Group therapy is a popular form of treatment. It involves at least one therapist engaging with a number of people in therapy at the same time.
It has been seen that this type of therapy helps a person to talk about issues with the support of other people who are going through similar problems. It helps with connection to others.
This therapy has been shown to be particularly beneficial for people needing help with anxiety, depression, relationship issues, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, addictions and borderline personality disorder.
Those in a group can find out how others see them and how they relate to other people.
This is especially helpful for those who have feelings of being isolated or who feel alone with their problems.
Group therapy also lets the therapist get the measure of progress of each group member by seeing how they interact. This includes listening to the advice they offer another person in the group.
In a therapeutic sense group therapy started in the first decades of the 20th Century. This was initially in America, and then during the Second World War, both the US and Britain developed it more to help with the war effort such as to deal with combat fatigue.
Around the same time, the 12 Steps group meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) started. Although not professional group therapy, many of the principles are strikingly similar.
From its beginnings, with two American alcoholics helping each other to stay sober, there are currently more than 115,000 AA groups. These are in 180 different countries with more than two million members.
Many other 12 Steps groups have also started to help with other addictions and behavioural problems. This includes for food disorders, drug addiction, gambling problems, workaholism and sex addiction.
The groups are often much bigger than group therapy in such as an addiction recovery centre. Some AA meetings in cities can have more than 100 people.
What happens in group therapy?
Frequently a group will be made up of three or more people in therapy, up to 12, although it is up to the therapist. Some therapists think six is the maximum number.
People in the group will often sit in a circle to face each other. The room they are in will offer good confidentiality.
A group therapy meeting often starts with everyone taking turns to introduce themselves and briefly say why they are there. They may share experiences and progress since the last meeting.
The meetings will most likely be regular sessions – sometimes even every day or more than once a day. Each person takes a turn to speak for several minutes.
Group therapy can last from just several minutes up to 90 minutes. Around 45 minutes is considered an average period.
A particular topic may be chosen to lead the meeting. This could be such as thoughts on a video the group has watched or on a passage from a self-help book that’s been read out.
It’s essential that a trained professional therapist supervises the group. A therapist can guide the group, if it’s needed, to find their own solutions.
Meetings can take different formats depending on the therapist and the group’s aims. Some meetings might be where everyone comes in to speak when they wish. Or it might be that the therapist has everyone try some new coping skills they have learned.
Groups are an excellent outlet for emotions.
There are usually guidelines in place to ensure everyone is respected. This is such as always asking another person in the group if they would welcome feedback on what they have just shared.
Increasingly, especially with lockdowns in place, group therapy meetings around the world have taken place on such as apps or videophones. These are without doubt useful, but the evidence is that face to face group meetings are most beneficial for the majority of people.
What are the benefits of group therapy?
- It allows for encouragement and advice from others who may be going through the same or who have been through it. This gives a sense of belonging and hope.
- Helping others in this way is therapeutic in itself. It gives meaning and helps someone feel good from within.
- It helps socialization and communication skills that boost confidence. The group will be supportive, and that allows people to try new things without the fear of failure.
- Being listened to in a group builds trust and shows other people care. That increases the ability to be honest.
- As individuals realize everyone is there to help each other, they will learn how to take constructive criticism.
- As people in the group listen to others, they build empathy.
- When someone speaks to a group and then listens to feedback, it helps to develop self-awareness and acceptance. It enables the realization that each person is responsible for their own decisions and actions.
- It allows people to learn how to express themselves.
- One theory is that group therapy acts as a loving family that many people didn’t have. Even a successful business executive may have never experienced people truly listening to their concerns. So it is reminiscent of a loving family as the group listens, delegates and resolves issues in a respectful manner.
- With this family recreation in mind, each person in the group can see more clearly how childhood experiences contributed to their characteristic responses and behaviours. This leads to increased awareness of self-destructive behaviours.
- In the group, people can more easily separate their self from their mental illness. This helps them gain a sense of their true identity.
- People in the group can act as role models.
- As the group sees progress together, it creates a positive sense of accomplishment.
- As trust between the group grows, it becomes an increasingly safe environment for speaking honestly.
- Sharing traumatic experiences and emotions with a group helps relieve feelings of remorse, shame, stress and guilt.
- A therapist can observe how an individual interacts with the others that gives a strong indication of the person’s progress.
Is group therapy for everyone?
Group therapy offers definite advantages and disadvantages. But it is not for someone who is uncomfortable with other people or who is suffering badly from anxiety.
For someone with trust issues, it can be a difficult form of therapy. Or someone with lots of pent-up shame that needs to be resolved.
Also, for someone with little awareness of their condition. One-to-one therapy will usually be more helpful in these instances.
Generally, though group therapy is popular and has proven success rates. That’s why at White River Manor we offer group therapy in several formats.
This is as part of a guest’s treatment plan that is tailored to you or your loved one’s specific needs and therapeutic requirements. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.