8 Ways Group Therapy is Awesome

Firstly, Yalom is the man.

In the field, I am an extrovert swimming in a sea of introverts, and it may seem like introverts have one-on-one psychotherapy on lock (see 1st definition). Naturally, introverts may be more energized in small groups or individual conversations. As an extrovert, I've had to shape my listening skills to be less extroverted. I realized my pace for feedback and processing may have been too quick in the beginning of my schooling. I've been open to this awareness, and have greatly shaped my interpersonal skills as a clinician. I appreciate the feedback of colleagues and supervisors. Thank you. 

While I've been able to contain my energy level for my work with individuals, I think my natural personality as an extrovert can come in handy with larger groups of people. I feel constantly invigorated in groups of supportive individuals. I think group work is not for everyone, yet it has its place for the processing and healing of many. 

Here are *8 reasons why group therapy is awesome:

1) Instillation of hope:

Sometimes it may feel like change isn't going to happen, and things will always be the same. Therapists are some of the most optimistic people I've met, and they want to spread this positive energy. There is something contagious about genuine optimism for growth and healing. To be surrounded by this positive energy can help catalyze one's individual process. Having validation through one's process, or witnessing another person grow can also instill much-needed hope to heal.

2) Universality:

Suffering in silence can be very isolating. To be part of a group where many have gone through similar times can help release intense emotions. Understanding others have endured can also validate one's journey. It can give us purpose to help others along their journeys. There is also a certain level of respect and acknowledgement within group members: the pain is real, and each journey is respected. Groups can also give us a sense of belonging when we've been alone for so long.

3) Corrective Recapitulation:

This is a fancy way of saying early experiences are reenacted in groups, and we have a chance to correct them. What does that mean? Somehow in a group dynamic, members carry out roles similar to their roles in their primary family. (Trust me, it happens.) Members can re-experience emotions and past conflicts in the safety of the group and repair them with the guidance of a facilitator.

4) Interpersonal Learning:

Clients can learn from therapists, but there is something unique about the relationship within a group. There isn't a power differential or perceived authority at the start of a group. Members can contribute their wisdom and indirectly help others who may use the information later in life. Each person is at his or her own stage of healing, and all information presented is valid and important. Information can help validate past experiences of others, and encourage pursuit of the next steps with each successful story.

5) Forgiveness:

Even if members have a mishap or relapse, there may be more acceptance for making mistakes. This can also be a corrective emotional experience when members have not been given another chance to make amends. The encouragement is there, and those further along their healing can help push for growth when needed.

6) Social Microcosm:

Within the first few sessions, members may start to use their maladaptive behaviors in group. This is a great opportunity to process observations, and raise awareness to one's blind spots. Sometimes people in one's life are unable to honestly dialogue about these behaviors because they are too emotionally involved. Allowing the group to address maladaptive behaviors can be more influential than having a therapist mention observations in individual sessions. 

7) Witness:

Sometimes it's difficult to find acknowledgement for little steps one has taken towards improvement. People aren't always so kind, patient, or validating. In group, members can be witness and point out little moments of progress that are a big deal. Changing is a big deal, and having a witness is very powerful in encouraging one to continue. In group, you matter, and your efforts matter.

8) Here and Now:

Many of us cling onto painful parts of our pasts, and have not been able to move forward. Being in group allows its members to re-access past events to give them new meaning, new perspective, and heal. Our tools to cope in the past were useful in the past. When the painful events of the past no longer occur, these past tools no longer need to be used. It is time to develop new tools for one's tool belt, and give permission to oneself to live a fulfilling life in the present.

*These tenets are taken from Yalom's text: The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, 5th ed.

Types of groups available:

  • Online anonymous 
  • Social skills
  • Eating disorder support
  • Anger management
  • Addiction recovery
  • Couples communication
  • Parenting
  • Interpersonal violence or Domestic violence IPV/DV
  • Long-term illness
  • Cancer processing
  • Self-harm
  • Survivors of suicide
  • Healing through art
  • Academic skills
  • Life transitions for older adults
  • You can look online for ones offered in your area.