After about six months of individual therapy Audrey A., then 28, felt that her progress had stalled. However, she still needed help to master a traumatic stalking incident earlier in her life. "I chose group therapy to see if talking to others could help shed light on things," she tells SELF. "I was near people in situations [similar] so I could see I was not alone."
Membership in the trauma therapy group helped Audrey to feel understood and develop a deeper empathy, she says. According to experts, these are some of the best benefits of a group therapeutic therapy.
"Hearings of People with Similar Experiences [can have] value a person beyond the context of individual work. Psychotherapist Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSEd, owner and director of Tribeca Therapy in New York, tells SELF.
But how do you know if a group therapy is right for you? Read on to find out.
There is a difference between group therapy and self-help groups.
You can find two overarching types of mental support in a group, according to the Mayo Clinic . The general idea of both is to bring together and progress people with similar problems or experiences, but the arrangement is slightly different.
Group therapies, also known as psychotherapy groups, are led by therapists. A therapist who runs such a group usually controls who can join in when it makes sense to introduce a new person into the mix.
Support groups, on the other hand, are usually run by persons experienced in living with a particular person or under certain circumstances (though in rare cases a psychiatrist could lead a support group ). These people may or may not have training to facilitate this type of gathering. Support groups are often more flexible than psychotherapeutic groups and generally allow entry whenever they want.
Some therapy and support groups meet for a period of time – about 12 weeks – while others meet indefinitely. Typically, you will find group therapy and support groups for certain mental health issues, such as: Anxiety or Eating Disorders and groups based on demographics, such as single women in their thirties.
Whether you're going to a group run by a therapist or a colleague, it's invaluable to connect with other people in a similar place. However, group-based psychiatric support can also provide other benefits.
Group settings provide the ability to work on your relationships.
"When it comes to individual therapy, it's really about the therapist understanding your world from your perspective and going in together, exploring and healing the pain in your life," says Dr. Charlotte Howard, licensed Psychologist at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy in Austin, opposite SELF. "The group [therapy] is more about how you work on relational dynamics in real time."
Ideally, this helps you navigate things like active listening while others share their experiences Differences to those who do not see you on an equal footing and really connect with others.
"You do not feel alone or as if you're funny," says Howard. "It helps to normalize that every person has their stuff."
When you hear other people's stories, you can see your life differently.
When other people talk about their lives, it can cause them to experience light bulb moments about themselves. Perhaps a group can help you identify patterns in your behavior that you have not noticed before. Or you may learn that something that you think is trivial is a big deal to another and that with that knowledge you have more compassion for others.
"It gets you out of it," says Audrey. She cites the example of depression and hears another person talking about her experiences with mental health: "You see that depression tells someone really bad things, and you tell them, 'Do not listen, that is the depression that talks! and then you realize, "Wait, my depression told me that yesterday."
A group therapy or self-help group can help you accept vulnerability.
"In individual therapy, we try to get someone into their feelings because that's where the healing happens," says Howard. For some people it is actually easier to do this in a group than in one-to-one interviews. If you are greeted by a number of people, explain that you are not alone and strengthen your experience, you can feel confident enough to suppress your alertness.
This vulnerability helped Audrey, now 35, to connect with her feelings. "My emotions would come in because I heard the story of another person. It then allowed me to find out more about my … anxiety, depression, and changing lifestyles, "she says. It allowed me to talk in more detail about my nightmares and the PTSD symptoms I had. It tore open my shell. "
Group support can be much less expensive than individual therapy.
Some assurances assure group psychotherapy being led by an actual therapist, but you should contact your provider to be sure.
However, even without insurance, group therapy is often cheaper than individual sessions. For example, Howard's price for a 45-minute private session is $ 195, while a 90-minute group session with her is $ 60. So if individual therapy is beyond your budget, group therapy may still be feasible.
Peer-led support groups are not insured as they are generally not managed by health care providers, Lundquist says, but they are usually free or more costly than traditional therapy and group therapy.
Group therapy and support groups may also be associated with potential disadvantages.
Other attendees may call up everything, says Howard, and they may lack the finesse of a trained psychiatric caregiver. "It can be painful to see these things about ourselves," says Howard. "Group therapy is a bit of a pressure cooker."
Of course, all therapists you see should also direct their attention to any destructive or unhelpful tendencies that you may have, but they'll go through a training that information in a constructive way. This is one reason why expert-led group therapy can feel more comfortable than a self-help group made up exclusively of peers.
In a related note, support groups that work without experts may have issues such as interpersonal conflict and lack of confidentiality, and people who offer unhelpful advice, says the Mayo Clinic . Without an expert to help the group stay on track, this dynamic can become dodgy. This may even apply to an expert on the mix.
When Audrey participated in a group of Therapy during a stay in a psychiatric treatment facility last year, she found it ineffective. "I felt we were allowed to stew in our emotions or to sort ourselves out and way, which was not productive, regret, "she says. "In group therapy, you can get to the point where you roll your eyes on the person because you want them to move forward, but it's always the same." And if you feel like people are like that It might bring your progress to a standstill.
If you stand up for stability, groups that change regularly can put you off. When you open up when a new person occasionally becomes a member, it can be difficult for the people with whom you have already established a relationship not to be regularly viewed. "The consistency of the group is important and ideal," says Lundquist. "When you come and go, [it] affects not only you, but other people as well."
How to tell if group-based support might be right for you.
If you long to associate with people who have similar experiences or who have the same mental illness a group therapy or a support group could be useful. However, if you are dealing with a severe or persistent mental illness single therapy with a person who is educated and can concentrate fully on you may be the best option. Under these circumstances, a group therapy or support group is a good, complementary option, but it is not enough on its own.
Mental health group support can also be extremely helpful if someone wants to work on relationship dynamics, Howard says. If you have trouble getting love, trying to please everyone, meeting partners that are emotionally unreachable, easily angered at others, or have difficulties with intimacy or involvement, some kind of group might make sense to you.
Of course, a single therapist with which you click can help you with all of these problems and more. However, if you are in a group, you can practice positive new habits in a (hopefully) safe environment. Ideally, it will enable you to integrate it into the rest of your life.
Mental health groups can also be beneficial if you struggle with things like self-esteem and self-compassion, says Howard. At best, it can help you build a healthier relationship with yourself as you work with people who build you up and see how they see themselves.
To Find Group-Based Psychiatric Care Talk to Your Individual Therapist or Online
If you already have a therapist, they may be able to refer you to a possibly appropriate group.
If you do not have a therapist or have any suggestions, you can seek out group psychotherapists through online resources such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association and Psychology Today . You can also search for advocacy sites that relate to the condition or circumstances in which you are dealing, says the Mayo Clinic . If that happens, you can try Googling for the specific type of group therapy or support group in your area.
If you've found a good match, the Mayo Clinic suggests asking the lead therapist or moderator the following questions:
- What are the confidentiality guidelines?
- Are you leading the group? How do you train?
- What does a typical meeting look like
- How much does it cost?
View the [MayoClinic list of suggested questions. Do not hesitate to ask others who come to mind. Also, look for allegations that this group can "cure" you of any illness, along with excessive costs or materials that push you to buy a product or service – according to potential red flags Mayo Clinic .
If you are satisfied with your research, try giving the group therapy or a support group a few sessions before deciding to stop walking. "It's normal to feel uncomfortable until you get used to it," says Howard. "It's not always easy to join a group." If you think you would benefit from a group therapy, do not be deterred by this challenge.
"[Group-based mental health care] empathizes with itself and it opens your eyes to the human being. Number of people who are going through things that they can interact with," says Audrey. "It can really move you forward in life."