Groups can become a source of support in times of stress and change, especially now during the Covid pandemic. Group psychotherapy, like individual psychotherapy, is intended to help people improve their ability to cope with difficulties and problems in their lives and their relationships. Professionally trained therapists meet with group members who are pre-selected as likely to benefit themselves from group therapy and to be supportive to others within the group.The group therapists help guide the process, including focusing on interpersonal interactions, so members have the maximum opportunity to help and learn from each other, which provides benefits that individual therapy may not.
HOW DOES GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY WORK?
Group members are encouraged to talk together honestly about their lives as well as their reactions to others in the group and developing relationships. While sharing can initially be difficult, people usually find that they have many commonalities and begin to feel less alone and find support and tools for dealing with life challenges. Members provide feedback to each other about their behaviour in the group, which can provide important opportunities for awareness. The supportive group can then be a safe place to experiment with change and practice new behaviours. Talking and listening to others helps you develop empathy, deepen your relationships, and put your own problems in perspective. Frequently the people you meet in the group represent others in your past or current life with whom you have difficulty. In group therapy you have the opportunity to work through these situations.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY?
Group psychotherapy is suitable for a large variety of problems and difficulties, from people who would like to develop their interpersonal skills to those with emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, as well as those with stressful life circumstances such as illness, loss, trauma, retirement and aging.
Group psychotherapy is especially effective for people with interpersonal difficulties and problems in relationships including issues like intimacy, trust, and self-esteem. The group interactions help the participants to identify, get feedback, and change the patterns that are problematic. The great advantage of group psychotherapy is that these issues can be addressed in the “here and now” – in a situation much closer to the real world than is found in individual therapy. In fact, some people find it is very useful to graduate from individual therapy into group therapy to further refine the gains they have made.
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF THE PARTICIPANTS?
The participant in the group is expected to be present for each meeting and come on time. Information brought up by group members and their names must be kept confidential by all the group members. In some groups, the participant is asked to commit for a specified length of time at the beginning of the group, often this is between 3 to 6 months, in order to determine if the group is appropriate and helpful. Members are not required to talk nor to reveal intimate issues but the more you participate openly, sharing your feelings and your thoughts, the more you can gain from the experience.
Usually, there are between 5 to 8 members in the group. Sessions last 90 minutes and occur once or twice a week. How long you should attend the group depends on many factors such as the severity of the issues and the changes sought. You should allow 4 to 6 months in order to feel the effect of the group and a few years participation may be needed to get the maximum effect.
Human beings are social beings: we grow up in family groups, live and work in groups. Therefore, when these groups fail us, we can get into difficulty. As a result, group work has been found to be a dynamic and effective form of therapy that enables us to make changes in our lives within a supportive context.
Group therapy is particularly helpful for people whose difficulties are rooted in past or present relationships, or shared events, inside or outside the family. Through working together, with the therapist, it offers group members an opportunity to understand themselves and to experience new ways of relating and of being in the world
Our groups meet weekly for an hour-and-a-half, with up to eight people in each group plus the therapist. It takes a little while to feel safe in a group, but once you do you can experience enormous relief at being able to talk quite freely with people you have got to know well and trust. With guidance from the therapist, a group can be enormously helpful.