Have you ever heard about a group therapy session? We would all be a bit sceptical if we are suggested to attend therapy in a group because, for each one of us therapy is that space exclusive for us to share our personal problems and for a while be vulnerable to our weaknesses while the therapist facilitates and help us to figure out solutions for our vulnerabilities. But is this process as strange and problematic as we assume it to be? Let us dive deep into the nuances of the practice and then conclude our sides of the debate.
What is Group Therapy and its Aim?
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more psychotherapists and 5 to 15 clients at the same time. Mostly, each of these groups meets with their therapist for about one or two hours. These groups mostly look forward to tackling a specific problem like depression, anxiety, PTSD etc. These groups often become a huge aid in providing comfort to a person who has experienced a loss in their lives. The group facilitates this through the meeting of others who have gone through similar experiences and are actively coping in life.
Groups also try and deal with social issues like low self-esteem, confidence etc. Researchers have found that group therapy is as effective as individual therapy. But the most important factor here to note, especially for the psychotherapists planning to conduct group therapy sessions is that it is not just individual therapy in a group. Rather, it is conducted exclusively using its own techniques and methods and not all psychologists are not equipped adequately for the same.
The Role of a Group Therapist
To be an efficient group therapist and to conduct an effective session, psychologists should ensure that they are academically trained in the techniques of the same. They should also be able to screen the potential participants of a session to ensure their effectiveness. Group therapy is not suited for all participants for diverse reasons.
Psychotherapists should try to create a cohesive bond with and amongst the participants. If they do not have a common ground to bond on, this may require some effort on the part of the therapist. They should also try and get feedback related to the effectiveness of the therapy sessions that they have been conducting. Apart from having verbal feedback conversations with the participants, group therapists can further assess the treatment progress using assessment tools devised for the purpose.
Advantages of Group therapy
Group therapy helps its participants realize the fact that they are never alone in the emotions they are struggling with. Group therapy, with its exposure to people from diverse circumstances, aids the participants in understanding that their emotions are completely valid and others who may not even be identical to them in any demographical way also struggle with similar emotions. This method of therapy further facilitates giving and receiving support from others. Social support from others, especially those who find themselves in similar troubling scenarios.
This setup may prompt many of those who find it difficult to share their emotions, to share them quite effectively. When one connects with their fellow group members, this may aid in improving the levels of their confidence, especially in giving themselves a voice that they may not have been able to give themselves earlier. This helps them to develop their self-esteem and in turn, empower themselves.
Members of group therapy sessions may also tend to imitate each other. In a positive connotation, individuals can observe and learn from others in the group who demonstrate positive characteristics and coping strategies for recovery. Moreover, these sessions provide people suffering from crises like the death of a loved one, emotional aftereffects of a tragedy etc, a space and further adequate time to cope with their tragic incidents and come back to mental wellness.
Different Types of Group Therapy
- Psychoeducational groups: These groups focus on educating participants about the circumstances and the emotional struggles they are facing and further about their coping strategies. These usually recruit members who suffer from a similar struggle.
- Skill-developmental group: Skill-developmental groups mostly adopt the techniques and strategies used by psychoeducational groups and mostly detail its participants the skills that would help them tackle their mental disorders and improve their mental health
- Cognitive behavioural groups: Cognitive behavioural groups mostly utilize cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT which aids them in restructuring their irrational beliefs that lead to negative behaviour. They begin by identifying the triggering environments or stimuli that might have preceded the unfavourable behaviour.
- Support groups: support groups cope with significant life changes, such as the loss of a loved one. These spaces facilitate its members to provide and receive unconditional support and social acceptance.
Group therapy can be considered a great alternative to individual therapy, but obviously given the various factors that have to be kept in mind while devising a session as such. They become platforms where people can connect with others who have had similar experiences during group therapy sessions. The group treatment approach comes in a wide variety of forms. However, most groups concentrate on teaching participants new, more constructive behaviours. This helps them deal with major life events and symptoms of mental illness more effectively.