“One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other’s stories”.
- Rebecca Falls
If you are in the process of considering psychotherapy, then you must know there are several options available to reap the benefits of seeking psychological help. Among many options available to us, one such is group therapy which is administered depending on the nature of your issue and your social capabilities. Generally, group therapy can be an ideal choice for facing your concerns and trying to make positive changes in your life. It is believed that group therapy has many advantages to its name, starting from helping you develop social skills to learning from others' experiences with dealing with the same issues. You can eventually develop a very real sense of self-awareness when you are with a group of people who are facing similar problems as you. There is no doubt that there is a sense of comfort that comes with group therapy because you feel people around you know exactly what you are going through.
Groups can be extremely therapeutic, and it would be a wise choice for you to weigh their pros and cons before deciding to go for them. Let us now understand in detail group therapy, its benefits, and how to make the best out of it.
What is Group Therapy?
It is said that one of the most comforting things to hear is “me too”. Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy (or talk therapy) just like any other mode of treatment where the focus is on improving the mental health condition of the patient while tackling their emotional challenges. This form of psychotherapy is provided by one or more therapists who are trained in administering group therapy. It is provided to a group of people at the same time, usually with similar problems. This technique is led by a therapist usually consisting of 5 to 15 people with meetings that can go on for roughly an hour and a half to 2 hours, once or twice a week. However, there are some open groups where anyone is welcome, while others are closed groups made of a specific set of people who joined at the same time.
As discussed earlier, many groups are designed to target specific problems such as anxiety, obesity, substance abuse, depression, panic disorder, social anxiety, anger management, chronic pain, low self-esteem, or grief. The participants in the group therapy take turns talking about their experiences with their problems, while the therapist maintains the role of a facilitator or a moderator during these sessions.
Interestingly, there are also groups that focus more on generally improving their social skills or helping people with anger, stage fright, or loneliness. Groups are also often recommended for people who have experienced extreme loss, whether of a family member, friend, or someone who died by suicide.
Benefits of Group Therapy
As noted, there are many benefits to opting for group therapy, now let us look at why it is the most effective and rewarding form of therapy:
1. A safe place for you: The major benefit is that you are given a safe place to open up about your struggles and repressed feelings. You tend to feel this way because in a group setting there is a mutual trust built acting as a motivating factor to be more open in group therapy programs. Support comes from the feeling that you are not alone. Whether you are dealing with anxiety, panic disorder, or any other mental issue, just knowing that there are others who are going through the same and are able to understand, gives you a huge sense of release and makes you feel comfortable around such people.
2. Learning from others: group sessions are a great place to know more about yourself as you hear and comprehend more about what other people have gone through in their lives. As there are some issues being dealt with, you will witness and obtain gainful insights about dealing with your psychological issues.
3. Finding your own voice: It is not easy to have your own voice, especially in a group setting. And it becomes even more difficult if you have social anxiety. However, if you are someone who is not used to making your own voice heard, group sessions can be a very good place to practice that. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, seeing how others talk about their issues unfiltered will motivate you to do the same eventually.
4. Groups can act as your sounding board and support network: Whether you are having a fight with your partner or struggling to resolve a conflict at work, group members can offer the objective point of view that you are looking for. Your group members may be able to offer you a perspective you can trust, and you will realise that their inputs are highly useful than those given by others. The participants will have specific ideas for improving difficult life situations, acting as a support network and sounding board that you so desperately need.
5. Diversity: Another good thing about group therapy is diversity. As people with different personalities and backgrounds come together to look at situations, it births a pool of different perspectives and solutions that can be shared and utilised.
6. Promotes social skills and helps you grow: Even if you are someone who is not very social or good with conversations, engaging in group therapy will help you practice how to handle such social situations. Group therapy can be instrumental in helping you break the cycle of withdrawing yourself from social interaction and help you achieve a more confident interaction with others. By seeing how people are able to cope and make necessary positive changes, you will discover many strategies for facing your own concerns, helping you grow in the right direction.
How to get the most out of it?
No matter what kind of psychotherapy you choose, in order to make the most out of it, a few steps from your side can be very helpful. Usually, group therapies include a contract for each participant to ensure that everyone is comfortable and there is a certain level of trust, respect and anonymity that is guaranteed. Once everyone is on the same page, there are fewer fears or hesitation in participating in group therapy. One more thing to understand is that group therapy is a great opportunity for you to talk about your issues and get useful insights, therefore do not hesitate, or try to hide between the group to avoid attention. Even on days when it is challenging, try to show up and put as much energy as possible into the session.
It is very important that you share to get the most out of group therapy. You can actually have a major breakthrough by listening to someone else's struggle. So why not do the same and offer your experience to someone else to learn? Remember sharing can be huge for someone else. Just like when you resonate with something said by one of the members, your willingness to share can motivate the same.
Group therapy or Individual therapy: How to decide?
Group therapy is nothing short of a miracle, however, it is not the best option for every situation. There are times when individual therapy is proven to be more effective than group therapy, given your situation. Some also parallelly go for individual therapy and group therapy to get the best out of both, depending on their mental health conditions, disorders, etc.
Trying to figure out which is better may not be the right approach to look at this, however, what is better for you will depend on your preferences on some level. Some might feel more comfortable in a one-on-one session as opposed to being in a room full of people, while others might find a group setting more approachable and rewarding. The decision to opt for group therapy or individual therapy will depend on a variety of factors including affordability, comfort level, nature of the problem, and commitment, among other things.
In the end, we do not have a clear-cut answer to which therapy is better. It can be said that they both work towards helping people achieve the same goal of mental wellness. Both types of therapy have time and again proven to work individually or when combined. A closer look will reveal that the focus idea is to help individuals reach their goals and empower them with skills to maintain the same.
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