What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy sessions include one or two mental health professionals and a group of otherwise unrelated patients who live with the same mental health problems. Participants learn from one another and the therapists as members share their experiences. These sessions usually consist of between five and 20 participants, but each group is unique. The counselor’s role in group therapy is to put the conversations into perspective, ensure everyone follows the rules, and ask appropriate questions.
What Happens During Group Therapy?
Almost everyone has seen at least one movie or television show with a group therapy scene. Although some portrayals are more accurate than others, real-life group therapy differs quite a lot from pop culture. While each group is different from the next, most of them follow a few basic principles:
- Anonymity among members is a must
- Members all struggle with something similar (grief, substance abuse, etc.)
- What people say inside the group stays with the members only
- Members encourage one another
- Both patients and counselors share information with the group
- Participants heal by helping others as well
Many group therapy sessions include portions in which an experience Florida therapist teaches healthy coping mechanisms that relate to the theme of the group. For example, a leader of an eating disorder group may teach about preparing balanced meals. Groups like these may meet just once–long enough to learn the skill.
Other groups may include meetings every week or even every day. Participants can drop into sessions when they need it or skip when they cannot make it. In these meetings, people may share their daily obstacles, as well as any achievements they made on their mental health journeys. Counselors keep the discussions on-topic and interject with lessons only where appropriate.
Although therapists want to hear from all participants in a session, talking about your feelings is rarely required. Counselors may encourage patients and even ask questions, but they do not ban people who don’t talk.
Types of Group Therapy
Group sessions can help people with all kinds of life struggles and mental illnesses. Some therapists open their sessions to their own individual patients, while others open groups to the general public. Group therapy can help treat:
Groups do not always revolve around specific mental disorders. Instead, therapists create groups for people dealing with specific troubles in life, such as grief, chronic illness, or acting as a caregiver.
Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups for people with addictions may be the most well-known types. People who struggle with addiction meet up to work through programs that help them get or stay sober. While the 12-step programs are the best-known, other groups use different methods as well. Participants can be on substances when they attend or sober for years.
Therapy groups for people with PTSD tend to break down further into the types of trauma that people experienced. For example, there are groups specifically for veterans and others for survivors of sexual assault. PTSD therapy groups let people know that they are not alone and give them tools for recovery.
Most people experience some level of grief throughout their lives. Therapy groups can help people who lost loved ones and have hard times moving forward. While some groups welcome people dealing with all kinds of grief, others focus on specific types of loss. For example, groups exist specifically for people who lost spouses or children. Groups can help people who are grieving find strength in a community that gets it.
Other Group Therapies
Therapists create groups for all kinds of patients, even those not listed here. If you believe the demand is there for a group you need, talk to an FLBH counselor about creating one.
What are the Benefits of Group Therapy?
Before they ever attend, some people question whether group therapy could work for anyone. However, research shows time and time again that group therapy serves as an affordable alternative to individual therapy, and it can be just as effective. Furthermore, group therapy is typically not the only part of a treatment plan. Many patients use it alongside medications or individual treatment.
What makes group therapy so effective? People learn from peers that they know they can trust. Furthermore, when one person overcomes an obstacle, other people in the group see that they can do it too. They all find solidarity in the shared struggles.
How to Find the Right Therapy Group
The key to a great group therapy session is finding the right mix of people for you. If you think group therapy could help you, be sure to take the time to discover the group that best meets your needs.
It’s entirely possible that the first group you attend won’t work for you. Don’t give up hope. Finding the right people is worth the work. If you need help finding a group in the Orlando area, consult with the professionals at your local group therapy clinic. We can work with our extensive network to find a fit for you.