Thinking about group therapy? Maybe your therapist has suggested that you would be a good candidate for group therapy. Perhaps you’ve been in a support group in the past and have some idea of how groups work. Or, does your understanding of group therapy come solely from seeing movies like 28 Days with Sandra Bullock, or Fight Club with Brad Pitt?
You should know that there are a lot of very good reasons to consider group therapy. The following list, developed through extensive research by Dr. Irvin Yalom, famed Existential Therapist and author of The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, describes the therapeutic factors involved in the group therapy experience (don’t be surprised; there’s a bunch of them).
• Universality-recognition of shared experiences in a group dispels sense of isolation, validates experiences, and raises self esteem
• Altruism-members can help each other and feel good about it
• Installation of Hope-members can be inspired and encouraged by each other
• Imparting Information-factual information about treatment or other services is regularly shared
• Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Experience-members can learn how to avoid repeating unhelpful behaviors (still lingering from childhood) in present relationships
• Development of Socializing Techniques-group offers a safe and supportive environment for members to improve their social skills
• Imitative Behavior-members can develop new skills from observing behaviors modeled by therapist as well as other members
• Cohesiveness-most important-members feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, and validation; this is where personal development takes place
• Existential factors-learning to take responsibility for one’s life, decisions, and actions
• Catharsis-release from emotional distress through the free and uninhibited expression of emotion to a supportive audience
• Interpersonal Learning-members achieve a greater sense of self-awareness through interaction with other group members who give feedback on behavior and impact on others.
• Self-understanding-similar to interpersonal learning, but refers to greater insight into the origins of one’s problems and the motivations behind one’s behavior
Fortunately, if you feel hesitant initially to share your personal experiences in group, you can still benefit greatly from vicarious learning (observing, retaining, and replicating the behavior of others). Also, it’s believed by many mental health professionals that group therapy produces stronger, long lasting results compared to individual therapy. Best of all, group therapy is actually less expensive than individual therapy sessions.
Yes, there are some drawbacks to group therapy for you to consider. Sharing information about your challenges and feelings with a group of total strangers can be quite intimidating. Confidentiality must be established and maintained among group members. Also, sometimes groups can be poorly run and have the potential to do more harm than good. A good rule to follow is to avoid groups of more than twelve people, as too many members makes it nearly impossible for everyone to feel heard and the “work” can get bogged down more easily by one person’s issues. A well qualified therapist is key to the success of any group.
Are you a candidate for group work? Well, are you willing to try to change your current ways of behaving into more productive ones? Would you feel comfortable giving someone else feedback that may be difficult for them to hear (keep in mind that part of group therapy is learning how to offer constructive observations to members and how to receive the same form them)? Are you ready to shift your psychological growth into high gear? Group therapy can be effective in addressing a variety of concerns including anxiety, depression, addiction and family problems. This may be something for you to seriously consider.
At Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando our Life Coaches and Therapists are ready to put you on the path to well being. Give us a call, 407-355-7378. -Kim