A Look at Group Therapy and its Effects
Are you considering joining group therapy? Find out everything you need to know about how it works, what it’s for, and whether it is for you.
What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is therapy that involves at least one therapist and several individuals who receive treatment at the same time. A psychologist will lead a group of four to fifteen people in sessions that meet for a set amount of time once or twice a week. Group therapy can form part of a treatment regime that includes individual therapy and medication, or a person can attend only the group sessions.
How Does Group Therapy Work?
Group therapy often occurs in hospitals, mental health clinics, community centres, and private therapeutic practices. Groups can be as small as four members or as large as fifteen members. It’s possible to have more participants, but it may not be useful to have a group that is too large, depending on the situation.
The frequency of meeting is typically once a week, but the frequency and duration of group psychotherapy is dependent on the group members and their needs. Sessions can be one to two hours long and can be open or closed. Open groups allow new participants to join freely, while closed groups have predetermined participants who can attend, with no new additions included.
A typical group session often has chairs arranged in a circle so members can see each other and interact as a group. Often sessions begin with introductions, and members share why they are joining the group therapy session. Members can also share their progress or challenges since the last meeting occurred.
What is Group Therapy Like?
Your experiences will differ depending on what type of group you attend and how it is run. There are many approaches, but they can be narrowed down to two major categories: process-oriented groups or psychoeducational groups.
Process-oriented groups are all about the members’ experiences. The aim is for the group’s shared experiences is to create a sense of belonging. In these types of group therapy sessions, the group is run from a member centred approach where interpersonal relationships create a space of acceptance and understanding where complex problems are solved via the collective recourses.
Psychoeducational groups are made to provide members with information to equip them for dealing with specific issues. The psychologist may facilitate skills development and ways to reach specific goals. The therapist directs the session, and valuable information takes centre stage. The therapist takes on the role of teacher, with members asking questions.
Process-oriented are useful for collectively addressing personal psychological distress, processing traumatic experiences and major life events like divorce, overcoming addictions, and mid-life crises. Sometimes, people attend these types of sessions in conjunction with individual therapy. Psychoeducational groups are useful for learning new skills, like assertiveness or managing stress in healthy ways or effective parenting.
Who is Group Therapy For?
Group psychotherapy can benefit a wide range of clients. Therapists can use group therapy to treat substance abuse, development of socialising, anger management, behavioural therapy like assertiveness training, life skills development, and a range of mental health issues such as generalised anxiety disorder and depression. Corporates may use group therapy as a means of creating greater harmony and cohesion among colleagues.
Your group may focus on domestic violence and abuse, divorce, communication challenges, fears, food disorders, grief and loss, or addiction. In a medical setting, group therapy can help educate patients on the details of their care, facilities, and procedures. An example would be a group therapy session focused on the ins and outs of maternity, birth, and psychological and physical comorbidities.
It all depends on the goal of the group. Sometimes, your therapist may suggest group therapy for you with a specific goal in mind, to better treat something they’re concerned about. If your mental health makes it hard to get through day-to-day life, these groups can be vital to breaking your isolation and aid in your recovery.
They can help clients to express their emotions and concerns while learning to accept feedback from others.
When is Group Therapy Not Appropriate?
Sometimes, group therapy isn’t the solution to the challenges you’re facing. Individuals who feel suicidal or cannot cope with discussions around sensitive matters such as past abuse are not candidates for group participation. Participants need to be at an acceptable daily functioning level so they can take part in a group setting.
For this reason, the psychologist involved needs to assess each participant for their readiness to join a group setting or how suitable the treatment will be for their specific situation and functioning.
Why Group Therapy Works
Group therapy, in numerous studies, has been shown to have profound effects. These gatherings can allow members to become more self-aware regarding the issues being discussed by listening to others’ thoughts and experiences, gaining from the collective experience under a professional’s facilitation.
It often gives participants hope when they see someone else who is further along in the process of recovery. They can also benefit from the sharing of useful information relating to their issues. Knowing you are not alone on the journey to health can be immensely valuable to participants.
The members who have found places of strength can share these with other members to boost their self-esteem. Groups are a suitable place to practise new behaviours. With support from other members and guidance from a therapist, participants can also learn to avoid harmful behaviours that have been destructive forces in their lives.
It’s a safe space to share, learn, and grow. Members can also copy the behaviour of others who are further along and get feedback on their thought processes. This leads to greater self-awareness, understanding, and skill.
Simply sharing your emotions, experiences, and unvarnished thoughts can be extremely therapeutic. It can help relieve guilt, stress, or pain you may be experiencing. Having one goal that members keep each other accountable, to share and give participants a sense of belonging. As a result, members often learn to take responsibility for their choices, thoughts, and actions aiding in an empowered and enlightened life experience.
Looking for a Group Therapist near you or in Pretoria East? Contact Erika Nell Clinical Psychology today for an appointment in Pretoria. Erika Nell is a qualified independent Clinical Psychologist registered at the Health Professionals Council of South Africa.