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Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which 6-10 people meet weekly under the guidance of group leader, usually a licensed psychotherapist with training in group therapy, to discuss problems common to all participants (depression, anorexia , divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, interpersonal difficulties, physical and sexual abuse, death of partner, etc..). Why would someone choose to attend a group therapy instead of individual psychotherapy?
Besides the economical reason (group therapy can be more than half of individual therapy), group therapy is an independent therapeutic modality that has its own advantages, some of them inaccessible to individual therapy.
How does group therapy help? What would be “therapeutic factors” involved in improving psychological well being? According to Irvin Yalom, author of the popular books about therapy group, some of these factors are:
Instill hope and increase motivation – People choose to attend a group therapy to improve. Their initiative to attend the group, further push them toward their goals and increase their level of motivation to work toward their goals. They took the courage and were enrolled in a therapeutic group. In addition, the therapeutic group members face similar problems, some of which improved their situation and therefore can guide the more challenged participants and their positive example serves to instill hope.
Understand and accept universality – Many of those who enter therapy are convinced that they are alone in their problem and no one faces similar challenge. The group offers an opportunity for individual to share their issues, feel the universality of human pain and suffering as well as needs and desires. The group meetings serve as a platform to engage in sharing thoughts and feelings and connect with members that face similar struggles. The members provide supportive and safe environment that promote self reflection and self growth.
Engage in altruism – “If you want to help a man, let him help” once said a famous American prisoner. Many who enter group therapy often feel demoralized as they feel they have nothing valuable to give to others. Yet, in the group, people can find an opportunity to help others by listening, offering comfort, providing feedback or advice, encouraging each other, being honest, sharing experiences similar or simply by being present while avoiding criticism.
Laboratory – The group therapy setting serves as a microcosm of reality and is an ideal place to solve real issues. Week after week, you create your own impasses in the group, in virtually the same ways as outside the group, blocking friends, lovers, associates, and relatives. Group therapy is a place to study and change.
Improve social skills – A therapeutic group is, above all, a social group, in which more individuals interact while respecting the group rules. Group members observe and reflect on their own others’ interpersonal skills, learn from each other and also push themselves to engage socially. Group therapy can help you identify and deal with your emotional blocks and limitations, enabling you to relate better to others, to gain more inner comfort, and to realize your own potential.
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