers who are more transparent and personal when sharing and relating. Through having a metaphorical mirror held up to us while surrounded by other people, different emotional responses may be evoked in us that allows for a more “real” moment.
One of my favorite parts of facilitating these sessions is how the everyone holds each other accountable. Each person is participating for their own reasons and holds mutual respect towards another for what they are working through. We tend to push ourselves more when in the presence of others to reduce the risk of receiving disconfirming feedback and to increase the chance of being accepted by the group.
I also observe that members who invest in the group tend to invest in each other as well. Whether you are having a tough time in discussion, not attending a session, or showing a lapse in treatment, dedicated group members tend to compassionately confront other members and hold them accountable to work through it.
One of the strongest benefits of group therapy, in my opinion, is the diversity members bring to the group. Participation from members of various socioeconomic statuses, races, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religions, diagnoses, and so on leaves room for various perspectives to be offered to other members and challenges members to view situations in ways they may not have otherwise considered. There is so much opportunity to learn from each other and group therapy creates the space for this to occur.
Let’s be honest, no matter how much we may love therapy and feel motivated to attend, treatment can be expensive. Group therapy can be a great way to supplement your work in individual therapy at a lower cost. Rather than not attend treatment as often or engage in additional individual sessions, ask your therapist if group therapy is an option so you don’t have to miss out.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) tend to facilitate group-heavy programs as part of their treatment plans, so when clients transition out of these outpatient programs they may lose some of that sense of support and community. Group therapy is a recommended service to offer to clients, in addition to individual therapy, to maintain that same structure and connectedness that helped foster their progress.
Written by: Lindsay Buvel, LCPC.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
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