What Exactly is Group Therapy? Could it Work for Me?
You’ve likely seen many offerings during your time searching for a therapist, or even during your recovery journey, surrounding groups. There are many types of groups used in the therapeutic process, and they all hold their unique advantages when it comes to supporting folks in recovery. Groups are a form of psychotherapy and can be a standalone treatment or used to supplement your existing treatment with your own personal therapist. Groups are typically focused on certain topics such as depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, or substance use, but they can also center around particular modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Seeking Safety, and many others.
I typically hold groups that combine psychoeducation (which basically means learning more about issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing), skill-building, and peer support so that each member can get the most out of the experience. I’ve facilitated groups since my start as a therapist, and I’ve heard many concerns folks have about stepping into the group setting.
Group isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! It’s my hope that you glean something from this post that supports you in determining whether or not you would like to give it a shot. It’s important to note that my particular approach in combining types of groups is not the standard. Some groups focus on psychoeducation, which means they are aimed at educating you on a particular topic, supporting awareness of how these topics relate to your personal life, and help you develop coping skills related to the chosen area. There are also groups, such as DBT groups, which are focused on skill-building. They may use handouts to provide information on particular skills, then ask you to experiment with said skill outside of the session. They help fill your toolkit with handy tools to pull out and use when needed. There are also groups that focus on general support. They bring folks together in a safe space where they can share their stories and have a sense of fellowship during difficult times. It’s probably true that most groups mix these to a certain extent, but you may find that some focus on certain areas more than others. You can experiment with different types to know exactly what kind of support you’re seeking when you reach out for more information on offerings.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF GROUP THERAPY?
Group can be an affordable alternative to individual therapy. Most providers charge less for a single group therapy session than individual sessions as there are multiple people present.
You can learn and grow during each session, even if you don’t talk! Many of my clients have shared that listening to someone with similar experiences helps to instill hope and introduces new ways of coping that they didn’t consider before.
Group shows you that you are not alone. There are many situations that create a sense of isolation and leave us believing that no one else could possibly understand. We often feel like our experiences are so unique that we can’t connect with another person. This is true to a certain extent. Our experiences and associated pain are unique to us, but there are also people out there in similar situations. You’d be surprised just how much you can find connection with these folks. You may also hear reflections shared by others that give you some insight into your own patterns of behaviors, thought processes, or emotional experiences, and you can use this to conduct your own self-exploration.
The group setting allows you to work on social and interpersonal skills. Since your therapy session is shared by others, you will learn how to share the space and communicate with others in a respectful manner. If you are someone who struggles with relationships, the group space can be perfect for introducing you to healthy relationships. This is done through the development of the therapeutic relationship with your therapist and fellow group members. You will engage in icebreakers to learn about the people in the setting with you. Your therapist will expect healthy interactions, communication, and boundaries between members, and time can be allotted for safe processing if problems arise … And conflict will arise! We are all human after all. We have different beliefs and viewpoints. Those may clash at times with fellow group mem