There are so many reasons people find their way to group therapy. For some, it can be a more affordable way to work on issues than participating in individual therapy. For many, it is the connection and support found within the group of people that draws them in. Who doesn’t want to feel heard, loved and supported? As we each navigate the challenges of life, knowing there is a group of people who make you feel heard, loved and understood can make a real difference in how we view life, our successes and our overall enjoyment. Ultimately, the goal of group therapy is to reduce the feeling of “I must be the only one struggling in this way” and allow participants to realize we are in this together.
…Ok, that sounds great, but how does group therapy really make those connections happen?
As clinicians we have learned a lot from Irvine D. Yalom’s The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. Yalom’s work builds a foundation for group therapy that provides a distinct set of guidelines. These essential principles are what give the group structure and allow therapists to better understand what make a group cohesive and form that magic bond so that it can be healing.
The group therapy process consists of several stages, which include the following:
- The Persistence of Hope: individuals come to the group at many different stages in their own healing journey. Seeing the success of other group members who might be farther along in the process can help instill hope in those who are just starting out.
- Becoming One: As group members heal and move past traumatic experiences alongside other group members a sense of oneness and comradery can emerge, which bonds the group members in a way that is not usually attainable in one-on-one therapy. This special bond is one of the grat benefits of group therapy when combating symptoms.
- Imparting of Information: Group members sharing information and working together is vital for each individual’s treatment and healing. The sharing of experiences and resources among group members enhances the success of group therapy experience and creates a space of value to participants.
- Practicing Altruism: As members share individual strengths with other group members the process can help boost morale, confidence and self-compassion. This is helpful for new as well as seasoned members.
- Engaging in Corrective Behavioral Commentary: As the group begins to take form and become more like a family, the members can explore past childhood experiences they believe shaped their personality and behavior inside and outside of the group setting. Members can learn new ways of reaction and behaving to change unhelpful patterns and learn more effective and positive ways of being and feeling towards oneself.
- Remaining Social as the Healing Takes Place: The social aspect to group therapy is hugely beneficial and what makes group therapy so powerful. We know that most people tend to withdraw when recovering from a traumatic experience. The group allow members to engage with others without withdrawing, and in turn allows new behaviors to be practiced and greater healing to occur.
- Imitation of Others: The group members all learn from one another. Group members may imitate others’ responses and actions which they view as positive or beneficial. Group therapy ideas can prove helpful in their daily lives outside of the group setting as well.
- Engaging in Interpersonal Learning: The success of group therapy comes from the members’ ability to interacting with one another and receive feedback in real time. By receiving feedback from other group members and the group therapist, members can grow and adopt new perspectives in a safe and supportive environment.
- Experiencing Catharsis: Being able to share feelings and traumatic experiences with a group of people going through similar experiences allows participants to let go of guilt, pain and stress.
- The Existential Factor: Working through traumatic issues in a group, individuals become aware that they themselves are the ones responsible for their actions and choices. The experience can be empowering and cathartic as members discover new ways to view their experiences.
We are always adding new groups, workshops and gatherings to our calendar and would love for you to join us! Interested in learning more about the groups we offer at Sage House? Click here for details and to register.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.