Group Therapy – What Should I Expect?
Group therapy involves a therapist who leads a group of roughly five to 10 clients. Typically, groups meet for an hour and a half each week. Some people attend individual therapy in addition to groups, while others participate in groups only. Many groups are designed to target a specific issue.
Benefits of Group Therapy
Joining a group of strangers may sound intimidating at first, but group therapy provides benefits that individual therapy may not. Therapists say, in fact, that group members are almost always surprised by how rewarding the group experience can be. Groups can act as a support network and a sounding board. Other members of the group often help you come up with specific ideas for improving a difficult situation or life challenge, and hold you accountable along the way. Regularly talking and listening to others also helps you put your own problems in perspective. Many people experience emotional health difficulties, but few speak openly about them to people they don’t know well. Oftentimes, you may feel like you are the only one struggling — but you’re not. It can be a relief to hear others discuss what they’re going through, and realize you’re not alone.
More Than Support
While group members are a valuable source of support, formal group therapy sessions offer benefits beyond informal self-help and support groups. Group therapy sessions are led by a therapist with specialized training, who can help facilitate interactions. Because the therapy group is a microcosm of our day to day life, the challenges we experience in relationships outside of group play out in the group. What’s important about group therapy is that it gives us the opportunity to slow down and examine the interpersonal dynamics we are creating as we actually create them. This, in turn, helps us develop insight and creates the opportunity for us to practice engaging in different ways.
Is group therapy enough?
Many people find it’s helpful to participate in both group therapy and individual psychotherapy. Participating in both types of psychotherapy can boost your chances of making valuable, lasting changes. If you’ve been involved in individual psychotherapy and your progress has stalled, joining a group may jump-start your personal growth.
How much should I share?
Confidentiality is an important part of the ground rules for group therapy. However, there’s no absolute guarantee of privacy when sharing with others, so use common sense when divulging personal information. That said, remember that you’re not the only one sharing your personal story. Groups work best where there is open and honest communication between members. Group members will start out as strangers, but in a short amount of time, you’ll most likely view them as a valuable and trusted source of support.
*adapted from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/group-therapy.aspx Ben Johnson, PhD