What is Group Therapy?
Overall, group therapy can be a powerful method to work through issues and improve yourself.
The term “group therapy” is an umbrella that covers a few different methods. The main different types of groups are a process group, a support group, and an educational group or a skills-based group. These are not necessarily distinct categories. For example, an educational group, can have supportive elements. Please see below for group method descriptions and benefits.
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TYPES OF GROUP THERAPY
In individual therapy, by its nature, a person only can get feedback from one person. Some of the power of group therapy comes from receiving frank, helpful feedback from several people. It is an opportunity to discuss topics that would not be acceptable in “polite company.” In a process group a large focus in on the “here-and-now” experience of the group members. Members are encouraged to share their feelings and thoughts as they come up in therapy. This allows members to see how they are coming across and if they are effectively communicating. In everyday life, rarely do we get a chance to know how something we have said truly affects someone. In a process group, this kind of direct communication is encouraged. It is not uncommon for someone to say something to the effect of “When you told the group about your wife, I felt sad for you and angry with her.” This kind of direct feedback also provides members with an opportunity to not only learn about themselves but also work on changing the way they communicate and relate to others. Group counseling can provide a safe environment to experiment with other ways of communicating.
Benefits of a Process Group
Irving Yaolom, an expert in the field of Group Psychotherapy summarizes the benefits of group therapy in a few main categories.
Installation of Hope – Members report being more hopeful about the potential for improvement in their struggles and issues as a result of group therapy.
Universality –Understanding that everyone suffers and members are not alone in their struggles.
Altruism – A sense of helping others that can bolster healthy self-esteem and interpersonal confidence. Also, the opportunity to use one's struggles as experience to help and connect with others.
Catharsis – Sharing and experiencing feelings with others itself is a powerful release.
Group Cohesiveness – Members often feel more connected and united in a common goal. This helps people to feel a greater sense of belonging and acceptance.
Corrective Interpersonal Experiences – In many ways, the therapy group is like a family. Members often explore the dynamics of their family of origin and have the chance to relate to people in new, and healing ways.
Socialization and Interpersonal Learning – The group provides a safe environment to socialize and connect as well as observe and try new ways of socializing and connecting.
Existential Factors – The group provides an opportunity to talk about, experience, and relate with others around common existential factors. It can help people gain perspective and cope with some hard truths about life, death, and existence.
Process groups generally meet once a week for 1:20 min and are ongoing. The experience becomes more valuable in a longer-term setting. We ask everyone who tries a process group to commit to coming to four consecutive sessions. This gives the individual and the group some time to adjust and begin to feel safe to connect.
The main function of a support group is to provide comfort, solace, and connection between group members. Often these are focused on a specific theme, such as grief, or parents of struggling teens. There can be (and often is) processing of feelings and reactions, but it is not the focal point. Support groups are a beneficial form of counseling and can be time-limited (eg 8 weeks) or they can be ongoing.
SKILLS BASED AND EDUCATIONAL GROUPS
These groups generally focus on learning helpful information about specific topics. This can include, the psychological effects of addiction, or organizational skills. Sometimes these groups can focus on a workbook or have worksheets to help facilitate learning. These groups can also teach people specific skills like DBT, assertiveness, relaxation, or coping with extreme emotions. Often, members will be led in an exercise or allowed to practice the skills they are learning in the group. Mostly these groups are time-limited, 10 weeks, or after the group finishes a workbook or a specific set of exercises.