If you are like some of the clients that I've worked with, you might be wondering if group therapy is the right place for you. I've had some clients question how they are supposed to feel comfortable in a group of strangers, and how anybody else would understand what they are going through. I've also witnessed some group members not take advantage of the opportunities that the group environment promotes, which is highly unfortunate! My hope is that you will get a better understanding of the unique advantages of group treatment.
I have been given the rewarding opportunity to co-facilitate an Intensive Outpatient Group and also develop an aftercare group here at The Behavioral Wellness Group. From participating in the group environment, I’ve noticed many advantages and benefits that I’d like to highlight, in hopes that it might ease the hesitation of a potential client who is considering group treatment.
First, it’s important to note that there are many different types groups available in the mental health community. Some that you might be most familiar with include support groups, psychoeducational groups, intensive outpatient programs and aftercare groups. My observation is that the following advantages are relevant to all group formats.
The American Psychological Association outlined some benefits to group psychotherapy, all of which I have recognized as well:
- The group dynamic has the potential for group members to learn from one another’s experiences. Hearing the struggles and the way in which others create change can allow for personal growth. You have the unique opportunity to hear how a fellow group member might have responded to a similar situation, and they can offer a different perspective that perhaps you didn’t consider. In addition, seeing group members at various stages can offer hope for newer members as well as a reminder to senior members as to how far they have come.
- Being in a group can help you recognize that you are not alone in your suffering. Oftentimes you’ll hear that many people have similar concerns and experiences. Understanding that you are not the only one who struggles can help you feel more comfortable with sharing your story.
- Group members can help hold you accountable for making positive changes in your journey to recovery. The supportive nature of a group setting can act as a sounding-board for improving your situation. You are encouraged to share your attempts at implementing skills and creating change, while group members can provide extra support to follow through with those changes.
- Therapists who lead the groups often have training particular to the issues relevant to the group, and can provide valuable feedback for managing specific problems. You have the opportunity to receive feedback from your group leader(s) and from your fellow peers, which can be extremely beneficial.
In my clinical opinion, a client can reap many benefits from the group therapy experience. If you’re interested in any of the groups that The Behavioral Wellness Group offers, please call us at 440-392-2222 to learn more.
Reference: The American Psychological Association. (2016). Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/group-therapy.aspx Kimberly Vitolo, MS, LMFT Marriage and Family Therapist