What You Can Get From Group Therapy
Learn new coping skills
Through talking about our difficulties with others, we open up the opportunity to hear how others have coped in similar situations. Some groups are even specifically focused on coping with a particular concern, such as depression, anxiety, building relationships, tolerating distress, eating and body image issues, or substance use.
Understand that we are not alone
When experiencing troubles, it is often easy for us to believe that no one can understand our experience, sometimes leading to a sense of isolation. Many find that when they speak about their concerns in group, others are able to relate. Finding this validation and sense of community can lead to a decrease in feelings of alienation and shame. Group can also be a place where we connect with others around cultural and social identity experiences, as well as learn about others different from us.
Get in touch with the present
We often live in the past or become consumed with the future, or our thoughts are "somewhere else," perhaps tied up with some problem or worry. In group, we have an opportunity to focus our awareness on what's going on right in this instance, so that we may regain the kind of contact we once had with ourselves and our environment.1
Increase awareness of our emotions
This includes such feelings as boredom, guilt, anger, hurt, joy, sexuality, playfulness, affection, resentment, sorrow, love, and excitement. As children, many of us have learned to isolate ourselves from this feeling world. Through talking about ourselves to others in the group, and expressing our feelings towards them, we have a chance to get back in touch with our emotions and experience ourselves more fully.1
Get feedback from others
In daily conversation, most people give feedback that is either polite flattery or thoughtless condemnation, which does not help us to critically understand ourselves. In a group, however, it's possible to get honest feedback about how we are coming across, to find out what impressions others have of us, to see ourselves as others see us, to discover our unknown mannerisms, habits, and styles of relating and communicating, and to become aware of the unconscious messages we are transmitting.1
Rediscover a sense of self-worth and confidence
Participation in group allows members to see how they can contribute to the growth and well-being of others. Members are able to provide support and encouragement, which is often experienced as healing by all parties involved.1
Learn to initiate things
To the extent allowed by the structure of the group, group members have an opportunity to learn how to get things going on their own, without depending on someone else to do it for them. Each person, with the help of the leaders, can learn to express their own wishes and to act on their own impulses rather than operating on expectations and pressures coming from other people.1
Be honest with others
Much of our life is spent abiding by social norms, being polite, and worrying about not hurting others' feelings. In group there is an opportunity to be yourself, to let less visible parts of yourself come to the surface, and to discard the masks and shields of everyday life in a way that allows you to more fully connect with yourself and others.1
Become more sensitive to the ways people communicate
People generally communicate much more than the explicit content of the words they use. In group, we are free to turn our awareness to the subtle but powerful messages being transmitted by facial expressions, postures, tone of voice, gestures, etc.1
Learn about closeness and intimacy
What often blocks people from being close is the fear of other people's feelings, reactions, and expectations. When they begin to get close, they get tangled up on the feeling level. In group, there is a chance to learn how to disentangle the problems that arise in relationships so that people can be close and still retain their freedom, autonomy, and self-assertiveness.1
Experiment with new ways of relating to the world
Most of us rely on only one or two fixed relationship styles when encountering others. The group is a kind of laboratory where all kinds of experiments can be tried out, where new ways of relating and communicating can be risked, and where our failures can be accepted, embraced, and valued.1 Behaviors we might experiment with include saying "no," setting boundaries, talking about uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, expressing anger, accepting praise, accepting constructive feedback, and asking for help.
1Adapted from DePaul University Counseling Services, "What you can get from group counseling"