Therapy of any kind can be intimidating.
But group therapy may seem particularly scary—especially if you tend to be a private, introverted individual. It can be hard enough to talk about your struggles with a single person. When there is a whole group of people in the room, it might seem impossible to open up.
Group therapy is often part of the treatment program for a substance use disorder whether you seek treatment in an inpatient facility (like Wooded Glen Recovery Center) or pursue outpatient services. In many cases, the group sessions will be mandatory.
Of course, that doesn’t invalidate your feelings of unease in a group setting. But it does mean you will have to find a way to cope with those feelings. One way to do that is to familiarize yourself with group therapy and its structures and goals.
Let us clue you in to what you might expect so you can feel prepared to step out of your comfort zone and into a group therapy session.
Understanding the Group Therapy Process
Group sessions have been shown to be effective for a number of disorders. Among them:
- Substance use disorders
- Panic and anxiety disorders, including social anxiety
- Issues related to trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders, including binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia
- Depression, including major depressive disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Among the primary benefits of group therapy, according to the American Psychological Association, is the development of a “common identity and sense of shared purpose.” Study after study shows that interacting with peers who share similar challenges under the guidance of a professional therapist can help reduce feeling of alienation and stigma. Members of a group can support one another, and progress for one can translate into feelings of hope and possibility for others. That support can take many forms, including providing a shared a sense of accountability that can motivate each member of the group to commit to ongoing improvement.
While commonality is an important aspect of group therapy, diversity is also a benefit. Hearing others describe their histories, challenges, and coping mechanisms can encourage individuals to explore a variety of options for overcoming difficulties. This process can also broaden our overall perspective on life and how best to move forward from the current challenges.
Knowing What the Group Experience May Entail
The APA suggests that group therapy sessions should include between five and fifteen participants (in addition to the therapist or therapists), but different situations and facilities may require variations. Often participants sit in chairs arranged in a circle, though more informal settings with various seating options are increasingly common.
Sessions may be held once or twice a week and may last as long as two hours. Generally, participants will also be undergoing individualized therapy in addition to the group meetings.
Sessions may be built around specific topics or skills. Or, they may involve more of a free-form discussion that allows for different levels of participation (though everyone will be asked to participate to one degree or another). Everything discussed in a therapeutic group is guarded by a shared commitment to confidentiality. That said, there may still be some details you do not feel comfortable sharing in a group setting. If you have concerns about your privacy, it is always appropriate to have a conversation with your therapist so that you have a shared understanding of what you are—and are not—willing to share with the group.
Considering the Potential Benefits of Group Therapy
Even if you are feeling intimidated about therapy in a group, it can help to keep the potential benefits firmly in mind. Among those benefits:
- The opportunity to work on social and relational skills. The safe space provided by group therapy sessions can help you develop the skills and confidence needed to build good relationships and overcome anxiety in social situations.
- The opportunity to prepare for family therapy. Group therapy involves learning to listen well and to respect a variety of viewpoints. It also helps participants learn a variety of ways to express thoughts and feelings without being confrontational. All of these skills will translate to family therapy, which can make that experience more productive.
- The opportunity to get comfortable with the 12-Step model. Most 12-Step programs are built around systems of group support. Taking part in group therapy in a residential treatment center may help you feel at ease when you first experience a program like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
- The opportunity to learn to balance individual accountability and fidelity to a community. Group therapy is about building connections while also learning how to live up to your personal responsibilities—to the group and to yourself.
- The opportunity to save some money. You may be able to find a therapist who offers reduced rates for group therapy as an extension of their private practice.
We Know How to Serve Both the Group and the Individual
Residential treatment for substance use disorders can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to group therapy. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we understand those challenges—and the importance of helping you overcome them so that you can experience the many benefits of group therapy.