We human beings are social animals. We are part of a group in our families, with friends, at work and when we go down the pub. Being able to relate to others is essential to our happiness and wellbeing. Enter group therapy!
Group therapy has a great track record for success with many issues including depression, loneliness, anxiety, stress, anger management and social anxiety. It’s odd to think that many of these issues would be effectively addressed by group therapy, so here’s why:
You discover you are not unique. When we have problems in our lives it’s really easy to think that we are the only one in the world struggling. In a group you will quickly find out that you are not alone and there are other people struggling too. this helps in a couple of ways. Firstly it gives permission to have problems and helps to see that it’s normal. Secondly you can talk to people who know exactly where you’re coming from because they’ve been there too. Everyone can share effective techniques that they have used to resolve the problem.
You’ve got the support of others. Over time in a group your relationships with the other group members will become strong and supportive. It’s important to appreciate that these relationships will probably feel different to those between you and your family or friends. The level of intimacy between members is going to be higher due to the trusting nature of the group. Now this doesn’t mean everyone is hugging and kissing all the time (that’s a totally different type of group that there are plenty of “specialist” websites for), it means that people are honest and open about what they think and feel.
You have full permission to be you. There’s little doubt that after you have settled into the group the issues that you have brought to therapy are going to surface. That’s OK. Now you have a group of people around you that will help you try a different approach to your issue and support you in breaking out of your old patterns of behavior. Let’s say your issue is social anxiety. You might think that group therapy would be the worst method of help because it’s putting you in the very situation you find tough. Within the group you can start to test out your beliefs around this issue and get honest, safe, feedback from others – maybe about how they see you. This can be incredibly empowering and prove a potent challenge to the negative ideas you may have rattling around in your head.
Rules control the fun. One of my jobs as the therapist is to make sure all members of the group stay safe and supported whilst part of the group. As a Transactional Analyst I will check that everyone comes from an I’m OK, You’re OK position. This is a condition of being in the group. There will be no put downs of other members, a focus on the “I” rather on the “you” and a confidentiality agreement agreed by all members. Anyone breaks the rules – words will be had. Keep breaking the rules – see ya later alligator!! These rules aren’t just in place because I’m bossy!
They are there to provide a rich environment for everyone to grow and allow a real sense of trust to build up.
You get to meet people who are different from you. This is great for learning. In life it’s easy to stick to the groups we feel familiar with, whether that be work colleges all doing the same job, family members all from the same family etc. In group therapy you are going to meet people who you wouldn’t normally hang out with. As group therapy is about building relationships, and most issues brought to therapy are about relationships, the group is going to provide you with a rich environment to practice that skill.
If you are interested in joining a therapy group why not check out our group therapy page here.
Have you had experience of group therapy? Please comment on the post below. All ideas and comments are greatly welcomed.