What is group therapy?
Group therapy is a form of treatment that involves 6-10 individuals meeting face-to-face with trained group therapist(s). Members take responsibility for talking about their situations and what is troubling them. Members also give each other feedback by expressing their own feelings about what is going on in the group. This interaction allows group members the opportunity to try out new behaviors and to learn more about the way they interact with others.
We are all members of groups: families, friendship circles, organized activities, academic cohorts, work colleagues, churches, etc. These are the environments where we learn to grow and develop as human beings. Group therapy is like other groups in that members come together with each other to share issues or concerns, to better understand themselves and their situations, and to learn from each other. It is different in that group therapy provides a safe and confidential place to explore issues.
The first few sessions of a group generally focus on developing trust and creating an environment that fosters honest and open discussions of personal issues. This can be achieved only when all members make a commitment to the group.
How does group therapy work?
When people come into a group and interact freely with other members they usually fall into the same patterns that cause the difficulties that brought them to group therapy in the first place. Under the direction of a group therapist, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, and/or gently confront members in such a way that they are able to resolve their issues, learn alternative behaviors/coping strategies, and develop new social techniques or ways of relating to people.
What are the advantages of group?
• Provides opportunities to learn from other people and to understand your own patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Other people can often see problems or limitations in your attitudes and behavior patterns that you may have difficulty seeing in yourself
• Allows you to receive genuine support, honest feedback, and useful alternatives from therapists and peers
• Helps you to experiment with and work toward new attitudes and new ways of coping with life’s stressors
• Can help individuals deal with relationship concerns and general difficulties with others, like dealing with confrontation and becoming more assertive
• Provides an opportunity to benefit through active participation and observation
Who is group therapy most helpful for?
If you answer yes to ANY of the following statements, group therapy is most helpful for YOU!!
• My relationships with others are frustrating, disappointing, or unsatisfactory.
• People don’t react to me the way I expect them to OR the way I would like them to.
• I feel stuck in a particular pattern or role in my relationships with others (ex: caregiver, rescuer, etc).
• I feel lonely and unsupported. Others don’t seem to understand me.
• I’m afraid of conflict and avoid addressing disagreements OR whenever I address disagreements it turns into a hostile conflict.
• I don’t like myself very much and I would like to change the way I think and feel about myself.
• I feel angry at people in my life but I have a hard time expressing it.
• I have a hard time trusting people and I feel like people let me down all the time.
• Everyone tells me I worry too much.
• I’ve been having trouble adjusting to college and sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the changes in my life.
• I get really anxious about being in new/unfamiliar situations, meeting new people, OR having to talk in groups.
What do I talk about when I’m in group therapy?
Talk about what brought you to CPS in the first place. Tell people what’s bothering you. If you need support, let the group know. If you need to be challenged to examine things differently or want to be confronted when you are thinking irrationally, let members know that, too. It is important to tell members what you expect of them. Bottling up your feelings and not letting people know what is really going on for you is a major source of interpersonal problems. Revealing your feelings, or self-disclosing, is an important part of group and directly affects what you get out of your participation in group. How much you decide to disclose about yourself depends on what YOU are comfortable with.
I know people who have been in self-help groups and support groups, how is group therapy different?
Group therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and helps members learn how to function more effectively and better cope with their issues by changing unhealthy patterns in relationships and developing new ways of relating to others. This is different from other kinds of groups in that it is not just focused on increasing coping skills or alleviating symptoms, but also provides opportunities for personal change and growth.
If I do a group, should I also be in individual therapy?
It depends. Sometimes group is used alone and sometimes it used along with individual therapy. The decision is really up to you and your therapist.
So, is group therapy, like a second choice or not as good as individual therapy?
NO! Group therapy is recommended when your therapist believes it will be the most effective way to address your concerns.
Group therapy offers many benefits that are not as available with individual therapy. For example, in everyday life it is often difficult to get useful and reliable information about yourself from other people. There are social constraints against giving others honest feedback or sharing observations about others that could be helpful to them. By contrast, group is designed to create an environment in which members develop a trusting relationship and take the time to observe and share their impressions with others in honest and caring ways.
Another asset of group is provided by the diversity of personalities, experiences and coping strategies that are natural to members of the group. The strengths of each member can serve as a model for other members who are still learning about those skills or strengths.
If group therapy is this amazing, it must be really expensive. I’m a poor college student, how will I ever be able to afford this treatment?
Surprisingly, group therapy is FREE (it's covered by your student fees)! And it does not count toward your 20 individual session limit for counseling.