How does group therapy help mental health

Group therapy, as the name implies, is a type of psychological therapy that is conducted with a group of people, rather than between an individual and mental health professional. Usually, people in the group are facing similar issues, like anxiety or addiction.

Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Health

Probably the biggest advantage of group therapy is helping a patient realize that they are not alone — that there are other people who have similar problems. This is often a revelation, and a huge relief, to the person.

Being in group therapy can also help you develop new skills to relate to others. The dynamics of a group often mirror those of society in general, and learning how to interact with the other members of the group can help you in your relationships outside the group. In addition, the members of the group who have the same problem(s) can support each other, and may offer suggestions to dealing with a particular problem that you may not have thought of.

You may be uncomfortable at first when it comes time to discuss your problems in front of strangers. However, the fact that others are facing the same type of situation as you may help you open up and discuss your feelings. In addition, everything that takes place within the group therapy session is kept confidential.

Let’s face it. Seeing a therapist is not easy. To benefit from the process, you really have to put yourself out there. It’s a very personal experience that involves disclosing things about yourself and your feelings that you wouldn’t be inclined to tell your friends or family, let alone a stranger. In doing so, especially at first, you undoubtedly will experience feelings of vulnerability that may cause discomfort and that’s just talking to one person in the privacy of their office. These days those same encounters can be more challenging because they are over the phone or through video.

Therapy, however, is not limited to seeking counsel from an individual therapist. Group therapy provides a rather effective avenue for treatment of behavioral health issues. Typically, group therapy sessions are led by one or more therapists working with several people at the same time concerning a condition or lived experience for which all members of the group are seeking treatment. While group therapy can be used alone, it is more commonly used with individual therapy and, possibly, medication.

Yet, some may feel reluctant to participate in group therapy because of a heightened sense of vulnerability – more people, more exposure. But, if you can get past that feeling, the benefits of group therapy can be quite rewarding, especially for those suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social phobias and substance use disorders.

Here are just some of the benefits to group therapy:

1. Camaraderie.

One of the most important benefits is learning that there are others like you suffering from the same thing. Oftentimes there are strong feelings of isolation and alienation when dealing with a mental health issue that makes seeking treatment difficult. With group therapy, you are with people who are dealing with the same or similar issues. This common understanding of a difficult experience nurtures trust and makes any judgment a lot less likely. Sharing feelings with the group can also help relieve the pain or stress you may be feeling.   

2. Different perspectives.

Group therapy, by its very nature, involves input from a variety of perspectives. With different personalities and experiences, people tend to look at issues and problems differently. By seeing how other people handle these issues and problems, you can incorporate different strategies to address your own. Plus, typically, members of the group will be at different stages in addressing their treatment and will be able to offer to others their experiences and ways of coping.

3. Accountability.

While peer pressure is normally not perceived as a positive, with group therapy subtle forms of it can be. Now, this doesn’t mean judging someone or making them feel guilty or attempting to bully someone into behaving a certain way. But with other members of the group providing positive feedback and advice for addressing challenges, a feeling of accountability occurs from wanting to please and be accepted by the group, which can help push you forward toward achieving your goals.

4. Confidence.

Having the camaraderie, fellowship and support of group members provide a type of safety net that builds confidence. This confidence enables you to push yourself outside of the group, knowing that even if you stumble, you’ve got others to fall back upon.

5. Self-discovery.

All of us have blind spots about ourselves, some of which may hold us back from effectively addressing those things that may be at the root of our problems. Through interacting with members of the group, you will see reflections of yourself from their perspectives, allowing for those blind spots to be uncovered and improving your ability to cope with the situations for which you need help.

6. Transitions.

Full or partial in-patient treatment often includes a significant amount of group therapy that patients grow accustomed to and feel is critical to their continued treatment. Out-patient group therapy assures that such treatment is accessible and continual.

7. Confidentiality.

Just like with individual therapy, group therapy requires participants to maintain confidentiality outside of the group. Granted, members of the group aren’t subject to the same ethical constraints as licensed therapists, but members are typically (and should be) required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Of course, such agreements can be broken but, given the shared experiences of group members, there is a real ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ feeling. Also, first names or initials can be used to provide further comfort.

Citizen Advocates offers group, marriage, and family counseling services for mental health and addiction treatment. Contact us to learn more.

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

As noted, there are many benefits to a group therapy setting. Let’s look at some of the top reasons people find this style of therapy both rewarding and effective. 

Groups can provide a safe space

A major benefit to a group therapy program is you might find you’re able to open up more as you gain comfort in the safe space the group process provides. Trusting that what happens in the group, will stay in the group, can be a motivator to be more open in a group therapy program.

H3: You feel less alone in your struggles

Support comes from feeling like you’re not alone. Whether you’re dealing with depression, social anxiety, drug addiction, or panic disorder, or any other mental health condition, knowing that others understand what you’re going through can offer a huge sense of relief. A group setting can make you feel comforted in knowing that other people get you.

You can learn from others who have similar struggles   

Group sessions can help you learn about yourself as you hear and understand more about other people’s struggles. Because you all tend to share similar experiences, group therapy sessions can be very beneficial in terms of gaining insight that you may not otherwise be able to see.

Group therapy can give you a voice

Finding your voice can be difficult. Using it can be even harder. If you aren’t used to making your voice heard, group sessions can offer a place where you can practice, even if it makes you uncomfortable. The safe place you’ve found in your group therapy sessions means you can try using your voice in an unfiltered manner, without some of the stress and anxiety you may normally experience. 

Knowing how to clearly and effectively articulate how you feel can build your confidence while empowering you to truly believe that you deserve to be heard. 

Groups offer a sounding board

After a while, your group will likely be a comfort zone for you. At the same time, it can be the objective point of view you’ve been looking for. If you’ve had a fight with your partner, or if you’re struggling with a conflict at work, or if you have anything else you want to deal with, your group can be that sounding board you need. 

People in your group treatment might offer a perspective you can trust. You may realize you get more out of their input than if someone else were to offer you even similar advice.

Groups promote social skills

The very nature of a group helps you learn how to navigate situations and relationships with others. By engaging and then re-engaging with your group, you can practice being in various social situations. Particularly with social anxiety or depression, when withdrawing might be your comfort zone, group therapy can be instrumental in helping you break the cycle so you’re more confident in social interaction.

Groups cost less than individual therapy

Even if it’s not an issue for you, most people appreciate it when things are more cost-beneficial. Group therapy most often costs less than individual therapy does. Yet despite the cost difference, group therapy actually isn’t any less effective, adding to its appeal.

Groups can help you grow

The ultimate goal of therapy is to help you grow, and group therapy can be very successful in this area. Learning about yourself and others is a great way for you to overcome fears, learn how to set healthy relationship boundaries, practice and hone your communication skills, and so much more. Growth is rewarding, and group therapy can help you achieve it. 

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