Group therapy was utilized hundreds of years ago as a form of spiritual and mental healing by native tribes to counter addiction. Since then, group therapy has been used to help treat diverse issues like grief, trauma, and mental illness.
Group therapy is utilized both within residential therapy situations, and afterwards as a way to maintain mental health, monitor behavior, and create community support for those who are struggling. It’s important to note that often, group therapy isn’t just for the individuals who are personally suffering from a disease. It can also be monumentally helpful to loved ones who are struggling to stay afloat amongst all the challenges that come with supporting someone through treatment. Admittedly, group therapy isn’t for everyone. In some cases, individuals need to reach a certain level of health, cooperation, and stamina in order to join in on group. However, for those who are ready, it can be a source of lifelong support.
Here are four ways that group therapy can empower patients and enable healing:
1. PRACTICING INTERPERSONAL AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Within group therapy, individuals both learn new interpersonal skills, and are given the opportunity to truly put them in action. Patients learn how to listen openly and how to respond appropriately. They learn how to give space and empathy for others’ struggles, and provide feedback. Patients also learn how to express themselves effectively, which is a real challenge when dealing with issues that often have a lot of shame and emotional baggage attached.
2. CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
One way that group therapy can help is by providing experience beyond your own to bring to bear in problem-solving situations. The group can act as a sounding board for new ideas and plans. Additionally, hearing about others’ pitfalls and hardships can also help you to identify personal challenges and proactively counter them.
3. COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Sometimes the benefits of group therapy can be as simple as just knowing that you’re not alone in your situation. We’ve noticed that many of our patients, when surrounded by coworkers, friends, and family who don’t share their mental health struggles, usually feel incredibly isolated. As supportive as family and friends can be, it’s refreshing to talk with people who really do know exactly how you feel, because they’ve gone through the same things themselves.
4. HELPING OTHERS
Many patients who are in treatment start to feel like they’re constantly in the role of the receiver, the victim, the person who always needs more help. And while this might have its appeal for a limited amount of time, the truth is that it’s draining, not believing that you have anything to offer others. Group therapy lets patients help each other out, recognizing that their experiences have equipped them to uniquely help others. This can help them to better recognize their own strengths and growth.