With claims like “it’s hard enough to share my problems with just one stranger!” many people are intimidated by the idea of engaging in group therapy. While individual and group therapy each have their own benefits, engaging in either form of counseling is the most beneficial treatment for anxiety. In some situations, group therapy can be even more successful and rewarding than individual therapy.
If you’re apprehensive about group therapy, the following may persuade you otherwise.
Groups provide comfort and support
Engaging in group therapy can be a very comforting experience because groups consist of people who listen without judgment. You can more willingly and honestly express your feelings when judgment is removed. It’s not uncommon to feel uneasy while expressing ourselves to family members and friends; so by participating in group therapy, you’re given an instant safety net of people who understand you, which leads us to the next benefit:
Group therapy reminds us that we’re never alone
While each of us has a unique story, we’re still a united front in the struggles we face. Group therapy destroys the isolation that many people may feel by the therapy/counseling stigma. Dr. Irvin David Yalom coined “The Principle of Universality” as a crucial method in overcoming our issues. The more that other group members’ share, the more you’ll be able to relate. They may even bring up topics you’re eager to discuss but were previously scared to acknowledge.
Group members can inspire you
Other group members may encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go the extra mile. Maybe they conquered a fear or tried something you’ve been wanting to; hearing their story can inspire you to do the same. By learning from your fellow group participants, you can take from their experiences and develop your own strategies.
Groups help improve socialization skills
Social Anxiety is a very common anxiety disorder. By participating in a group, you are automatically engaging in exposure therapy. Group therapy can also help you deepen your communication skills. As an active listener and participant, you’ll learn to more easily express yourself and take constructive criticism from others. In short, group therapy is great practice for “real life.”
Groups allow you to give support
While receiving support is an excellent benefit of group therapy, you’re also given the opportunity to provide support. Many of us find meaning through sharing. Sharing our stories not only helps us form a connection but also gives us a chance to heal. We can become encouraged by the realization that our struggles are not for naught. When our struggles have a purpose (helping others heal) we too can begin to heal.
Group therapy provides us with a sounding board
A lot of times thoughts sound different in our heads than they do out loud. By participating in group therapy, we’re able to get a better perspective on our thoughts and feelings. Not only can we hear ourselves think, we can also learn from others who are like-minded. They can help provide us with new perspectives and viewpoints that we otherwise may not have thought of.
Other group members can be your mirror image
By participating in therapy with like-minded members, you may see traits in them you have trouble recognizing in yourself. Refusal to see some of your traits can be a major barrier to your recovery process. For instance, someone who struggles with an eating disorder may hear a group member say, “I’d NEVER eat ___ food.” By hearing that statement aloud, you may realize how distorted it sounds, even though you’ve had those exact same thoughts.
There is an appropriate time in each person’s life to participate in group or individual therapy. It’s important to remember that going to counseling does not mean you have a “serious mental disorder.” It simply means you are ready to become your best self!