Many clients will often express a fear of going into a group situation but, as a psychotherapist, I have seen many benefits for clients who participate in group therapy. Sessions are usually conducted around a common theme among a group of people; for example, a group where clients all have an experience of bereavement or of drug and alcohol problems.
The benefit of a common theme is that there is also potential for the group to be psycho-educational; in that the psychotherapist may include wider teaching exercises and materials to support the therapeutic work taking place.
Often, group therapy can be found in residential treatment settings but it is increasingly common for groups to be held in venues with larger rooms. The psychotherapist will be supporting several people in one sitting and he/she will have the advantage of observing how a client interacts with other people; giving a greater insight into any potential communication, cognitive functioning and social anxiety issues. Behaviours that take place out in the real world are often replicated within the group setting.
Clients tell me that they benefit from knowing they are not alone in their difficulty; that others are having / have had a shared experience. They also report to me that this offers the opportunity to learn from how others cope and helps increase self-esteem by also, in turn, helping others. There can also be some useful ‘role modelling’ that takes place within a group and clients tell me they gain a better perspective of where they are in their own personal journey, by making a comparison to others.
There are other benefits from group therapy. For example, the cost of therapy is spread wider and so each person may only need to pay a small fee, compared to what they might otherwise pay for individual counselling.
A group will also be tasked with setting boundaries, rules and identifying objectives. This can be helpful to an individual client that might feel uncertain, lost or confused. The encouragement of other clients contributes to increased self-esteem and hopefulness. In some cases, new friendships are formed.
I enjoy providing group therapy and I have been trained to do so in roles within leading organisations involved in therapy, care and treatment.
The photograph used with the title of this article, is that of a colleague giving a talk to a group. It is not a photo of an actual therapy group. All participants consented to the photo being used in publicity and other materials.
Have you experienced group therapy?
(C) Dean Parsons. 2016.