Maximizing Group Therapy’s Benefits for You
Facilitated by a trained mental health professional, group therapy is a form of treatment that typically comprises six to eight individuals.
Entirely confidential, group therapy provides a safe space to test different ways of interacting with people. It also provides time for those in attendance to share their thoughts and experiences while developing greater awareness of how humans interact and relate to one another.
Although group therapy can seem more intimidating than individual therapy, several benefits come hand-in-hand.
This blog shares how you can get the most from your group therapy sessions to maximize their benefits.
Developing a close and trusting relationship with strangers can be nerve-wracking. As doing so may leave you feeling vulnerable and awkward, it is normal to feel hesitant about opening up to others.
As this fear of vulnerability can result in detaching yourself emotionally, you may even become suspicious of the entire process of group therapy, which could prevent you from taking advantage of its benefits.
As daunting as it may seem, avoiding these pessimistic associations should be a priority when beginning group therapy. If you encounter these thoughts, reminding yourself to stay open, transparent, and curious will help you. Though there is no denying that this can be very challenging, your efforts will be worth it.
In opening up, you will find that sharing your feelings helps you become more compassionate and caring towards yourself and others.
Avoid Giving Advice
Upon hearing the feelings and problems other people face, it can be tempting and instinctual to offer advice. However, this is not recommended for the following reasons:
- It can stop the emotional growth of the recipient and can come across as patronizing – Offering advice to someone struggling with an addiction or mental health can sometimes feel like a criticism to the recipient. It can also make them feel as though they are not being heard. When searching for advice, it is usually more productive and valuable to seek it from experts. Here you will have the ability to accept or reject it. Furthermore, “communication conveyed as advice is often experienced by the recipient as unwanted information or, worse, as an attack”.
- It can stop the emotional growth of the giver – Sometimes the act of giving advice can be harmful to the person giving advice, as at times, they may use this interaction to “stop, disguise, or otherwise avoid a significant emotion from surfacing”.
Both of these points can be detrimental to a group dynamic and the effectiveness of group therapy due to the tension it can cause. Considering this, the best thing to do upon attending group therapy is to listen intently and understand that other people will do the same for you.
If someone approaches you for advice, this is entirely different. In this instance, you must ensure that you approach this sensitively and are confident that you have heard and understood everything they have said before offering a solution.
Accept and Give Feedback
A significant benefit of group therapy is receiving feedback from multiple people with varied life experiences rather than one therapist.
It also provides an opportunity to give feedback to others in the group. This can help deepen relationships between participants, allowing you to connect with others.
Although it can be difficult, try your best to stay present and focus on how you feel, the interactions between group members, and the thoughts that emerge.
Sharing how you feel in the present moment, even if the thoughts seem confusing or hostile, is essential. The intention is to accept the feelings and thoughts encountered rather than being critical, as this will encourage you to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
Most people feel nervous about starting group therapy. Remember that you can take your time. You do not need to force yourself to go at a pace you are uncomfortable with, nor will you be expected to.