In the mental health treatment world, clients are often suggested to engage in individual and/or group therapy. As both hold incredible benefits, engaging in both kinds of therapy can positively impact your mental well-being. Individual therapy can uncover deep underlying trauma as well as emotional or behavioral issues that are causing distress in your daily functioning. Group therapy can do this as well, providing a space for healing through discussion with other individuals that may be experiencing the same life obstacles that you are. If you have yet to experience a group therapy setting, it is typical to have questions and concerns about it. With that being said, group therapy can motivate your treatment experience in a very unique way.
What is Group Therapy?
From the article, “Psychotherapy: group therapy” by the American Psychological Association, group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that gathers individuals together to discuss personal problems under the supervision of a mental health professional, such as a therapist. While some group therapy settings are significantly larger than others, most groups have anywhere from five to fifteen people. Group therapy sessions typically meet once a week for an hour or two. Some people might attend group therapy in addition to their individual therapy sessions, while others might participate in group therapy on their own.
Many of these therapy groups are specialized in the sense that each targets a specific problem. For example, there might be a specific group therapy for individuals who suffer from depression. Other common topics of group therapy include obesity, anxiety, and substance use or addiction recovery. Some groups are more general, designed to improve social skills, empower confidence, and help individuals deal with other common life experiences such as loss.
Typically, group therapy sessions will be led by a health professional or other passionate individual. Sometimes there are discussion questions that are asked, while other times discussion happens while everyone goes around and explains how they are feeling. The practice of talking and listening to others is not only engaging, but helps you to feel heard as well.
The Benefits of Group Therapy
Although discussing personal problems with a group of strangers may sound overwhelming at first, there are incredible benefits that come along with group therapy. First and foremost, the individuals that you meet through your group become a support system for you and your own health. Members of the group might encourage and empower you, while other times they might offer advice on how you can improve or change a difficult situation in your life. These individuals will hold you accountable without adding unnecessary pressure. Instead, you will find that these people will give you new perspectives and motivate your growth.
Another benefit, next to group therapy becoming a valuable support system, is that group therapy helps you to feel less alone in what you are experiencing. In individual psychotherapy, you are talking through your problems with a mental health professional. It might seem lonely during these sessions as you might feel like you are the only one struggling. In group therapy, it becomes very clear that you are not the only one struggling with your mental health. It can be a relief to hear from others about what they are going through.
Engagement in group therapy sessions is key. As every individual comes from a different background and has different life experiences, it is refreshing to hear others’ different perspectives on similar situations. Through active listening and engagement with your peers in these sessions, you will learn new strategies for handling your own adversity.
Will Group Therapy Work for Me?
In short, group therapy has the power to benefit anyone that is looking for encouragement and perspective. The more specific a group is to what you are experiencing, the more likely you are to experience long-term benefits. Participating in group therapy can boost self-esteem, offer a sense of community, and help to discover new life lessons that may otherwise be difficult to understand alone.
No matter what challenge you are facing with your mental or physical health, you are not alone. If you are interested in experiencing a group therapy session in your community, you may be able to locate specific groups through a website search. It is important to look for open sessions, as these sessions are available to anyone at any time. Closed group sessions are groups that begin at a specific time and typically try to keep that group closed off to newcomers for the duration of that group (for example, closed sessions may last 12 weeks). These are essential to note when looking for a group that will work for you. Every group therapy session is different—different people, different organizations, and different problems being addressed. It can’t hurt to try out a session for yourself. Your experience might surprise you!
Group therapy is a commonly suggested form of treatment that addresses common life challenges in a group setting. Under the supervision of a mental health professional, group members will discuss personal problems, encourage one another, and offer new perspectives on a given situation. Group therapy gives the opportunity for individuals to find a support network outside of their treatment or family setting. Most groups focus on a specific condition, such as dealing with depression, or a common life challenge, such as coping with loss. There are incredible benefits to group therapy aside from it being a support system, such as fostering community and confidence, reducing feelings of loneliness, and learning new strategies for handling personal adversity. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we encourage group therapy as a part of the treatment experience. We understand the value of support networks and sharing perspectives with others. For more information, give us a call at (760) 492-6509.