So you feel that therapy would be a good idea because you have been having some issues that you can’t quite solve on your own. There are so many types of therapy out there so how do you decide which one is right for you? Group therapy, where you meet in a group with others who have similar needs, is an option. Are you willing to have a strangers chat? Are you ready to be vulnerable in front of others? Let’s see what group therapy is all about.
WHAT IS GROUP THERAPY?
As defined by the American Psychological Association, “Group therapy involves one or more psychologists who lead a group of roughly 5 to 15 patients”. Groups are focused on one particular issue, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, panic attacks, etc. They could also be formed as a type of social skills group to help improve personal interactions. Often these groups help people deal with loss and/or grief in their life.
WHY GROUP THERAPY?
It may seem strange to some that you would talk about these very personal issues with others, but sometimes it is the best thing. Being with others who are going through the same thing as you can make you feel like you aren’t the only one dealing with the issue. Also, who knows better what you are feeling than someone who is walking in the same shoes as you? It can actually be the perfect situation for some people. Psychotherapist Ali Miller, MFT says, “[T]here is encouragement to both talk about your life outside the group and also to talk about the dynamics within the group.”
Some personal issues have a perfect segue into group therapy, for instance, working on shyness. The only way you may be able to work on that issue is to be with other people, in a controlled environment, so that you gradually build your comfort level. It gives you an immediate place to practice skills that are being learned so that you can then apply them outside of the group.
Other positives of group therapy are that you not only get support, but you can give support. This is a great self-esteem booster. You have a group of others who you can depend on and share thoughts with, which is also a great self-care action.
HOW TO FIND A GROUP
If you are currently meeting with a therapist or social worker that is a great place to start when you want to find a group to meet with. They are most likely aware of different types of groups that meet and where. There may even be group meetings within the practice. Your primary care provider is another great resource. Local hospitals and clinics often sponsor groups, too. Another option is going to the Psychology Today website and entering your zip code on their support group page. Note that “We only have control of ourselves and our own desire for growth and change. Part of that growth and change is deciding the type of person we allow in our lives, and the positive impact they can have on us.” Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. LCPC said.
Groups may be opened or closed. Open means that anyone can drop in each week. Closed means that a specific group of people will meet for a specific length of time. Finding out how many people are in the group can help you make the decision whether group therapy is right for you. Group therapy may be very helpful, but you may want to continue to or sign up for individual therapy sessions. Confidentiality is very important in a group therapy situation. If you feel that sharing certain parts of your personal life causes discomfort, it is your right to keep things to yourself. Those particular items may be the things you discuss in individual therapy. Although it may feel odd sharing with strangers when you first attend groups, in a short time, you will come to find those people as a crucial part of your support system. David Klow, a licensed therapist says, “By building a list of people that you trust, with whom you can talk to in times of need, you allow yourself a strong sense of not being alone.”