Group therapy is a supportive experience where several people with similar issues get together with a mental health professional. According to the American Psychological Association, group therapy works just as well as individual therapy. Additionally, psychotherapist Matt Lundquist states that communicating with people who have had similar experiences adds value that extends far beyond one-on-one sessions. The size of the group can vary and sessions can take place online or in person. The thought of attending group therapy can be intimidating because we initially would prefer not to sit with people we don’t know and discuss our or their problems. However, there are several benefits to this style of counseling, and one of them is that it makes you feel more connected to others.
Group Therapy Eliminates Loneliness
People struggling with their mental health often speak of the loneliness associated with their experience. They can feel as if no one understands how it is and it can be this feeling that drives them further into isolation. While it is true that your pain is unique to you, there are many others in a very similar position. During group therapy, everyone gets to speak about what they are going through if they choose and when you hear that you are not alone, it gives you hope that things can get better.
Another issue that people face when coping with mental health issues, is the discomfort of feeling like a burden to their friends and family. Communicating with someone who feels similarly can alter that fear, because a shared understanding exists.
Group Therapy in Action
Whether you are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD or another mental health concern, sometimes people feel as if they need to wear a mask and act like someone they are not. Due to the social stigma that is still associated with mental health, it is not uncommon to put extensive energy into performing for others in an attempt to hide your true feelings. The pressure to keep up appearances often intensifies the negative feelings you already have. During group therapy, this façade is not necessary, because everyone is in a similar kind of situation.
It Broadens Your Perspective
Mental health professionals have a unique ability to understand the mind. They can give you guidance and insight into why you are feeling the way you do. They can also give you coping strategies so that you are better equipped to deal with issues when they arise. However, sometimes, you don’t know how you feel, and at that precise moment, you find it difficult to articulate yourself. In group therapy, there is often someone who has either been through or is experiencing something similar to you and is able to express it in a way that resonates with you. This helps you broaden your perspective and enables you to evaluate your situation from a different angle.
Learn New Strategies
Sometimes, there is nothing better than hearing from someone who has implemented a certain strategy that has worked for them. During group therapy, everyone is in different states of emotional growth and are able to offer those coping mechanisms that have worked for them with the group. It allows each member to provide feedback on the most effective strategies. These discussions can ultimately help you become more self-aware.
You Develop More Compassion For Others
Group Therapy Develops compassion for others Even as we experience mental health decline, it is easy to judge others for their behavior. What you might consider trivial could be detrimental to someone else, not because the issue in itself is, but because it is a trigger to a deeper problem they are experiencing. When you hear others expressing how life affects them and why, you gain more compassion for people.
Our mental health can be very ‘me’ centered; pain can feel so extreme that there isn’t energy to think about anyone else. In a group setting, you can listen and open to what others are going through.
It Provides Encouragement
Another frustrating aspect of mental health difficulties is having people tell you “It’s going to be alright,” when you are struggling. Your friends and family care about you, and they do have a genuine desire to help you, but the frustration comes from the fact that they can’t really empathize with you because they don’t know what you are going through. However, when that type of encouragement comes from someone who has been through you some of what you have and come out with a powerful testimony, it can inspire you to keep pushing forwards to overcome your personal obstacles.
Improves Social Skills
If your issues have caused you to isolate yourself, your social skills can deteriorate. Group therapy can allow you to improve them in some relatively comfortable ways. There are many skills people report as benefits of group therapy, including active listening and speaking skills. During any therapy session whether group or individual, people most want to feel that someone is listening, respecting, and understanding them. When you can experience that feeling of being understood within your group, it motivates you to focus on others when they are speaking, and improves your active listening skills.
Group therapy also helps improve your speaking skills because when you risk talking, everyone begins to understand each other better. It forces you to dig deep and think about how you feel so that you can express yourself clearly. When someone in the group wants additional clarity, this gives you the opportunity to rephrase what you have said which improves your ability to articulate yourself and communicate with others more effectively.
Final Thoughts on Group Therapy
Group therapy is a powerful way to get the support you personally need while connecting to others in new and meaningful ways. You realize you are not alone, learn to communicate and listen, broaden your perspective, and deepen in compassion for yourself and others. You become glowingly self-aware. “Group therapy, though not new, is a relevant and needed therapy for our times,” Dr. Amalea Seelig, Co-founder and Director of Clinical Services at MindFit says, “and because it’s affordable, access to mental health support is easier than ever.” The synergy of medication and therapy has been validated as one of the most successful combinations of effective care. MindFit and Mindful Care are leading the way to accessible, affordable mental health services in NYC and beyond.