What is a Therapy Group?
In a therapy group, five to eight people meet face-to-face with two trained group therapists and talk about what is troubling them. Members give feedback to each other by expressing their own feelings about what someone says or does. This interaction gives group members an opportunity to try out new ways of behaving and to learn more about the way they interact with others. What makes the situation unique is that it is a safe system. The content of the group sessions is confidential; what members talk about or disclose is not discussed outside the group. Members work to establish a level of trust that allows them to talk personally and honestly. Group trust is enhanced when all members make a commitment to the group.
Why Does Group Therapy Work?
When people come into a group and interact freely with other group members, they usually recreate those difficulties that brought them to group therapy in the first place. Under the skilled direction of the group therapists, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, or gently confront the person. In this way the difficulty becomes resolved, alternative behaviors are learned, and the person develops new social techniques or ways of relating to people. During group therapy, people begin to see that they are not alone. Many people feel they are unique because of their problems, and it is encouraging to hear that other people have similar difficulties.
What do I talk about when I am in group therapy?
Talk about what brought you to the Counseling Services in the first place. Tell the group members what is bothering you. If you need support, let the group know. Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties. Revealing your feelings - self-disclosure - is an important part of group and affects how much you will be helped. The appropriate disclosures will be those that relate directly to your present difficulty. How much you talk about yourself depends upon what you are comfortable with. If you have any questions about what might or might not be helpful, you can always ask the group.
"I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group."
Group members are never forced to disclose any information if they are not ready or do not want to. In group, you get to control what, how much, and when you share information with other group members. Group members share what is troubling them when they feel safe enough to do so and safety within a group is a unique and personal experience that will vary for everyone. We encourage you to share when you are ready to do so and until then you can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.
"Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy because I will have to share the time with others."
Actually, group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you find yourself listening to others more than talking about your own issues. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, and as they work on a concern, you can learn more about yourself. Secondly, group members will often bring up issues that that are different than the ones that brought you to therapy, but also may be affecting you. In that way, you may address issues that you were not immediately aware that you wanted to address.
"I will be verbally attacked or ganged up on by the leaders or other group members."
One of the most important issues within group therapy is that group members feel safe. Your group leaders are there to help develop and facilitate a safe environment. We know that feedback can often be difficult to hear and as group members come to trust and accept one another, they generally experience feedback as a sign of caring. One of the benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to receive feedback from others in a supportive environment. It is rare to find friends who will gently point out how you might be behaving in ways that hurt yourself or others, but this is precisely what group can offer.
"Group therapy is second-best to individual therapy."
Group therapy is being recommended to you because your intake counselor or individual therapist believes that it is the best way to address your concerns. We do not put people into group therapy because we don't have space in individual therapy, or because we want to save time. We offer several types of group and we only add members to a group if both you and the group leaders believe it would be a good fit. Your counselor can discuss with you why group is what we recommend for you.
"I'm not comfortable talking in groups; I'll never be able to share in a group."
This is a very common concern and believe it or not, many people are anxious about being able to talk in group. In our experience, within a few sessions most people find that themselves comfortable enough to begin talking and sharing in the group. Everyone in the group was a new member at some point, so you will most likely get a lot of support opening up at your own pace.
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