You might think that in this day and age, we’d be more connected to one another than ever. After all, we have so many ways to reach out quickly and conveniently:
- video chat
- and a myriad of social media apps
Modern technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with friends and loved ones—and yet, many people feel more isolated than they did five or ten years ago. People were feeling lonely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and months of lockdowns and working from home didn’t do anything to improve matters.
If you’ve been feeling isolated, sad, and depressed, you should know you’re not alone in the world. Somewhere, there’s a warm and welcoming community or social group waiting for you—maybe at the gym, in your house of worship, or with coworkers who share your hobbies and interests. I want to propose another place where you might meet new friends and make new connections, and that’s in group therapy. Here, we’ll talk a little more about what group therapy is and how it can help you feel happier and healthier. It’s a great place to work through life’s challenges with like-minded individuals, guided by one or more experts.
- What is Group Therapy?
- Group Therapy Benefits: You’re Not Alone
- The Importance of Mental Health Treatment
What is Group Therapy?
When we think about psychotherapy, many of us picture a traditional one-on-one relationship between a patient and a professional. Group therapy incorporates many elements of private therapy, but it involves a small group (often between five and fifteen people) rather than an individual patient.
In group therapy, one or more therapists lead a group of patients in regular sessions that can cover any number of topics. There are many types of group therapy that address a range of challenges and goals. There are group therapy programs that cover:
- grief and loss
- substance abuse recovery
- living with clinical depression
- social anxiety disorder, and
- weight management
It’s natural to feel nervous about opening up in front of a group, but group therapy isn’t always just about talking about yourself. Group therapy activities can include
- therapist-led discussions
- group meditation
- cognitive behavioral therapy exercises, and
- even fun and lighthearted games
You can participate in group therapy on its own or in addition to private sessions with a psychotherapist. It’s all about what works for you and helps you to improve your mental well-being.
You can find a therapy group that suits your needs by asking for a referral from your family doctor or psychotherapist. You also could ask a trusted friend, family member, or spiritual advisor for a recommendation. Remember that there’s no shame in asking for support. Anyone who has experienced (or witnessed) the benefits of group therapy will be happy to share their knowledge and suggestions with you. (Do you need a quick primer on how to find the right therapist? I can help!)
Like your sessions with a psychotherapist or other counselor, group therapy is meant to be completely confidential. Anything shared in the room where sessions are held should remain there when the meeting ends. Of course, you can’t be absolutely sure that your fellow group members will keep your information private. Be smart: if you need to vent about your boss or a relative who lives nearby, don’t use any real names.
If you attend a couple of meetings and feel that the group genuinely isn’t for you, don’t give up on the idea of group therapy altogether. You might ask the professional who leads the group if they can suggest any alternatives to better suit your needs.
Group Therapy Benefits: You’re Not Alone
The benefits of group therapy are clear, and perhaps the most obvious one is that you’ll know you aren’t alone. It’s isolating and depressing to feel like no one understands what you’re going through; group therapy can help you to see that it’s not the case. Few things in this life are more validating than venting to people who truly understand what you’re saying. And, in turn, you’ll hear other group members share their experiences and emotions. No matter the focus of your therapy group, you’ll quickly see that you’re all in it together.
Group therapy is a safe and positive place to build new relationships. There’s no guarantee that you’ll walk away from group therapy with a dozen new friends, but it is an opportunity to form healthy new connections. If you have a few minutes to chat before or after meetings, you might find that you have more in common with other members than the topic of the group.
Group therapy also can help you to find your voice. At first, you may feel shy or reluctant to speak about issues that seem so personal to you. I would encourage you to take a risk and share some of what you’ve been feeling or thinking, even if it feels like “too much.” Chances are good that you’ll see your fellow group members nodding in agreement and empathizing with your experiences. If you’ve always shied away from allowing yourself to be vulnerable among near-strangers, group therapy can help you to release some of your defenses in a healthy way.
The Importance of Mental Health Treatment
It’s perhaps more important than ever before that we take deliberate care of our mental health. Let’s face it, the last few years haven’t been easy on anyone. The rate of teen depression skyrocketed when schools were closed for months. And even adults (unsurprisingly) reported increased stress and anxiety as they confronted isolation, job loss, and financial uncertainty. While most people’s circumstances have improved since 2020, we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic as well as constant political turmoil, economic uncertainty, and personal disruptions. These days, watching even a few minutes of the evening news is enough to make anyone’s blood pressure spike.
I can’t picture everything settling down in the near future, and that’s why I can’t emphasize enough that we must ask for professional help when we need it. Group therapy means you’ll receive support from one or more experts and be heard by a community of people who understand where you are in life. So, please, if you’ve been feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or lonely, consider attending one or two group therapy sessions to see if they help. You’re likely to find a room full of people who empathize with your difficulties and want to walk alongside you on your journey to happiness.