What is Group Therapy?

Group psychotherapy is a specialised approach to understanding and treating problems in groups, where the presence of others strengthens and enriches the therapeutic experience. Groups can become a source of support in times of stress and change, especially during the Covid pandemic. Group psychotherapy, like individual psychotherapy, is intended to help people improve their ability to cope with difficulties and problems in their lives and their relationships.

During the pandemic, we missed out on the life we used to live; one of the biggest factors being connection. These days going to the shop can cause fear, missing our friends and family can increase sadness and trying to do school or job work at home can feel overwhelming and frustrating. When you are in your home struggling with negative feelings, it can feel as if you are alone. Group therapy can help you process negative feelings through support and connection.

How does Group Psychotherapy work?

Group members are encouraged to talk together honestly about their lives as well as their reactions to others in the group and developing relationships. While sharing can initially be difficult, people usually find that they have many commonalities and begin to feel less alone and find support and tools for dealing with life challenges. Members provide feedback to each other about their behaviour in the group, which can provide important opportunities for awareness. The supportive group can then be a safe place to experiment with change and practice new behaviours. Talking and listening to others helps you develop empathy, deepen your relationships, and put your own problems in perspective. Frequently the people you meet in the group represent others in your past or current life with whom you have difficulty. In group therapy you can work through these situations.

Who can benefit from Group Psychotherapy?

My groups are mixed gender, age ethnicity and sexuality. Group psychotherapy is suitable for a large variety of problems and difficulties, from people who would like to develop their interpersonal skills to those with social concerns, emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, as well as those with stressful life circumstances such as illness, loss, trauma, retirement, and aging.

Group psychotherapy is especially effective for people with interpersonal difficulties and problems in relationships including issues like intimacy, trust, and self-esteem. The group interactions help the participants to identify, get feedback, and change the patterns that are problematic. The great advantage of group psychotherapy is that these issues can be addressed in the “here and now” – in a situation much closer to the real world than is found in individual therapy. In fact, some people find it is very useful to graduate from individual therapy into group therapy to further refine the gains they have made.

What is expected of the participants?

Participants in group therapy are expected to be present for each meeting and come on time. Information brought up by group members and their names are kept confidential by all the group members. Group members are asked to commit for a specified length of time, often this is between 4 to 6 months, to determine if the group feels appropriate and helpful. Members are not required to talk or to reveal intimate issues but the more you participate openly, sharing your feelings and your thoughts, the more you can gain from the experience.

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An interesting article in the Guardian Strength in numbers | | The Guardian

Practical Details

Usually, there are between 5 to 8 members in the group. Sessions last 90 minutes and occur once or twice a week. How long you attend the group depends on many factors such as the severity of the issues and the changes sought. I advise allowing 4 to 6 months to feel the effect of the group and a few years participation may be needed to get the maximum effect.

It takes a little while to feel safe in a group, but once you do you can experience enormous relief at being able to talk quite freely with people you have got to know well and trust. With guidance from me as conductor, a group can be enormously helpful.