Some might think of group therapy as the last thing they’d want to try. They might picture a group of surly people sitting in chairs in a drab room, simultaneously enduring awkward silences and being forced to share the most personal details of their lives.
Fortunately, however, most who actually participate in group therapy find it helpful and in some cases more beneficial than individual therapy. Often, group therapy becomes an extremely meaningful part of a person’s life. It can help people change in positive, unexpected ways, to reach their goals and develop intimate relationships with others.
Like anything in life, you get out of group therapy what you put into it. What follow are some of the ways that it can be helpful, as well as advice for maximizing the benefits.
Five Benefits of Group Therapy Techniques
While group therapy may be less common and less understood than individual therapy, its benefits are undeniable. In fact, one study showed that those who had participated in group therapy ended up with better results than 72 percent of those who did not participate in group therapy.
Here are five unique benefits of group therapy:
- It costs less than individual therapy. On average, group therapy sessions typically cost participants 33 percent less than individual therapy.
- Group therapy can be more effective than individual therapy. For the right participants, group therapy can be more effective in achieving treatment goals than individual therapy. This can include treatment for conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder.
- Participants can learn, practice, and develop new social skills in real time, with guided supervision and support. This includes: improved listening and speaking skills, developing increased empathy for others, and increased confidence.
- Participants can experience decreased feelings of loneliness. Through group therapy, participants can connect with others enduring the same struggles at the same time. Often, people in group therapy experience levels of intimacy in conversation with others that can add tremendous value to life.
- Group therapy offers opportunities to inspire and be inspired. Working towards similar goals as others while experiencing similar struggles gives group therapy participants the opportunity to both learn from others, teach others, receive support, and give support. Often, one participant may serve as a mentor of sorts to another and a mentoree to others. This can help in building confidence as well as give some a sense of purpose and community.
Group Therapy Tips to Make the Most of Your Sessions
Knowing what to expect and how to optimize your time in group therapy can help to ensure positive results. Here are some tips for making the most of your group therapy sessions:
- Make sure group therapy is a good fit for your needs through a proper screening.
- Know what to expect and set clear goals for yourself and with your therapist.
- Focus on the process, not the outcome.
- Understand group therapy is a growth process for you as an individual and the group as a whole. For example, an article by the National Institutes of Health shows that therapy groups can transition through five distinct phases: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
- Participate and share with others, remembering, though, that what and how much you share is up to you and what you’re comfortable with sharing.
- Be patient with yourself and others.
- Be fully present in the moment, as much as possible.
- See every interaction as a learning experience.
- Review and practice what you learned in session outside of session throughout the week.
- Practice listening fully when others speak. You can learn just as much and even more from others going through similar experiences as you can from speaking.
- Practice not judging others or yourself. Know that there’s something to learn from everyone you encounter, even if the lesson may not be what it seems at first sight. In others, you may see a reflection of yourself, and you may learn a new way of looking at or handling certain things.
“I Don’t Know What to Talk About in Group Therapy!”: How to Overcome Common Group Therapy Challenges
Along with its benefits, there are common challenges people may experience that are unique to group therapy. Below, we’ve listed the most common challenges people encounter in group therapy and how to overcome them.
Common Challenges in Group Therapy and How to Overcome Them
1. Shyness and/or social phobias and anxieties. This could include feelings of embarrassment, shame, freezing, not wanting to speak or share. If you experience any of these feelings, know that they are normal and that most people feel some degree of stress or fear and nervousness when trying something new. Give yourself some understanding and patience. Know that these feelings are to be expected, and that each session, you will likely feel more and more comfortable as you gain experience being with the group and getting to know the others in it.
2. Privacy concerns. Because you’re talking to regular people and not just a qualified, certified professional counselor or therapist, it’s normal to have concerns about your privacy when discussing personal matters in your group. To overcome this, know and remember that it is always completely up to you how much you would like to share about yourself and your life. Additionally, your counselor should make clear with the group what the group’s confidentiality agreements are. If they don’t, don’t hesitate to ask that this be discussed.
3. Experiencing conflict or opposing views. With the possibility of experiencing conflicts with other participants in a group setting, one can also experience a fear of being judged by others. Know that whatever anyone else says or feels is simply the other person’s feelings or opinions and actually has nothing to do with you and your situation. It’s natural for people in any group setting to disagree, but your group therapist should be able to moderate any situation to make sure everyone remains respectful and supportive. Conflicts in this type of safe setting may provide an enormous potential for experiencing growth.
4. Not knowing what to talk about. If you struggle with knowing what to talk about in group, keep a little notebook and throughout the week write down any things that happen that you may wish to bring up. This can also be helpful if you sometimes struggle to identify and communicate your feelings or thoughts in the moment.
You Can Thrive in Group Therapy
If you’re experiencing stress or mental health issues that may be impacting your life, don’t be discouraged. FHE Health is here to help and may be able to suggest some helpful options such as group therapy. For more information, contact us at (866) 653-6220.