Psychotherapy: What To Expect In Group Therapy

June 25, 2021 at 7:00 AM
by Dr. Hilda Wong
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Loneliness is not about you feeling alone. Loneliness is the unceasing suspicion that no one cares or relates to you or your plight.

And loneliness is the fuel that powers depression akin to a monster with an insatiable hunger.

Depression is a mental health and mood disorder caused by an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain which regulates mood and emotion. If diagnosed early enough, depression can be treated with individual therapy and medications like antidepressants.

Unfortunately, there is a taboo about acknowledging and publicly dealing with mental health issues in the United States. Publicly acknowledging mental illness can leave one open to stigmatization, ostracization from familial, professional, social circles, and ridicule.

If you are burdened with depression or other severe forms of mental illness, being open about it can make you feel lonelier than keeping to yourself.

But not being open about mental illness can be a self-destructive thing to do. And doing nothing to alleviate depression or mental health issues should never be an option.

The longer that you wait to treat mental illness, the worse it becomes.

What matters is getting help from medical professionals specializing in mental health issues when you realize you may have a problem.

And talking to psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, and other people going through similar issues could help you understand your own problems and feel better.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans refuse to get help for depression.

Self Denial of Care

Over 17.3 million Americans grapple with at least one episode of clinical depression annually.

However, less than 50% of Americans don’t get help for their mental health issues.

Why? The reasons vary.

Many are in denial about their mental health issues.

Other people are unaware that they are exhibiting symptoms of mental illness.

In a 2018 survey by Psychology Today, 6.5% of Americans don’t get help because they are terrified others will find out about it.

11% of Americans won’t get help for their mental health issues because they were afraid of what their neighbors would think.

Loneliness and depression can feed each other in self-perpetuating cycles if you let it and don’t reach out for help. And if you are hesitant about inquiring about one-on-one therapy counseling, then you should consider joining a group therapy session.

Let’s explain group therapy sessions, what to expect in group therapy, and its benefits.

If you are interested in scheduling to join a group therapy session, contact Interpersonal Psychiatry today.

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Group Therapy Sessions

Group therapy sessions are a kind of psychotherapy involving one or two therapists working with a group of people simultaneously.

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Group therapy is ideal for people wary of one-on-one therapy, who can benefit from hearing from peers in similar situations, and who need help accepting their mental health issues.

You can participate in a group therapy session in a hospital, private clinic, church, rented office space, or in a community center.

Group therapy may be a form of therapy within itself, where you cathartically express your issues with strangers who will become more familiar after confessions of shared experiences.

Additionally, group therapy counselors may also include the administration of prescribed medications as a part of treatment.

Group therapy sessions are designed to offer a welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere where people don’t have to feel alone with their mental health struggles.

What to Expect in Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions, including 10 to 15 people, may be conducted in a large room with chairs arranged in a circle. Being seated in a circle allows a participant to witness a diversity of people and genders grappling with the same kinds of mental health and life issues.

For group therapy sessions featuring large groups of people, seating may be arranged in rows similar to a lecture hall setting.

During such meetings, each participant may be encouraged to stand up, introduce themselves, and talk about their personal life and mental health issues. The therapist acts as a moderator asking questions or asking participants to elaborate on what they are talking about.

Some group therapy sessions may be a lot more informal. Therapists may encourage participants to talk in free-form conversations in smaller groups.

In another group therapy setting, participants may be asked to form small groups and participate in confessional or bonding exercises.

Depending on your circumstances, your therapist may suggest that you start with group therapy before potentially transitioning to one-on-one therapy.

You won’t be forced to participate or talk, but you will be encouraged to do so.

The typical group therapy session meets once or twice weekly. Each member of the group may be encouraged to offer weekly progress commentary on their situations.

A group therapy session may be “closed,” meaning that only a core group of members can participate. Or it may be “open,” meaning that anyone can join in the session.

Group therapy sessions are a way to get used to the idea of therapy incrementally, realize you aren’t alone in your struggles, and develop confidence in confronting mental health issues.

Here are some of the benefits of participating in group therapy sessions.

Yalom Group Therapy Principles

Dr. Irvin Yalom is a renowned American psychiatrist who pioneered “existential psychiatry.” Dr. Yalom believes that people develop mental health issues because they struggle with issues connected to their existence, like the fear of death, not realizing ambition, losing freedom, and loneliness.

Many group therapy sessions strive to include 11 principles from one of Dr. Yalom’s book, The Theory, and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, to enrich the experience for participants.

They include:

Universality

Many people experience mental health issues – it’s a universal experience, and participants will learn that.

Catharsis

Your guilt, stress, and pain may be relieved by sharing your feelings in a session.

The Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Group

This is just a fancy way of comparing group therapy participants to a de facto family. The therapist is like a parent, and participants are like siblings.

Sessions can be used via this familial prism to analyze childhood behaviors and experiences and how they shaped your personality, for good or bad.

Altruism

Group therapy participants can help each other collectively boost confidence by sharing their strength to be open about their issues.

Existential Factors

Intense feelings of isolation and detachment can cause or intensify mental health issues. Group therapy can help you realize you are in control of your life, choices, and actions.

Development of New Socialization Techniques

Using the sessions to develop new behavioral attitudes is a safe setting without judgment.

Group Cohesiveness

Sometimes just feeling a part of something bigger than oneself can help everyone strive for a common goal – improved mental health.

Imitative Behavior

Participants should feel free to learn from each other and even imitate the behavior of other participants or the therapist if they think it will be helpful.

Imparting Information

Sharing information can help group members learn more about themselves and each other.

Interpersonal Learning

Interacting with other participants and gaining respectful feedback helps a participant understand more about themselves.

Instills Hope

Participants in the group who have experienced personal progress can imbue hope in those just starting group therapy.

Join a Group Therapy Session Today

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Want to learn more about group therapy and what it can do for you? Contact Interpersonal Therapy today. We have offices in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.

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