Group therapy is a very effective form of mental health treatment used to address a wide variety of mental health issues and disorders. Typically consisting of eight to ten participants, group meetings are led by licensed psychologists and allow participants to engage with one another by sharing their struggles and successes while gaining insight and therapeutic assistance.
For some, the idea of sharing their issues and experiences with individuals they don’t know may seem overwhelming or scary. The great thing about engaging in mental health therapy in a group setting is that the therapeutic environment is intended to be open, allowing for those participating to share their experiences without fear of being judged. Those participating can share as much or as little about themselves as they want with the understanding that the information they reveal will not be shared outside the group. Here are five benefits to group therapy for mental health:
1. Provides a Sense of Camaraderie
Many individuals struggling with mental health issues often feel that they are alone in their struggle. It can be difficult to grapple with the idea that other people are experiencing the same symptoms when externally everything appears to be fine. Group sessions allow for individuals struggling with the same issues to share a common, safe space to discuss their issues and struggles. This allows for every participant to see and feel that there are others out there living with similar ups and downs and their mental health issues are not due to personal inadequacies or failures. Therapy becomes a place to remove the cover of isolation that mental health issues can create and instead provides a sense of togetherness and normalization.
2. Can Help Individuals Learn Social Skills
Many mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can get in the way of an individuals ability to socialize with others. Group therapy helps participants not only get out of the house and be in a social environment, but it also teaches appropriate socialization techniques. Participants are taught to not only speak about their own experiences but to listen to other members of the group and really understand others stories. Participants are also taught to reflect on what they have heard and provided meaningful insight and advice based on the information discerned from sharing. Group sessions can be especially helpful for individuals with social phobia disorders when used in conjunction with one on one therapy.
3. Cheaper/More Cost-Effective Therapeutic Option
Group sessions are usually cheaper than one on one therapy due to the fact that the cost of the session is typically divided amongst the participants.
4. Provides a Sounding Board for Solving Issues
Many people struggle with mental health and co-occurring issues in silence. This could be because they don’t believe those around them will understand or they feel that the issue they are struggling with is taboo. Therapeutic group sessions allow for individuals to not only unburden themselves of their issues but to also receive sound advice from their peers and professionals. Often times simply speaking the words out loud provides relief. Having others in the group acknowledge that the issue has been heard provides a secondary level of comfort and receiving advice that is non-judgemental and comes from experience completes the package. The level of support received through group settings can be considered more knowledgeable to participants because it is derived from those who have actual, lived experience.
5. Provides an Opportunity for Participants to be Their Authentic Selves
Group sessions can help participants to be their authentic selves in their personal lives by allowing them to practice the necessary skills with others and then recreating what was done in the group in other social settings. This practice allows for participants to not only feel supported while in a group setting but also gives participants a place to start understanding what they want and need and then communicating those wants and needs to others within their lives. Group provides support in the idea that a person can be their authentic self and use their voice effectively while also creating a sense of external accountability that they will work on the skills to reach the level of authenticity they desire.
These are just a few of the benefits of engaging in group sessions as a form of mental health therapy. It is important to note that group can be used in conjunction with one on one sessions to provide a multi-faceted, well-balanced approach to addressing mental health issues. Finding the right group at the right time is also an important factor. Individuals interested in learning more about the different ways to address their mental health issues have many options available. With an open mind and an understanding of the resources available, those wanting to work towards mental health wellness can do so with the support they need.