Group therapy is a branch of psychotherapy where therapists work with a group of individuals simultaneously. The purpose of group therapy is to aid recovery through discussion and self-expression. This can help alter destructive attitudes, behaviors, and habits that contribute to addiction.
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Successful group therapy promotes constructive and creative ways of coping. Depending on the overall aim of the group therapy session, it may focus on specific information or work on coping mechanisms related to a condition.
Therapy groups vary in size. However, they typically have a maximum of fifteen members. Groups any bigger can lose their focus or suffer from a lack of connection between members and therapists. Meetings can take place bi-weekly, weekly, or monthly depending on the group. The sessions usually take place with members sitting in a circle so everybody can be seen.
The therapist, or therapists, guide the sessions and ensure that the conversation stays on topic. Open groups enable members to join at any point, whereas closed groups have a start and end date, which should be adhered to.
Therapy groups are usually based on a shared issue, for example, substance addiction, anorexia, grief, or parenting difficulties. The therapists’ responsibility is to ensure the environment stays respectful and all members feel included, safe, and free from judgment while taking part.
Group therapy can feel daunting for various reasons, but confidentiality is one of the most commonly raised concerns. Individuals may fear that within such a big group of people, their information will be shared. Individual therapy comes with less of a fear around confidentiality. However, there are rules surrounding confidentiality which all members are required to follow. Sometimes groups will suggest that members don’t contact each other outside of the therapy group to maintain safety and privacy.
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Group therapy varies and is often dictated by the members. Often the individuals will decide on some shared goals. Although there is a wide range of group therapies, process-orientated and psychoeducational groups are the most common types.
Here, communication between group members is a major focus of the program. Although it can initially be a hurdle for members to overcome, due to the fear of speaking out, it can lead to many benefits.
Individuals can grow and evolve when they experience the acceptance and understanding of their peers. This is because process-orientated groups focus on working through these challenges and life changes as a team.
This type of group therapy is usually flexible and fluid in structure. The topics discussed each week are often set by the group members themselves. Therapists will guide the discussion forward when appropriate, but they are not the main focus of attention.
These groups tend to share information on a particular topic or skill, such as relationship repair or anxiety reduction. The relationship between members is not so crucial in this group, though individuals still benefit from connecting with others who face similar issues.
In psychoeducational groups, the therapist is more active and is responsible for leading the group and discussion. These groups are more likely to be relatively short-term compared to process-oriented groups.
The benefits of group therapy are well researched. For some individuals, there are more benefits through this method than through individual psychotherapy. This is especially true for those without an alternative support system around them.
The encouragement from peers in the therapy group can be the key to lifelong recovery. Additionally, group therapy tends to be more affordable than one-to-one sessions.
Below, we have shared a few fundamental factors of group therapy:
Group therapy provides a safe space for those in recovery to access support and build a community of others on the same path as them. This encouragement can be a key tool in long-term recovery and reduce the feelings of loneliness that people can experience when seeking treatment for substance abuse. Having a strong support group can show those new to recovery that there is hope, and they are not alone in treatment.
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