Have you ever wondered what group therapy is all about? Portrayals of fictional group therapy are all over; on TV, in the movies and in literature. But what is real group therapy like? And why would anyone want to open up their soul to other people who are not friends or family?
Everyone has been in a group of some sort. Most of people have been in many. In elementary school students are grouped together by skill level for reading or math. In high school they’re put into groups for projects. Adults are in work groups, church groups, AA, or groups of friends.
All these groups have distinct purposes: to educate, to construct, to build, to learn, to support, or to socialize. In a similar manner, group therapy has a purpose. This is different depending on what type of group therapy you’re in.
Some therapy groups focus on a particular topic – survivors of incest, veterans, divorcees.
Other therapy groups are dedicated to a skill, such as anger management or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy, a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder).
There is also a type of group therapy whose purpose is simply therapy done in a group, where members share struggles and concerns, and provide feedback and support to one another with help and guidance from a trained therapist.
Therapy groups differ in their timeline; some are ongoing and may meet for years, with individuals coming and going. Others are time-specific, and members agree to meet for a certain period of time.
Groups can allow new members to join (called being an open group), or keep the same members for as long as the group exists (called a closed group). These things are decided ahead of time.
Group therapy can be used in place of individual therapy, or in addition to it.
Why would someone decide to be part of group therapy? There are some clear benefits that being a member of a therapy group provide:
- Multiple perspectives on a problem. In group therapy, you aren’t limited to the observations and comments of just one therapist. Instead, you have a number of people who come to know you, the issues you face, and can help when things get tough. There is also a therapist leading who is able to lead the group, educate, and process issues with the group members.
- Build up trust. Over time, members of a group come to rely on one another, open up to each other and share very deep and personal things. When an individual can observe that they are taken seriously, treated honestly, and confidentiality is kept, their ability to trust others grows.
- Practice relational skills. Some people have a difficult time knowing how to relate to others. Group therapy requires people to interact with one another in a safe, supportive environment.
- Form close relationships. When people share deep and personal things, close bonds are formed. People in therapy groups find that when they are in crisis, they can call one another for help and support.
- Allow people to see that they are not alone in their struggles. Seeing how other people struggle with depression or anxiety, or work through issues of childhood abuse, makes people realize that other people have difficulties, too.
- More affordable than individual therapy. Often, group therapy costs about half of what individual therapy does.
Group therapy an be an excellent choice for many people. Groups can be found by asking your individual therapist or counselor, by searching online, calling community mental health centers or hospitals, or by asking friends or family.