Wellness with Dr. Austin, LCSW
Benefits and Process of Participating in Group Therapy
Universality: A major advantage of therapy groups is that participants realize that there are other individuals who share similar struggles, similar issues, and have similar problems. This principle of universality helps to foster a set of belongingness and identity, and to relieve tension and stress. It also has positive effects on the issues the group works to address.
Broadened therapeutic alliance: The therapeutic alliance is the aspect of therapy that describes the working bond and sense of unity that occurs between the therapist and client as they work toward solving the client’s problems. The therapeutic alliance has been identified in numerous research studies as a major factor contributing to the successful outcome of the therapeutic process. In therapy groups, this therapeutic alliance is broader, such that it not only includes the working bond between the therapist and the client, but it also includes the working bond between the therapist and all the members of the group, and the alliance between the members of the group with one another. This broadened therapeutic alliance can be an important factor in successful treatment.
Broader perspective: Because groups often have members with similar but diverse experiences, group therapy offers a broader perspective regarding the issues being addressed than individual sessions do. Most therapy groups include members at different levels of progress, and newcomers can benefit from the experiences of senior members, whereas senior members can benefit from discussing their issues with newcomers.
Broader support system: The group offers a broader system of perceived support for participants. Having positive perceived social support is an important aspect in addressing one’s issues in a constructive manner. Group members can receive support from one another and provide support to others.
Group identification: Many individuals and groups find that they are more willing to discuss their issues openly as a result of the interactions that occur in the group. When individuals can identify with other people who have similar problems, they are often more open to discussing their own issues and are more forthcoming.
A chance to develop greater insight into one’s issues: As a result of sharing and listening to others, group members often find that they can develop greater insight into their own problems. Because most groups are focused on very specific issues (e.g., substance abuse, depression, some anxiety disorder, etc.), individuals in them find that they can learn from one another and develop greater insight into their own issues. When groups are too broad in their application or focus, the group process may actually become a disadvantage because individuals may not be able to relate to others who do not share similar issues to them.
Modeling: Individuals often learned from others in the group by simply trying to replicate the actions of others. This form of learning is known as modeling, and it can be a very efficient form of learning new skills.
Group processes: The very nature of the group process assists individuals in developing their social skills, ability to communicate, and inability to accept criticism from others.
Connections: It is not uncommon for individuals in therapy groups to develop strong and lasting relationships with some of the group members. This can help to improve both the quality and quantity of the people in one’s social support network.