Group therapy involves a single therapist or several therapists working with a group of people diagnosed with a similar mental illness or mental condition at the same time in the same venue.
This approach is available in a wide range of settings including hospitals, community centers, and mental health clinics; the conditions being addressed ranging from alcoholism to depression and traumatic stress, among others.
This type of therapy can be used either as a standalone
approach or as part of a comprehensive treatment plan involving
medications, lifestyle changes, and individual therapy sessions.
Therapists who use group psychotherapy adopt several principles in their practice, said principles of which are outlined by Irvin D. Yalom in his book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. These principles include:
Arguably, the most important principle in group therapy is the
acceptance of responsibility for one’s own decisions, actions and
choices. This is a far cry from blaming others and/or blaming
circumstances for whatever negative things have been happening and
continues to happen in your life. Your slow but steady progress toward
taking control of your life is a reward unto itself in group
It must be emphasized that group therapy is not a miracle pill that can be taken today and then voila! Tomorrow you are healed.
Therapists encourage the participants to be actively involved during the sessions by sharing their experiences, expressing concern for their fellow participants, and generally working toward their own betterment one step at a time.
In a group therapy session, the number of participants excluding the therapists can be anywhere from just 3 individuals to as many as 12 persons – or more, depending on various factors.
The group can decide the duration, frequency and venue of the meetings although these are typically one to two hours once or twice a week inside a room.
The participants can also agree to a change in scenery, say, in an open area like a park.
The therapist will also decide on whether the group will be an open or a closed one.
In an open group, new participants can join the group at any time.
In a closed group, only the members of the core group are invited to participate during the discussions.
You may want to join a closed group for many reasons like the security of knowing that your secrets stay within the group or you want to avoid the stress of meeting new persons in the group every other session.
In many cases, a group therapy session starts with the participants arranged in a semi-circle. This way, all of the members will be able to see each other and feel as equals, too.
During the first session, everybody will be asked to introduce themselves and share their reasons for joining the group. In subsequent sessions, each one may be asked to share their progress since the last meeting.
In all of the sessions, the therapist acts as the facilitator of the group discussions while also setting the direction for the sessions.
Will you benefit from group therapy sessions? Ask your therapist because you may just benefit from these sessions but be sure to set your expectations, too.
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