Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more mental health practitioners who deliver psychotherapy to several individuals simultaneously. The American Psychological Association explains that “decades of research, including more than 50 clinical trials, have shown that group therapy is as effective as individual therapy for many conditions.” Common problems that group therapy is designed to target include, individuals with depression, obesity, social anxiety, panic disorder, chronic pain, substance use disorder, and more. Group therapy can also focus on general issues such as anger, shyness, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Group therapy can help people acquire a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Engaging In Group Therapy
As is true with most forms of psychotherapy, there is a positive correlation between the effort one puts in and the benefits one receives from group therapy. This begins with being able to engage in the therapeutic process. In mental health sciences, according to Positive Psychology “engagement denotes all the efforts made during therapy, right from the intake sessions, to achieve the desired results.” Consider the following suggestions to help you stay engaged and glean as much as possible from group therapy:
- Respect and uphold group boundaries: to cultivate and maintain an emotionally safe environment participants must honor and adhere to the group boundaries:
- Arrive on time.
- Stay for the duration of the group session.
- Attend each group session and if you must be absent, let the group know in advance.
- Maintain confidentiality of content in the group and the anonymity of group members.
- Remain present and share where you are at: focus on what is happening in the current moment. Ask yourself:
- What is going on that makes you feel closer or more distant towards others?
- What is happening between the group members?
Remember that how people talk is as important as what they say. Notice the non-verbal behaviors in the group and pay attention to yours and those of other members. Talk about what you notice.
- Give feedback: when someone in the group shares a personal story or reveals something they are dealing with, be willing to express and share how you feel about the situation. Some tips for giving feedback:
- Be direct, honest, and specific about what you’re responding to (e.g., a particular remark, gesture, etc.).
- Share both positive and negative feedback.
- Give feedback as soon as possible so it is still relevant to the session.
- Learn to receive feedback from others: group therapy relies on participants’ capacity for using shared knowledge and experiences to provide and receive constructive feedback. Still, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of group therapy. Try to think of feedback as a gift from other group members. Some tips for receiving feedback:
- Acknowledge and express appreciation for feedback when it is given (e.g., “Thanks. I did not realize I was shaking my leg while you were speaking.).
- Do your best to avoid becoming defensive, but if you feel yourself becoming defensive, share with the group how you are feeling.
- Seek clarification from group members or enlist the opinion of other members to verify if the feedback you received matches their perceptions.
- Avoid monologues: When sharing personal experiences with your group, rather than simply recapping the past, aim to look back at these life moments through an emotional lens, in a way that helps you better understand them. The expression of emotion will have far greater value than the expression information in group therapy. Let yourself be emotionally available to and vulnerable with others.
Further Information and Support
For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.