Group therapy offers many benefits. People with a diverse range of different issues can see vast improvement through group therapy. More than anything else, it helps you see that you are not alone.
Many mental health conditions cause people to feel isolated, alienated and stigmatized. The more time you spend alone in your head, the worse that feeling becomes. When you join a group of people who are also struggling with the same issues, it provides both support and a new perspective.
Trying group therapy can feel a little bit scary. However, if you put in the effort, then it can also be the best thing you ever do for yourself. If you are ready to give it a go, then here are some ways to set yourself up for success.
Come to Group Therapy with an Open mind
One of the biggest ironies about group therapy is that it’s often best for the people who don’t want to be there. For example, if you have social anxiety, then you might dread the idea of group therapy. After all, the last thing you want to do is be in a room with other people. However, after you get over the hurdle, you may discover that it helps you more than any other type of therapy that you’ve tried in the past.
Therefore, coming to the process with an open mind gives you the best chance of success. Yes, you might be scared. In fact, you might be terrified. As a defense measure against that, you might come up with all sorts of reasons (excuses) that group therapy isn’t right for you. Do your best to set aside those judgments. Approach group therapy with curiosity. Open up to just the possibility that it could provide you with some small new insight that makes your life better. Then see what happens.
Authentically Share Your True Thoughts
The more open and honest that you can be, the more group therapy will work for you. Of course, like with any therapeutic relationship, it might take you a little bit of time to open up. After all, you want to make sure that you’re in a safe environment. The therapist should effectively manage the setting so that you feel that safety. However, try not to stay tentative for long. If you get the sense that it’s safe to start opening up, then do so.
Try to share as much of your truth as you can. Try not to worry about what other people are thinking, if they’re judging you, or if what you’re saying is “silly” or “crazy.” In other words, don’t let the chattering thoughts in your own mind stop you from saying your truth.
Practice the Feedback Process
One of the best things about group therapy is that you get to give and receive feedback. The other people in the group have gone through situations similar to yours. Therefore, you each have the skills to help one another out. That said, there’s a specific process to feedback. Your group therapist will likely share the guidelines in your group. Here are a few general things to keep in mind:
- Speak about yourself, not about anyone else.
- Don’t give advice but do share your observations.
- Listen to others with a non-judgmental attitude.
- You can give both positive and negative feedback.
- Give concrete, specific examples when offering feedback.
- Try hard to receive feedback without leaping to defensiveness.
- If you do feel defensive, then share that feeling without blaming the other person.
If you can’t remember anything else, try to stick with the Golden Rule. Be kind and compassionate to others in the group.
Combine Group Therapy with Individual Therapy
Sometimes it’s appropriate to only attend group therapy. However, many people find that they benefit when combining group therapy sessions with individual therapy. As you work in a group, new things will come up for you. Then you can process those in more depth through individual therapy. Likewise, you may realize in individual therapy that there are skills you can practice in the group. Individual and group therapy may be done in the same counseling center or separately.
If you’re considering group therapy, I am happy to help you make the most of it. Please contact me soon for a consultation.