By Josie Blosser, LMFT-C
Therapy can seem uncomfortable; You have a total stranger asking questions about your personal life and encouraging you to share information that you would rather keep private. What could be uncomfortable than therapy with one stranger? Some might say therapy with multiple strangers- aka group therapy. So why does group therapy exist? Why is it recommended by professionals? What are the benefits of group therapy?
First off, it’s important to know that therapy is beneficial in any setting. Therapy can help people identify and achieve goals, understand patterns in their life, receive help overcoming challenges, and create a safe place to recognize and process through emotions. So why should people consider doing these things in a group setting?
Cost. Therapy can be costly – going to multiple appointments over an extended period of time can add up. Group therapy negates some of the cost of therapy; often cutting the price in half while still receiving the same benefits of individual therapy.
Accountability. What about the other people in the room? Won’t it be uncomfortable letting them hear my experiences and stories or vice versa? While it can be uncomfortable at first, many report feeling accountability from going to group therapy because they know other people have heard what goals they are trying to meet, what habits they may be trying to break, or what emotions they are trying to face. People are often met with acceptance by others in the group, establishing their own cheering section and support system after being in group therapy.
Shared Experiences. Often when I am sitting with clients I hear the phrase, “I feel so alone; no one else seems to be going through what I am going through.” While no one can experience the exact same situation or emotion, most people can relate to or think of a similar experience. Group therapy often soothes the feelings of isolation by hearing peoples’ experience of similar hardships and struggles makes the feelings of loneliness dissipate. As the connection of participants in group therapy grows, group members do not feel so alone in their situation.
Vulnerability. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not like exposing my “weaknesses.” I do not like to let others know I am struggling or having a difficult time, but group therapy requires a high level of vulnerability. Group therapy participants are willingly sharing their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings; I cannot think of anything braver than that. While being emotionally vulnerable may be more uncomfortable than standing outside naked for your neighbors to see, it is also more valuable because others finally see you and can help you as needed.
Outside Perspective. Have you ever put a puzzle together and gotten to the point where you cannot seem to find the piece that will fit in the spaces left, then just walked away to give your straining eyes a break and get a new perspective? Group therapy offers a similar experience, or a “new set of eyes” so you can see the image from a different perspective. The problems we deal with in life are too close for us to get a clear picture of what we are dealing with, but for the members of group therapy, they see others’ pictures from a “zoomed out” position and they can offer an outside perspective. As participants in group therapy share with one another, new ideas or ways of thinking are expressed and heard, ideas are bounced off each other, and suggestions are made. In many ways, group therapy allows participants to try out their hand at being a therapist themselves, with the guide and monitoring of a trained professional of course.
Group therapy can be beneficial in addition to individual therapy, helping maintain progress after “graduating” from therapy, or as introductory experience to treatment if you have never been before. At the end of the day, therapy can be uncomfortable and scary – no matter if it is done by yourself, with your spouse, or with a group of strangers. However, I believe all people can be brave and take advantage of the opportunities and benefits of group therapy.
About the Author: Josie Blosser is pursuing her license as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Oklahoma City at Family Solutions Counseling. She works with couples and individuals who have been impacted by anxiety, depression, trauma and sexually compulsive behaviors.