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How Group Therapy Can Foster Healthy Relationships

May 3rd, 2023

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If you are unfamiliar with group therapy, you may be wondering if it is the right choice for you. However, there are numerous advantages to this form of therapy. Group therapy has many benefits. It can help us increase our social connections and improve relationships. This blog post will discuss the types of group therapy and how it can help us.

Group therapy has similar advantages to individual therapy and offers experiences outside of what an individual session includes. Groups offer a supportive atmosphere for individuals with comparable issues, dreams, and needs. They gain advice and encouragement from each other as well as the facilitator. Hearing the words “I feel that way too” can be powerful and a step toward transformation.

Group therapy may be more affordable and easier to access than individual sessions. And there are several types of groups geared toward different subjects or issues. The first step in deciding whether to join a group is identifying your specific needs and goals. This initial step will help narrow your search to find the type of group that will be the best fit.

Types of Group Therapy 

Types of Group Therapy

  • Open vs. Closed groups - In open groups members meet for an indefinite number of weeks and new members may join at any point. Members may choose to leave the group at various times too. With closed groups, members commit to attending regularly for a set number of weeks from start to finish. Closed groups often center around specific topics and skill-building.
  • Psychoeducational/Skill-building Groups- These types of groups focus on supporting and educating members, usually about a specific disorder or concern. A collective could discuss information about bipolar disorder.

They could also instruct methods for managing it. Additionally, they could provide a forum to help each other. There may be weekly assignments to complete in between sessions.

  • Support Groups- Support groups allow members to express thoughts and feelings openly while receiving validation and encouragement. They may focus on helping people through grief, abuse, parenting, or other concerns.
  • Psychodrama Groups - Participants re-enact aspects of their lives with other members, often evoking strong emotions discussed as a group.
  • Interpersonal Process Groups - These groups concentrate on relationships with an emphasis on the here and now. Feedback and self-observation help members gain awareness of their behaviors and the impact of behaviors on relationships.
Improving Relationships with the Help of Group Therapy 

Improving Relationships with the Help of Group Therapy

No matter the type, groups provide a small resemblance of what members’ everyday worlds might look like. This aspect can be extremely valuable for gaining insight into our relationships outside of the group. With increased insight and new perspectives, we can:

  • Develop and feel a sense of connectedness with others.
  • See ourselves and others in new ways while increasing acceptance and self-confidence.
  • Learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships, including but not limited to, assertiveness in relationships, and healthy communication.

If your goal is to improve relationships, group therapy can be helpful in addition to individual work with a therapist. Many factors influence our behaviors in relationships. Our early experiences with the people in our lives, and how they handled disagreements greatly influence our current interactions with others.

Our past influences how we learn to express emotions, actively listen, our communication styles, and how we feel about ourselves. The ability to set healthy boundaries in relationships and enforce them is also impacted by our past experiences. Healthy boundaries are key to developing and maintaining positive relationships. Let’s look at unhealthy boundaries- porous and rigid- and how each impacts relationships.

When we have porous boundaries, we:

  • Have trouble saying no and find it uncomfortable to voice our needs and wants.
  • May overshare or become overly involved in the lives of others.
  • Struggle to separate others’ emotions from our own.
  • Engage in people-pleasing and codependent behaviors.
  • May start to feel resentment at not getting their needs met, negatively impacting relationships.
  • Might experience increased anxiety when others are upset.
  • May have a negative self-image that influences what we accept in relationships.

When we have rigid boundaries, we:

  • Struggle with vulnerability and closeness to others.
  • Are often overly private and independent.
  • Avoid intimate relationships and keep people at a distance.
  • Have difficulty trusting others.
  • May experience depression and feelings of loneliness.

Improving Relationships with the Help of Group Therapy 

We can fluctuate between rigid and porous boundaries depending on context and experiences. We can have different boundaries with different people. For example, our boundaries with family may be porous, but we may develop rigid boundaries in romantic relationships.

This is because we have been hurt multiple times. It’s important to note that porous and rigid boundaries often feel protective.

Sharing parts of ourselves with others can be uncomfortable and terrifying. We may also find it difficult to assertively communicate our needs if we aren’t used to doing it. Group therapy not only facilitates learning skills to set and enforce healthy boundaries. Groups focused on improving relationships can also encourage:

  • Building skills to manage and express emotions in effective ways.
  • Increasing skills to navigate conflict, assert needs, and communicate effectively with self-respect.
  • Practicing vulnerability and emotional intimacy in a safe space to feel comfortable around others.
  • Identifying unhelpful behaviors and receiving support in changing behaviors.

Groups remind us that we are not alone in our experiences. Group therapy may be the right choice for you. Find a group that matches your needs and desires. Then, contact the leader of the group or the organization that is running it. They can answer questions and help you clarify if the group is right for you.

References

Your Ultimate Group Therapy Guide

Healthy Relationships Initiative

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