WHAT IS GROUP THERAPY?
Group Therapy is a type of counseling where several people attend the same session led by one or more trained therapists serving as the leader(s). Groups are usually made up of 6-10 people but can vary in size. Group members talk about a variety of issues and concerns but usually focus on a particular topic. Groups can help individuals improve social skills, learn how to express their issues and accept feedback from others.
Group therapy also allows participants to develop self-awareness by listening to others with similar issues It can be helpful to listen to other people sharing similar experiences knowing that they are not alone. Groups targeted for children and pre-teens incorporate play into the sessions and are usually more activity-based. Activities could include a combination of free-play or structured-play activities like drawing, role-play, and board games. Teen groups usually have a combination of talk therapy and structured activities since developmentally it’s easier for them to express emotions verbally and they’re more invested in getting feedback from their peers.
BENEFITS OF GROUP THERAPY
For many, group therapy offers a place for peer support and feedback. Sometimes when we’re struggling with difficulties in life we can minimize what we are going through. We don’t want to burden others in our life or perhaps we don’t want to talk about things because we’re afraid people won’t understand us. In group therapy, you will be participating in a group with others who can relate to your experiences and understand you in a way that others in your life may not.
Group Therapy offers a variety of perspectives for group members and can help members to see situations in new ways. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other and receive some much needed validation that you are not alone in your experiences. Feeling understood and heard allows you to feel less isolated and alone. Group therapy provides a space for members to solve problems together and celebrate each other’s wins and progress.
It’s also a great opportunity to practice skills, try out new behaviors, and experience a sense of acceptance and belonging.
WHAT ISSUES CAN BE ADDRESSED IN GROUP THERAPY?
TYPES OF GROUP THERAPY
You might be surprised to learn that there are different kinds of therapy groups for you to participate in. With so many formats to choose from you can be sure to find the right fit.
- Educational: In educational groups the facilitator role is similar to a teacher. These groups are led by a qualified therapist who directs sessions and sets goals. They provide group members with information, resources and techniques and usually focus on a specific topic.
- Process Group: A process group focuses on group issues that come up as members share personal information. Members focus on giving and receiving feedback, and becoming more aware of how they interact with one another. In process groups the therapist acts as a facilitator rather than an instructor.
- Expressive groups: Focus on using artistic forms of expression to promote self-esteem, self-awareness, and healing. Expressive therapy for children and teens and young adults can include music, movement, or art. Other activities may include journaling, storytelling, creating scrapbooks or photo albums. Expressive therapy groups are especially helpful for those having difficulty talking about their experiences.
- Support Groups: Support groups tend to focus on giving support to the members rather than being process-oriented. And its members share a common concern such as anxiety, depression, or relationship issues. It’s an opportunity to share advice and empathy in a supportive space.
- Opened or Closed: In an open group, new members can join at any time. Closed groups have an enrollment and registration process so all members join at the same time.
TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF GROUP THERAPY
- Trust the process: It takes time to build connections with other group members. Sharing your feelings with people you don’t know can be awkward at first but give yourself time to adjust. You may be surprised to see that it becomes easier, that you feel less nervous about it.
- Be open
- Be honest
- Be patient with yourself and other group members
- Respect each other’s privacy
- Be committed: regular attendance and engagement is important so that you can fully benefit from what your group has to offer. Your group members also benefit from what you have to offer.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN GROUP THERAPY
You may be wondering what it’s like to be in a group therapy session and you might be feeling unsure of what to expect. Know that you are always in control of what, when, and how much you share with your group members. Your group leaders’ primary concern is to create and facilitate a safe and supportive group atmosphere. So, each group will establish its own ground rules and guidelines that are important for members to follow. The therapists facilitating the group will encourage group members to interact with each other, help members to share their feelings, and help members give and receive feedback. Depending upon the group’s format, the facilitator(s) may lead you through exercises, model skills, discuss the dynamics of the group, point out common themes, and offer support when needed. Some groups provide structure and have a curriculum, while others have more freedom and are more group led.
Therapy groups are usually run by 1-2 counselors and part of their role is making sure that you’re engaged in the group’s process and activities. Group therapy is as effective as individual therapy – for some individuals, more so – because you’re not only interacting with a therapist but a group of people with shared experiences and issues.
If you’re worried about sharing your feelings and concerns with others you don’t know we at Milestones would encourage you to give Group Therapy a chance. It’s totally normal to have these concerns. Before beginning groups, members are expected to consent to rules and expectations regarding privacy and sharing sensitive information. You’ll likely find that as others introduce themselves and explain some of the things they’re dealing with that you share some of the same concerns. You'll feel relieved to know that you’re not alone. As you listen to others sharing their experiences you’ll find that you can relate to what they’re saying. Over time, you’ll feel more comfortable participating in the sessions and will come to trust each other.
Group Therapy can be such a helpful part of your therapy process!
If you are interested in joining a particular group here at Milestones, give us a call at 443-574-4295 or fill out our group therapy interest form. Our receptionist or one of the group counselors will follow up with you to schedule a special screening session. This appointment gives you a chance to ask questions, meet the counselors, discuss your concerns and goals, and determine whether the group is a good fit for your needs.