Going to therapy is a huge step. It shows that you’re willing to face your challenges and work on making positive changes in your life. But it can also be daunting to open up about your thoughts and feelings to a stranger, especially when it’s just your therapist and you in the room.
Group therapy can help with that. In group therapy, you meet with other members of the group facing similar challenges. You can share your experiences and learn from others in the group experience and a safe and supportive environment.
If you’re more comfortable talking in a group setting, or if you feel like you would benefit from hearing other people’s perspectives, group therapy might be a good option for you. If you’re considering group therapy, here’s what you need to know about group dynamics and how it works and what to expect from group psychotherapy.
Processing Group Therapy
Group therapy is a process whereby people with similar problems and experiences meet under the guidance of a licensed therapist. Special training and experience are necessary for therapists to facilitate group therapy as they differ from individual therapy.
The goals of group therapy vary depending on the needs of the participants. At Care Plus NJ, some of our groups focus on grief, addiction, postpartum or trauma. Other groups focus on specific mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Therapy groups are formed by thoroughly assessing each individual using comprehensive screening tools to see if they’re a good fit for the group therapy model. For example, if you’re struggling with a specific mental health concern such as anxiety, you might be placed in an open group or closed group with other members who are also dealing with stress. This choice of environment can provide support and validation from others who understand what you’re going through.
Once the therapist has screened every group member and group cohesiveness is achieved, the first group session will begin.
What is a Therapy Group?
A therapy group is a set of people who meet regularly to discuss common issues under the guidance of a therapist. Most therapy groups are usually in small groups of four to ten people to ensure that every group member gets the help and attention they need. However, the therapist can form a larger group if tit does not effect group cohesion.
There are open groups that anyone can join at any time and closed groups that are only for people facing a specific challenge. Closed groups might be for people who have been through a recent trauma, such as a bereavement or divorce, or for people with a substance abuse issue or a specific mental health concern, such as anxiety or PTSD.
Each group member will have the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts on the issue. The therapist will help facilitate discussion and provide guidance, but the focus is to encourage members to support and understand each other.
What are Group Therapy Sessions?
Group therapy sessions are led by one or more therapists and typically last for an hour or two. During the session, group members take turns sharing their experiences and thoughts on the topic at hand. The therapist will help guide the discussion and offer support and insight.
The therapist will start each session by setting expectations and reviewing the ground rules. These might include confidentiality (what you share in the group stays in the group), respect for others, proper etiquette, and active listening. Each person then has a chance to share life updates and their feelings.
The therapist will then facilitate the group discussion and help everyone process their thoughts and feelings. The therapist will often use different exercises, group activities and techniques to encourage members to work through their issues.
Successful Group Therapy
A successful group therapy session depends on group dynamics and group progress. The group setting can provide a sense of community and belongingness, often lacking in individual therapy. It can also help you gain insights into your thoughts and behaviors and learn new coping skills from others who are going through the same thing.
Group Setting vs. Individual Therapy Sessions
While both individual and group therapy can be beneficial, there are some critical differences between the two.
You’ll work one-on-one with a therapist in individual therapy on your specific issues. This setting can provide a more intimate environment to explore sensitive topics. It can also be more customized to your needs since the focus is solely on you.
As mentioned above, group treatment offers understanding and support not usually found in individual treatment. It often goes hand-in-hand with individual therapy sessions, allowing you to process and work through your thoughts and emotions in both a group and personal setting. However, they can also be stand-alone sessions, depending on your needs.
Whether you need individual or group treatment will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re unsure which one to choose, your therapist or mental health professional can help you decide.
What are Group Members?
Group members are typically people who are dealing with similar issues. For example, a group of people with anxiety might have members who are all struggling with different forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety, panic attacks, or agoraphobia.
Group members often form close bonds since they share similar experiences. Group members feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings when group cohesion is felt. This powerful experience and understanding group therapy can lead to personal growth and healing, allowing the group process to flourish.
Interpersonal learning is one of the main objectives of group therapy. This is when people learn more about themselves by interacting with others in the group. Together, they can learn socialization techniques, problem-solving skills, and how to cope with their emotions. These things can be beneficial in both the short term and the long term.
Should You Participate in a Group Therapy?
Group psychotherapy can be an effective mental health treatment for various issues. Group therapy can be just as effective as individual therapy in some cases. Here are some reasons why you should attend group therapy sessions:
You Can Have a Support Group
Having a core group of people to rely on is one of the main reasons why people join group sessions. This support system can provide understanding and compassion, which are essential during difficult times.
Your group members will be there to offer encouragement and advice when needed. They can also help hold you accountable for your progress. Knowing that you have support groups and a support system helps every group session be beneficial and help you stay motivated to work on your goals.
You Can Gain Ideas From Other Group Members
Since group members share similar experiences in different stages, they can offer valuable insights and ideas. You might learn things from other members that you would never have thought of on your own.
For example, if you’re in a group for people with anxiety, you might learn different breathing exercises or relaxation techniques from other members. You can also practice and improve your social skills in a group session. This is beneficial if you’re dealing with social anxiety or other disorders that make it difficult to interact with others.
Having a Primary Family Group Can Help You Move Forward
Attending group therapy sessions can help you develop a more functional primary family group if you come from a dysfunctional family. The group becomes your new support system and can help you heal from past trauma.
A successful therapy group can provide you with the emotional support, love, and care you might not have received from your birth family. This can be an essential step in your recovery and help you develop healthier relationships.
Types of Group Therapy
Group therapy became popular during World War II. At that time, there were not enough mental health providers to treat war-related mental health issues individually. This began the process of treating those who chose to participate in group therapy sessions.
Today when a person is trying to face their challenges head-on and they are willing to participate in group therapy, they are starting a process that can forever change them.
In group therapy, people can confront their early childhood experiences and dynamics. They can learn how these early experiences shaped their personality and identify which behaviors and beliefs are unhelpful or destructive in their lives.
Group therapy sessions can be held in a variety of settings, such as community centers, therapy offices, hospitals, libraries, members’ houses, or churches.
Some go to therapy individually in addition to group therapy.
The facilitator running a group therapy session should be open and straightforward about the group’s purpose: what it intends to do, for whom, and how, and what challenges they hope to help others in attendance overcome.
It is the therapist’s responsibility to ensure group therapy sessions are nonjudgmental and productive for everyone involved.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A common type of group therapy involves cognitive behavioral groups , which center on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors.
When addressing substance abuse for example, cognitive behavioral groups will focus on the identifying situations and environments that trigger addictive behaviors. Then in group therapy you can restructure your beliefs that lead to negative or harmful behaviors.
Most groups can allow individuals to develop management strategies that support reduced use of their drug of choice.
Additionally, participation in support groups can help people learn to live with their mental health condition and not feel alone.
Psychoeducational Group Therapy
Psychoeducational groups usually focus on a specific condition, such as substance use disorder, anxiety, or phobias.
Psychoeducational groups provide members with information about specific topics and issues. They may also teach healthy coping skills. These therapeutic groups are led by a qualified therapist or mental health professional who usually begins with an education segment then moves into processing what was just presented.
Some people wish to gain skills such as parenting, caregiving, or stress management. They may benefit from psychoeducational group therapy. At Care Plus NJ we often do a combination of psychoeducation and process in our groups.
Examples of Group Therapy Activities
A successful group therapy session requires structure, safety, and a focus on the issue. The therapist will lead the group in different activities or exercises. These activities are designed to help members achieve significant improvements until they reach their goals.
In this activity, the group members list several things they’re grateful for from the past week. This can be anything from spending time with family to eating their favorite food.
After everyone has completed their list, the therapist will ask different members to share why they’re grateful for those things. This helps the group connect deeper and develop a greater sense of appreciation.
Group sessions can be very emotionally charged, so balancing the emotional intensity with some relaxation exercises is crucial.
One way to do this is through group meditation. The therapist will guide the members of the group in a guided meditation. This can help everyone relax and feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.
This activity helps the group members practice being present in the moment. The therapist will ask different members to share their thoughts or experiences on a particular topic.
While one person is speaking during group discussions, the rest of the group will be asked to listen mindfully. This means they should focus on what the speaker is saying without judgment. They should also be aware of their thoughts and feelings.
Two Truths and a Lie
This classic icebreaker activity can help the group get to know each other better. Each group member will share three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. After one member has finished sharing, the rest of the group will have to guess which statement is the lie. This activity can help build trust and rapport within the group.
Group members will take turns sharing the strengths they see in themselves and others. This activity can help boost self-esteem and confidence. It can also help members see the good in themselves and others, even when dealing with difficult situations.
Start Your Healing Process at CarePlus New Jersey
Group therapy can be an incredibly beneficial experience. These sessions can give you the support and guidance you need to heal and achieve your goals. It can also help you develop healthier relationships and learn new coping skills.
CarePlus utilizes protocols from the substance abuse and mental health services administration (SAMHSA) and offers different types of group therapy that can be adjusted to fit your needs.
Call us today and schedule an appointment if you think group therapy is right for you. We would be more than happy to help you on your journey to recovery. If you’re interested in seeing if you are a candidate for a group therapy session, please contact CarePlus today to schedule an initial assessment.
CarePlus NJ, INC. is dedicated to excellence in mental healthcare and has a commitment to life-long support needed by individuals and their families to ensure that they achieve their full potential and improve the quality of their lives.