Being part of a group can enable you to receive insights from people who are close to your situation and can enable you to express/share your thoughts and opinions.
Group therapy can be an effective treatment for people.
Group therapy is a type of therapy that involves therapist(s) working with several people at a time, often 6 to 12 people who experience similar problems. Unlike individual therapy group therapy offers people the opportunity to socialise with others within a supportive and safe environment.
Group therapy can often be used alongside individual therapy and medications. It can show people that they are not alone in their situations and can give them the opportunity to meet others and socialise, which in some cases may be something that is lacking within their lives.
Group therapy can be carried out within community centers, private practices or mental health clinics.
How do People often Perceive and React to Group Therapy
Many people can feel intimidated by the idea of group therapy and feel nervous about being around and sharing intimate thoughts and details with others. Many individuals may find it difficult to share their thoughts on a one-to-one basis with a Counsellor or therapist never mind an entire group of people that they may previously have never met. The fear and stress of contemplating this can be overwhelming for some.
However, many people who initially felt agitated about group therapy can often become more comfortable within a group after a couple of sessions. It is also up to the person how much they would like to reveal about themselves to the group. The more the person is willing to open up and share about themselves, the more valuable feedback and insights from other members they will receive.
Sometimes the cohesion between group members and the psychological security of the group can enable and encourage people to express themselves and make clear the support that they need from others.
So what are the Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy
Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy
Some of the benefits of group therapy are as follows:
Group therapy can promote social skills:
Group therapy can enable you to interact with others and build your communication skills through participation within the group. Individuals who have experienced increased loneliness can often find these social interactions beneficial, life-enhancing and rewarding.
Self reflection and awareness:
Groups can teach you things about yourself that you may not have previously been aware of. This self awareness can be learned from listening to the group’s feedback.
Support and encouragement from a wide range of people:
Group therapy facilitates individuals receiving support and encouragement from a wide range of people. Individuals within the group can also observe what others are going through by acknowledging their struggles or issues, this can help them feel less along.
Group members can serve as role models:
Seeing others cope successfully with their problems can help group members feel encouraged about their recovery and in some cases be inspired. As people begin to recover they can then become role models for others. This can form a culture of hope, support and motivation.
The benefits to the counsellor or therapist of conducting group therapy is that they can see exactly how individual members react and behave to others within social interactions. Group therapy sessions can give the counsellor or therapist a clearer understanding of how each individual behaves, interacts and responds to others within social situations to a greater extent than if this was simply expressed individually by the client, within a one-to-one session.
Some people can begin to feel safe and secure within the group and therefore be more confident to display natural behaviours and express themselves more readily.
Some of the limitations of group therapy are as follows:
It can make people uncomfortable:
Group therapy sessions can become very intense and as a result of this can be more uncomfortable for some members, which could result in individuals feeling too uncomfortable to continue with attending group sessions.
Loss of trust:
Trust within therapeutic environments is very important, often clients will have to feel some trust towards a practitioner before ever attempting to disclose sensitive or/and personal information about themselves.
It may be much harder to develop trust with all the individuals of the group at the same time as the individuals would have to develop trust with a number of individuals they may not have developed personal relationships with.
Clashes between personalities:
In groups there will often be a variety of people who have different personalities, with some individuals having markedly different personalities than others. One example, might be that some sensitive or/and introverted individuals may feel intimidated by other individuals who are very assertive or speak loudly and frequently, this can often be interpreted or misinterpreted by others as ignorance or aggression. Another example, might be that when the group is sharing their thoughts there is a difference of opinion and viewpoint, this can often result in disputes between group members who have a different moral or ethical stance on an issue that is raised. Some individuals opinions on a matter can contrast with the values of another group member.
Some individuals can interpret rejection:
An individual can feel less of a bond with a therapist if they are in a group. Some individuals may have experienced rejection in their past or are currently experiencing perceived or actual rejection within their lives, they may experience social anxiety when being around others and in some occasions may have low self esteem, this may result in some individuals being highly sensitive to perceived or actual rejection from the group, which could make them feel uncomfortable, upset and anxious and in some cases could cause an angry reaction and outburst.
Limitations regrading privacy:
A person who is invited to take part in group therapy may feel a loss of privacy. Some people may not feel comfortable discussing past or present issues, feelings, thoughts and opinions that they feel are personal and that they are sensitive about. Some individuals may feel much more comfortable discussing such issues and feelings in the privacy of a quiet room with one individual, in which they have built trust and a bond with.
Large group discussions could also cause issues regarding confidentiality.
Social Phobia and speaking in front of a group:
For individuals with social phobia it might be difficult to speak in front of a group of people. For people who have experienced a significant amount of real or perceived rejection, the group may remind them of this and thus enhance these feelings of rejection.
For people who have experienced trauma and/or abuse then discussions about these issues that were traumatic to an individual within the group could trigger the feelings and thoughts of and related to this event for these individuals.
Individuals who are experiencing severe depression or who are currently in crisis or are suicidal would more than likely not be able to interact and function within this group to the extent that a group member would need too in order to gain benefit from the group. This is because they are not at that time in a strong enough psychological state to do so.
Group therapy can provide an excellent support system for some individuals and can give them a place to share their thoughts and opinions, they may also build important relationships within group therapy sessions that could provide them with a support network in which they can turn too in times of distress.
However, group therapy can be a bit overwhelming for some people who experience social anxiety or are experiencing significant distress related to psychological difficulties.
The effectiveness of group therapy and whether an individual would be best suited to group or individual therapy will depend on the previously stated factors. Some individuals may benefit greatly from group therapy and some people will not.