Group Therapy

What is Group Therapy?

For several decades, therapists have used the group as a standard treatment approach.  Either as the sole treatment or in coordination with other therapies, group therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions, communications, and relationship issues.  The difference between group therapy and individual therapy is the interaction within the group.  As such,  a group has to form and the members need to get comfortable with each other before it can be the most effective.  Also the group leader takes responsibility for ensuring the group members stay focused on the treatment goal.  

How  Does Group Therapy Work?

As we grow and develop, we learn to make friends, communicate, and share.  We get a sense of who we are through our interactions with others.   Group therapy was designed with the idea that people having difficulties in relationships or self-concept can work through these issues while in a group setting.  Often, interpersonal  problems like stress, anxiety, depression, self esteem, or communication difficulties are often apparent in troubled relationships.   The group process allows for people to learn new relationship skills and have a safe environment in which to practice those skills.  Often times, in group, the discussion revolves around relationship patterns.  Group members discuss their interactions and what those interactions mean to them.

Common concerns

"I don't want to tell strangers all about me"

Group therapy is not a forced confession.  It is not necessary to give out information such as last names, places of work and addresses.  As the group progresses, members will become more comfortable and can trust in each other.  Each member will find their own level of comfort and communicate in the group on that level.  Members decide for themselves how much they want to disclose about their lives.  In trauma groups, however, disclosing specifics about a member's abuse would be discouraged.  Those kinds of details could negatively effect another member.

"If they are all like me how can that possibly help?"

Believe it or not, sharing a part of your situation or an attempt you made to cope with something could be very helpful to other group members.  Talking about problems is helpful.  For others who have the same troubles there is a feeling of validation-a feeling that tells them they are not alone.

 "What if I lose control?"

Movies are dramatic.  Some movies have depicted characters in a therapy group losing control.  That is a very rare occurrence in a real world therapy group.  It is the leaders responsibility to monitor the emotional tension of the group.  The leader helps move the group along when it gets stuck or calms things down if members are getting too tense or angry.

 "Nobody will want me there"

Most of us fear rejection, exclusion or judgment when faced with a new social situation.  Those fears are completely understandable.  It is good to talk about those fears in group. You would be surprised to learn how many other members have had those same fears.

 How do I get the most out of Group Therapy?

  • The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.  Be open to the process.
  • Try to be as open and honest as you can.
  • Be focused on the content of the group.  Group time is not the same as social time.
  • Really listen to what other group members are saying.  Tell the members how you feel in response to what they have said.
  • Take risks.  Try talking about a personal matter and be ready to listen to the feedback.
  • Listen to yourself.  Try to explore how you feel about the group discussion points.
  • Listen with your eyes.  Try to watch members' non-verbal body language.  Comment if someone's tone of voice or look on their face does not match their spoken words.
  • Be willing to participate in homework are exercises the leader suggests.
  • If you are having negative feelings or disappointed about the group process, bring it to the group.  Talk it out.
  • Give it time.  By allowing yourself 6-8 weeks of a group, you will give yourself enough time to know if the group is right for you.

Group Rules

Initial commitment.
Groups generally have a time frame of a few months, although some are long-term.   When you are committing to the group, be sure youcan be available for the duration of the group.  It will take time to see how helpful a group can be.  Be clear on the expectations of the group and your ability to meet those expectations.  

Alcohol or drugs.
 If you arrive for a group under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if your behavior becomes disruptive, you will be excluded from the group.  Being under the influence does effect the overall  functioning of the group. 

Whatever you say in group stays in group.  If you discuss the group with an outside person be sure to leave out names and identifying information.  Generally, in group therapy, confidentiality is a strictly adhered to rule.  Always remember don't talk about others just as you don't want them to talk about you.  

Attendance and punctuality.

As a group member, you have a responsibility to be a part of the group. It is important to be consistent in attendance and arrive on time.  In doing so, you demonstrate your commitment and respect to the others.  If you do have to miss a session, let the leader know as soon as possible so the group can be notified and start on time.   

Socializing with group members.
Generally, socializing with group members outside of the group is frowned upon.  Having an outside relationship with another group member gets in the way of the group process.  The two who have the outside relationship may not share issues that could potentially damage the friendship.  If you have contact with group members outside of group, it is important to tell the group, so that the effects of that relationship can be processed by the group.