Despite the great therapeutic benefits of psychotherapy groups, unfortunately they are sparsely offered within the therapeutic community. This may have something to do with the current focus on individual therapy, lack of will (or skill) of therapists in leading groups, or even a product of an increasingly individualistic society. Therapy groups, when well led and put together, are filled with potential for personal growth and development. Of course therapy groups aren’t for everyone and individual therapy may be a better option for many. But if you are curious about groups, here are some very good reasons to become part of one:
- It is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy
A vast body of outcome research (Yalom, 2005) has showed that group therapy is a highly effective form of psychotherapy and that it is at least equal to individual therapy in its power to provide significant benefit to clients.
- Universality Lessens Isolation
Many individuals enter therapy with the unsettling thought that they are alone with their problems. To some degree this is true in the uniqueness of the constellation of issues which we all experience. However, when this sense of uniqueness is heightened, it can severely affect our relationships and isolate ourselves from others. In a therapy group, the disconfirmation of this fact through listening to other’s experiences can be a powerful source of relief. Some go as far as describing this experience as “feeling welcome into the human race”.
- Working Through Unfinished Business
Most individuals seeking psychotherapy have experienced emotional difficulties to varying degrees in their first and most important group: their family of origin. The group offers the opportunity for understanding familiar patterns of interactions, and experimenting with new interpersonal behaviours in a safe and supportive environment.
- Interpersonal Learning
There is convincing data which shows that human beings have always lived in groups that have been characterised by intense and persistent relationships amongst members and that the need to belong is a powerful, fundamental, and universal motivation (Yalom, 2005). Many of the challenges we experience in life are directly linked with difficulties in interpersonal relating. Groups can be supportive when it comes to lessening their members’ interpersonal struggles and in increasing their ability to form rewarding relationships.
- Group Cohesiveness and Sense of Belonging
Many of us have lacked in ongoing experiences of peer acceptance in childhood, therefore validation by other group members can be a new and vital experience. The intimacy created in a group is a positive counterforce to a technologically driven culture, which increasingly dehumanises relationships. Therefore, there is a greater need than ever for group belonging and group identity.
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Image credit: Sam Jahara