Group Therapy: What To Expect

You might have already heard a thing or two about group therapy. Your friend may have casually mentioned it, or you’ve seen a few of them in movies. But, what exactly is group therapy? And why should you consider getting in one instead of doing the traditional one-on-one sessions?

What Is Group Therapy?

In general, group therapy is a type of psychotherapy consisting of five to twelve members, led by one or more psychologists. In this form of therapy, the members meet regularly to talk and listen to each other. The program is specific and is structured to achieve concrete goals. The group meets regularly from two to twelve months. Group therapy can be available in hospitals, mental health clinics, community centers, or private practices.

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Group therapy meetings can either be open or closed. The former allows new members to join the group at any time. On the other hand, in closed group sessions, all members begin simultaneously, and only they can attend the sessions. 

What Are The Types Of Group Therapy?

There are various types of group therapy, including: 

    • Psychoeducational Groups

This group session gives members an avenue to gain knowledge about their specific conditions. Led by a qualified therapist, the focus on the sessions is more on therapists providing valuable information and healthy coping skills. In this type of group therapy, relationships and bonds between group members are less important.

    • Skills Development Groups

This group type focuses on improving the social skills of people with mental disorders or developmental disabilities. It also aims to strengthen the member’s behavioral and cognitive resources and to cope abilities to help them with their condition.

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Groups

One of the goals of CBT is to help you identify different ways your thoughts and emotions affect your actions. CBT support groups focus on restructuring your distorted thoughts that lead to harmful actions. The whole session is based on the techniques and benefits of CBT. 

    • Support Groups

While support groups may not be considered therapy groups, they still offer a lot of benefits. The structure of a support group is somewhat similar to group therapy sessions as well. It focuses more on developing relationships and confidence between group members. 

Support groups are also designed to bring together people who are going through the same or similar conditions. For instance, individuals with a certain illness may join a health-related support group for emotional support.

What Happens In Group Therapy?

    • Forming Stage

At this stage, the group members are still in the process of establishing expectations with one another. The therapist will lay out the rules and responsibilities of the participants, as well as theirs. Members can then introduce themselves. During this time, they share their reasons for joining the group therapy. 

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Matters of confidentiality and possible conflict shall be addressed at this point to avoid complications in future sessions. Also, therapists should deal with social and cultural concerns must during this stage.

    • Transition Stage

In the first few weeks of group therapy, anxiety, ambiguity, and conflict may still be prevalent. Everyone is still in the process of building and identifying the group norms. People may still be defensive and resistant, while others can be shy and fearful. The leading therapist will see that the transition period is on track and as pleasant as possible.

At this point, the therapist must have gained the trust and respect of the members. Slowly but surely, they will then guide members into sorting out differences and any personal reluctance.

    • Norming

At this point, members have already developed group-specific standards (cohesiveness). Everyone is familiar with the group dynamics and protocols in the event of a conflict. This is the stage where the group prepares for the major activities of the program.

    • Performing Stage

It is during this phase when individual growth and group productivity, and effectiveness occur. Members start to experiment with new ideas or behaviors. Egalitarianism also develops within the group. The therapist will guide members through activities using techniques and challenges that bring out the emotions and hidden thoughts.

By now, the members should have learned to be honest and open about their feelings. The sense of trust and confidence between members should be at its peak at the performing stage.

    • Adjourning

In the termination stage, closure for the group as a whole and as individual members is done. The group reflects on their experiences and decides how to use their newly acquired knowledge for their betterment.

The therapist also discusses and reviews the outcomes and achievements of the group. They recap what worked, the concerns that they solved, and newly arisen conflicts. If one member is also doing individual therapy, this is also the time where they will discuss the group therapy with their private therapist.

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What Are The Benefits Of Group Therapy?

While most people are more familiar with individual therapy and its benefits, group therapy has unique advantages. In particular, the diversity of group members can give people new perspectives and new strategies for maintaining good mental health. 

When implemented alongside individual therapy and medication, group therapy can help treat a variety of conditions, including:

    • Depression
    • Eating disorders
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Substance use disorder
    • Anger management
    • Stress management
    • Chronic illness

There are also group therapies that cater to individuals going through challenging life events, such as: 

    • Divorce
    • Domestic violence
    • Grief and loss

Conclusion

The idea of going into a room and exposing yourself to a group of strangers can be terrifying. But once you get past that initial uneasiness, you will see that being in a group can be very helpful and fun. Handling Stress and anxiety will be much easier, knowing that you have a shoulder you can lean on.

With the stressful times we are in right now; it is nice to relate to us. It validates our issues, seeing that you are not the only one experiencing such challenges.  Being in a group gives you a sense of security and relief. So, don’t hesitate to join a group therapy session. Who knows? You might even form long-term relationships with members of your group.