Seeing a therapist can be intimidating all on its own; making an informed choice to seek help and guidance, while also sharing a vulnerable piece of yourself with a professional can be anxiety provoking and overwhelming. Now imagine adding about ten more people to that decision - talk about anxiety overload.
But, as anyone who has stuck with a therapist or group can tell you, the benefits far outweigh the initial emotional cost. The therapeutic gains that can be rendered by allowing yourself to be vulnerable and build skills within a group are unique and can be vital to the healing process.
Yet there is still reluctancy in client populations to engage in these types of group sessions, and how could there not be? Enhanced vulnerability, more chance of heightened social anxiety, and fear of exposure all play a role in keeping people out of healing spaces. If you feel you have the capacity to move through these feelings, I’d invite you to take a look at the benefits below, and see if group therapy could be the extra jolt needed to help move you further towards your own perspective of recovery.
- Community: Group therapy allows for you to instantly build community & camaraderie with those who may struggle in the same way you do. A dominant social narrative pushes us to “take care of the problem ourselves”, when in actuality, we heal much quicker in community. Allowing yourself to open up to others is not only good practice, but allows you to establish relationships and mingle with those who may be in different stages of their recovery. Different experiences and personalities allow for a rich community offering multiple perspectives.
- Perspective Taking: Not only will you have the experience of hearing different perspectives, but your empathy skills will sharpen. Hearing the struggles, accomplishments and steps taken by other group members allows you to connect deeper both inside and outside of the therapy room. Maybe you learn to hear a family member a little softer after listening to a member share about their own family struggles, or maybe you allow yourself the space to view someone you would normally never mix with as an ally. One skill you will walk away with is the ability to understand more deeply the perspectives of your peers.
- Accountability: Allow yourself to be challenged! As community builds, so does a sense of accountability to the group overall. Goal setting can be celebrated and encouraged by other group members, while advice and positive feedback can help keep you on track. The level of acceptance within the group allows you to open up to being challenged (lovingly) in a way you may have never experienced before.
- Universality: This term is defined as, “the quality of involving or being shared by all people or things in the world or in a particular group”. Simply put, you are not struggling alone. Group members finishing group therapy often reflect on this being the turning point for their healing - learning for maybe the first time in their lives that they aren’t the only people in the world who have felt the way they are feeling. When you can begin to demystify your experience as terminally unique, you can start to feel comfortable in your own skin.
- Social Skills: Building community, allowing yourself to be challenged, and taking on new perspectives all results in a strengthening of social skills we may have been struggling with before entering the therapy room. Being in that room builds confidence! It allows you to build deeper relationships outside of the therapy room, and enhances your ability to state your needs, be flexible, and have fun.
- Confidentiality: Group sessions are led by trained therapists who work under the same confidentiality standards as individual therapy. That means, what’s said in the room, stays in the room. Group members are made aware of confidentiality standards, and while members aren’t held to the same standards as a therapist is, the overall group consensus tends to lean towards maintaining confidentiality for the sake of group cohesion.
If you’re on the fence about trying to group therapy, let these benefits above shine a light into what it could offer you. While most residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programs have group therapy as a feature of treatment, there are plenty of resources for outpatient group therapy available to help you reap all the benefits above.
Allow yourself the space to be challenged & held by others during your recovery journey - it’s worth it!