Therapy has come a long way with becoming normalized in our culture. More people are comfortable with letting others know themselves or a loved one is engaged in therapy. Seeking help in this manner is more likely today to be viewed as a strength rather than a weakness. Although some of the old ideas that therapy is only for “crazy” people may still remain, especially depending on a person’s age, culture, religion, and upbringing, individuals are more open to therapy now than ever before. What about group therapy?
I recently ran a therapeutic group for individuals who experience anxiety and depression. I suggested the group out to my current clients who attend individual therapy with me. Some exhibited resistance to joining the group, of which I believe to be representative of concerns regarding participating in the group therapy process. Below are some quotes from clients regarding their resistance to the group therapy process, along with my clinical expertise and knowledge of what we know about group therapy.
“I don’t need group therapy. I have individual therapy and that is all I need.”
Before seeking individual therapy, many people I work with resisted doing so with the same argument, “I don’t think I need it.” In Western civilization, we are programmed to value individualism, which involves being independent and self-reliant. Asking for help can be seen as weakness and is often a last resort. As stated earlier, this maladaptive belief has been challenged over the years, however it may still take time, energy, and suffering before we are able to convince ourselves to utilize the help and support available to us. While individual therapy IS extremely beneficial, why not use all the resources available? Also, while a therapist can offer one perspective/set of experiences, group members can offer countless.
“I don’t trust people.”
People may think, “It was hard enough for me to open up to you, now you want me to do it again with a bunch of strangers?” There are many reasons why not trusting people is a great reason TO join group therapy. As part of joining a therapeutic group, group members must sign a group agreement which clearly outlines the rules and expectations of the group. Group members are bound to confidentiality in order to preserve the safety and security of the group. It is the job of the group facilitator to ensure a safe and protected group atmosphere. Also, you are able to share as much or as little as you wish in a group setting. Many members spend a majority of initial group sessions just listening or sharing very little. You have control of what you chose to share with the group, and when. A therapeutic group is a great way to rebuild trust of others, due to the high measure of structure and emotional safety measures that are in place.
“What can these people tell me that a trained professional can’t?”
Many express being weary of taking advice or suggestions from someone who “is at the same level as me.” However, along with therapy being destigmatized, there is also a large amount of scientific evidence that shows that peer support is an extremely effective modality of helping others. Many agencies hire peer support specialists in addition to trained counselors to meet with and offer support, as both are scientifically proven to be beneficial. Although feedback can occur in a group setting, it is more so the shared experiences and common humanity that make group therapy so powerful. Understanding that you are not alone with your emotions, fears, and challenges can be extremely therapeutic. Fostering connection in a meaningful way is something we all crave, and the impact of this can often not be explained in words.
There are a number of groups out there with different topics, focuses, demographics, and structure. Check out the Group Therapy page of our website under “Services” to learn more about upcoming groups with Suffolk Family Therapy. Give yourself the gift the support and comfort that group therapy provides; you have little to lose and everything to gain.