Group therapy provides a safe space where a group rather than an individual can express themselves and receive support from a therapist as well as others in the group. The most common form of group therapy is a support group, which gathers individuals who share a similar mental health challenge to identify with one another’s experiences, and receive feedback and support from the group and one or more therapists.
Group therapy can be pursued on its own, but participants often have their own therapists as well to work on more individual challenges. A patient’s loved ones may also attend group therapy to learn more about their mental health, and get better at being supportive. It can help members cope with a number of issues including:
Generally, group therapy is not recommended for someone in immediate crisis, but can become an essential support once some headway is made with an individual psychiatrist.
Mental health conditions can be extremely isolating. They change the way we see the world and the people around us, and most people can’t empathize with our experiences. Group therapy allows individuals to hear from and identify with others from various walks of life who share our struggles, and can reduce those feelings of loneliness. Empathizing with others’ stories also allows us to be kinder to others, and to ourselves. Over time you may find yourself in a position to help others in the group, which can improve your confidence and self-esteem.
When conflicts do arise between members of a group, the therapist can moderate the conversation to ensure focus remains on solving common problems, and encourage members to identify with one another despite their differences. This experience of mediated conflict allows us to tolerate disagreements, voice our opinions with respect and confidence, and grow in areas of our social development that may be obscured by our mental health challenges.
A group typically includes members from various stages of treatment, and more experienced members will be able to help you develop as they did. Your group may be an unexpected source for role models and inspiration. While healing yourself may seem impossible at the outset of treatment, seeing others who have shared your experiences doing better, or even thriving, makes healthy coping seem more attainable.