How does a therapy group help?
Sharing problems and finding out about how others are dealing with their difficulties may give you encouragement to talk about things that previously seemed too painful or scary to face. Individuals often find that group members can offer useful feedback and insight to each other. Although expertise is important, the therapist is not the only person with something to contribute. This process of giving and receiving allows individuals in the group to experience relating in a way which can help to improve relationships in other settings. Understanding how past and present relationships are connected can be helpful and can become evident in the way individuals present themselves in the group. The experience of seeing yourself through the eyes of others within the group may help you to understand relational patterns that you have fallen into and to start to make changes.
Will group therapy make me feel better?
Most people find their group experience very rewarding over time. However, it is not a ‘quick fix’ and it can feel uncomfortable. As with other types of therapy, things may temporarily feel worse at times, but this is usually a sign that the process is going well rather than an indication that it should be stopped. Facing up to and exploring issues about self and relationships may at times feel upsetting and challenging but experiencing and expressing a range of feelings is often a necessary part of the process of personal growth and learning. Group members are encouraged to share their ‘in the moment’ feelings and thoughts about the group process which can be beneficial for both the individual and for the whole group.
What about confidentiality?
Facilitators ensure that this is discussed thoroughly in the pre-group meeting and in the first session, and that ‘ground rules’ are agreed by the group before any work commences. Experience shows that trusting relationships tend to develop within the groups, and since each member expects their own issues of confidentiality to be respected, those of others is also respected.
Will I make friends in the group?
While strong bonds and close relationships can develop within the group, the group is not for making ‘friends’ in the traditional sense. To ensure that the group members can continue to feel confident in the safety and confidentiality of the group, members agree not to socialise with one another outside of the therapy group setting. This helps to ensure that any issues relating to the group are only discussed by members as part of a whole group conversation. It will not, therefore, be appropriate for two friends to join a therapy group together. Arrangements for what to do if you find that you already know someone in your therapy group can be discussed during your pre-group meeting.
Will I get advice and strategies to help me to manage my difficulties?
The emphasis of therapy groups is not on advice giving or information sharing, but more about offering one another the space and attention to talk through emotions and thought processes. Nevertheless, learning from experiences of others and hearing opinions or reflections about your situation may be a helpful part of the group therapy process.
What if I am too scared to speak or open-up?
It is very natural to feel anxious about joining a therapy group but getting to know and trust the group can help individuals to develop the courage to start to share more of themselves and their experiences. It may take time, of course, but a feeling of safety and understanding can develop, allowing people to speak freely about their issues in a way that they have not previously been able to. This is one of the reasons that group members are urged to commit to regular attendance.
How are on-line therapy groups different to ‘in person’ groups?
There are benefits and challenges associated with working on-line in therapy groups. Many people find that as well as the convenience of working from home, they are also able to open-up more quickly about their difficulties than they would in person. On the other hand, communication can be limited by not having the usual ‘in person’ body language available which can sometimes make connection with others feel more difficult. Group members are encouraged to consider on-line etiquette and the importance of giving the group their full attention for the duration of the sessions, as well as ensuring that they have a private space available from which to join each session.
When would joining a therapy group not be a suitable option for me?
If you are experiencing a crisis in your life or in your mental health which is leaving you feeling emotionally very unstable, perhaps suicidal or experiencing an episode of psychosis then this will not be the best time for you to consider joining a therapy group. Please follow this link for more information on crisis and emergency services that may be more appropriate for you to consider in these circumstances: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/wss/students/emergency_contacts/
There may be other reasons why group therapy would not be the most suitable option for you. Your pre-group meeting will give you and the group facilitator an opportunity to consider this together.