Group Therapy: Why should I consider it?
When a person thinks about setting up a time to meet with a therapist, it is often with a preference to meet individually. This makes sense when you consider many of the appointments we set up with medical providers are 1-1 appointments. As such, I think this sets up a norm where we expect our appointments with any provider to be 1-1. That said, one of the main differences between the concerns that bring you to a medical provider (for example, a broken bone) and the concerns that bring you to a therapist (depression or anxiety) is that therapy concerns have an interpersonal quality to them. Because of this, I think the group space is a natural place to consider addressing these concerns (I'll speak more about this later).
When I talk with people about the idea of group, I commonly hear statements like "It is hard for me to start a conversation about what is going on right now with one person let alone 8 others at the same time" or "I worry that there won't be enough time for me." I think these are valid concerns. I also think they are excellent reasons to consider group.
Before I explain-- if you are reading this note as a person who is currently hesitant about the idea of joining a group, take a few moments to stop and think about what makes you hesitate before reading further.
Now ask yourself, is the apprehension I am feeling possibly related to my interest in counseling?
Let's take one of the examples I mentioned earlier: The person who has a hard time opening up to one person let alone 8 at the same time. When I have explored this concern with others, I often discover that the reason this person is seeking counseling is because of a few possible reasons-- they want more satisfying relationships with others, they don't feel seen or understood by others, or they want to feel less anxious around others. When I hear goals like this, I can't help but notice that the concerns involve others and, because of this, I see the group space as an excellent way to work on these goals in real time.
Below are a few other ways to consider how the group space could be used for counseling goals. It is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it presented with the intent to shift our thinking towards imagining the potential group has a viable treatment option.
How group can be used
Experiment with getting curious about what you have in common with others in the room and naming this common ground,
You struggle with conflict
You struggle with boundaries
There are many possibilities with this. If other members of the group want to use group time for themselves, you could experiment with negotiating group time for yourself. You could experiment with asking for feedback and then not accept the feedback! If you are typically more closed off to others, you could notice how you close off in group and experiment with this pattern.
It is hard to focus on being present because you overthink
Experiment with offering different opinions than others in the group. If you notice conflict happening in the group, notice what you want to do about the conflict and experiment with how you encounter what is happening (stay out of the conflict if you are used to resolving conflicts or maybe join the conversation if you typically avoid conflict).