Curious about Group Therapy? Intrigued by Group Therapy? Worried about Group Therapy? Maybe all of the above?
So normal to feel this way. While there are so many benefits and advantages to group therapy, the idea of meeting a group of strangers and sharing deep and personal information can, understandably, sound dubious and bring up feelings of anxiety.
But what many who aren’t familiar with groups don’t yet know is that therapy groups are not only structured to create a safe space for sharing, but can also promote growth and relief more immediately than individual therapy.
Here’s a little bit about what to expect from a therapy group experience:
Group Therapy Feels Safe: First and foremost, just as in individual therapy, what is shared in a therapy group remains confidential. All therapy group members agree to respect each other’s privacy and anonymity. What happens in group stays in the group! In a high-quality therapy group your facilitator will create clear boundaries and expectations. They will discuss with everyone the focus, objectives, and rules of the therapy group so that everyone is on the same page and can feel safe.
Group Therapy is Flexible: It’s also important to know that, while you will benefit most from sharing in the group, what you share and your pace of opening up is entirely up to you. Feeling particularly vulnerable today? Not in a great mood? That’s okay. You can show up to the group as you are and find support.
Group Therapy is Supportive: It is, in fact, the opportunity to find belonging that contributes to the unique benefits of a therapeutic group. As wonderful and helpful as individual therapy can be, it simply doesn’t offer some of the growth opportunities you will find in a group therapy setting.
Just Some of The Benefits of Group Therapy
You are not alone.
Often we feel that our struggles are unique. This contributes to a sense of ourselves as an outsider, intrinsically flawed, impossible to understand or maybe even help. While it is true that we are all unique, we share common challenges. Hearing that others, too, feel insecure, have anxiety, or repeat the same relationship patterns helps us to believe we are not so abnormal after all. If experience is the best teacher, listening to the stories of our peers is an experience that can change our own idea of ourselves in a profound and direct way rarely found outside of the group therapy setting. This can be especially helpful if you’re going through something really hard, like a breakup or divorce.
You give and get support.
Belonging to a group immediately expands your support system. Being exposed to fresh perspectives, inspired by the struggles and triumphs of others, brainstorming together, and the genuine expression of curiosity and concern are just some of the ways group members support each other. Stepping out of your own struggles to support someone else is also cathartic and therapeutic in itself, providing a special feeling of purpose and contribution.
You learn new relational skills.
What better place to put new skills to task, to practice them, than in a group of those with whom you’ve bonded and feel understood, not judged? The group experience lets you not only talk about what changes you want to make, but also give these new changes a try in a safe, more comfortable atmosphere. The therapy group enables us to “dip our toe in the waters” of change with others who, themselves, deeply understand and even share the nature of our struggles.
You find your voice.
For those of us who would like to improve our relationship skills (basically all of us), becoming part of a group propels us forward. In a therapy group, we increase our self-awareness, learn how to articulate our thoughts and feelings, and become competent at carving out a space for ourselves within a team. This unique opportunity increases our confidence with others in ways we can put to use practically in our daily lives.
You listen and learn.
Even if you are having an “off” day, have less to share, or are feeling a bit sheepish, you can benefit from listening to the other members of your group. Supporting them, just being there, creates growth, insight, and new, fulfilling relationship experiences. Come as you are, whether that means eager to get things off your chest, wanting to ask for help, or ready to let your support system take the lead.
Group therapy costs less.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Due to the nature of groups and participation of several members, they simply cost less than private therapy. [How much does therapy cost?] This means that therapy groups make support, growth, and change available to many who wouldn’t otherwise be able to take advantage of therapy.
Groups aren’t just for therapy.
While traditional, Yalom-style group therapy is enormously helpful for people, coaching groups are also a fantastic, effective, and affordable way to launch your personal growth.
What’s the difference between group therapy and group coaching?
The differences between group therapy and group coaching are subtle, and more about the intention and format of the group than the actual experience. Group therapy is wonderful in helping you identify your old patterns and gain insight into how you interact with others. Coaching groups are affordable, effective ways to set goals, learn skills and strategies, and get accountability.
However, therapy groups also provide skills, strategies, and accountability, and group coaching also gives you insight and self-awareness. The biggest difference between group therapy and group coaching is that group therapy can be used to help people struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, (as well as personal growth.) Group coaching is for the purpose of self-improvement and goal attainment, such as improving your relationships, or advancing in your career.
While group coaching has many of the benefits of group therapy (i.e., group coaching offers support, guidance, “the group experience,” teaches you skills and strategies, provides accountability, and is less expensive than private life coaching or career coaching) group coaching has one significant advantage over group therapy: You can attend group coaching online.
Online Group Coaching
An online coaching group allows you to attend the group from the privacy of your own home, and is often more convenient for many people. People can attend their coaching group at home after the kids are in bed, while they’re traveling, or even during a lunch break. You can also attend your coaching group if you’re in a different state or a different country. This leads to an increased diversity of perspectives and opinions, which is a major advantage to coaching group participants.
Both Group Therapy and Coaching Groups Turbocharge Your Growth
You can probably see how effective and encouraging groups can be, particularly around helping us understand, improve, and even like ourselves more in the context of relationships. Interacting with others is such an integral part of our happiness and wellness. Finding our place in a group helps us create more fulfilling and meaningful relationships, both in the short-term (within the group) and in the long-term future we dream of creating. Effective groups also provide us with insight, guidance, new ideas, skills, strategies and accountability — all more affordably than private therapy or life coaching. Groups offer value, meaningful experiences, and and effective tools for growth: What’s not to love?
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC
Facilitator of Growing Self’s Denver Therapy Group