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Who’s Ready to Start Meeting Again in Groups?

If you read our last blog post, you may have noticed that there’s a new group for adults coming into town. And we are so excited for it! Wynne is creating a group for persons who identify as “Adult Children of Dysfunction” to start meeting in the SoulSpring Counseling office. Stay on the lookout for details.

In the meantime, you may be wondering, “Why go to a group? How can a group help me?” You may have doubts such as, “I don’t do well in groups. I don’t need to share my problems with others.” Or, “I don’t want to hear anyone else’s problems.” These are all common objections people have to attending a group. Often, underlying these objections is a core emotion of fear. Fear of being shamed, rejected, exposed. These fears are perfectly valid. And a strong group leader uses skills to prevent or intercept such behaviors from happening. But for the one who is ready to move past fear into change for something better, groups are a very therapeutic and cost effective means to heal and grow. Here’s the scoop on group

Who is Group For?

Technically, a group is 2 or more persons meeting together for the purpose of any combination of the following:

  • Education

  • Skills Building

  • Mutual Support

  • Emotional Catharsis

  • Personal Insight

  • Relationship Building

The ideal size of each group depends on the intended nature of the group’s purpose. The more focus on education and skills building, the larger the group can be and remain emotionally comfortable. The more personally revealing a group’s intention is, the more likely the group is to remain small and closed. The ideal size of a psychotherapy group is between 8 – 12 participants. This constellation provides enough persons for a well-rounded experience, and yet it is small enough that each person can get some individualized attention.

What Happens in a Group?

A psychotherapy group is a group of persons coming together to address a shared issue or concern. A psychotherapy group is led by a licensed psychotherapist, who is trained both in knowledge of mental health issues as well as group facilitation skills. A group may be recurring with an end date, or it may be open ended and ongoing. Or, groups may happen only once. Groups may be “closed”, meaning once the group is formed, no other members are permitted to enter. Or, groups may be “open”, meaning new members may join an ongoing group after it starts. Again, the more “open” a group is, the less personally revealing it is likely to be. One of the primary values of a closed group is the creation of safety and connection between group members, which may deepen and strengthen as the group progresses over time. Increased safety and connection has the power to deepen this shared connection as well as the healing each individual experiences.

One of the greatest needs each human has is to know others and to be known by others, to be seen at our deepest/scariest/emotional core, and to still be loved anyway. An effective group can help clients move the needle to getting this need met in their real lives.

Why Should I Go to a Group?

Groups have a plethora of benefits that are difficult or may be impossible to receive with individual counseling alone. Here’s a list of how groups can help:

  1. Build a support network.

  2. Collective problem solving resource: others in group have clues to answers to the problems you have. And you have answers for them.

  3. Providing accountability: you’re more likely to follow through on commitment to change because you don’t want to let others down.

  4. You get heard, finally, by a peer who struggles just like you do.

  5. You get understood, finally, by others who understand you because in some way they have been you.

  6. Get relief from emotional catharsis.

  7. Gain knowledge to know more what to do.

  8. Gain skills to practice doing what you know.

  9. You gain awareness from the group to process deeper in individual therapy.

  10. You can learn your strengths as you are an asset to assist others.

  11. You can put your perceived weaknesses into new, gentler perspectives.

  12. You can gain feelings of what it’s like to be in a supportive, inclusive, and safe environment.

  13. In a more intensive group, you may have a “corrective emotional experience”. In short, you may be able to revisit old wounding events and, through therapeutic interventions, get a “re-do” that results in having less emotional pain and sensitivity to those events.

(P.S. BONUS: Groups are cost effective!)

How Does a Group “Work”?

In a psychotherapy group, the psychotherapist is the “group leader” and is responsible for cultivating many aspects of group therapy to increase the likelihood of its effectiveness. The primary role of the group leader is to create and maintain group safety. Group safety and success includes, but is not limited to, the following conditions:

  1. Accurate group participant screening. Research suggests that when clients are effectively screened for their clinical appropriateness for a group, they are more likely than not to benefit from group participation.

  2. Starting/Ending on time.

  3. Establishing and maintaining group behavior norms, including a shared commitment among all group members to uphold confidentiality.

  4. Role model all group norms.

  5. Role model some degree of personal sharing, if needed.

  6. Manage both over-talkative and under-talkative participants.

  7. Address any conflicts in a constructive, unbiased, therapeutic manner.

Secondly, the group leader usually is prepared with some type of an agenda to facilitate the group. Groups may involve other materials such as art or music, various activities such as reading or writing, breaking up into smaller groups, or even role play. Generally, everyone in group will have a chance to speak and participate. To both listen and to be heard. To gain knowledge and share knowledge. To connect and empathize. Even to be a bit challenged. The group is limited only to the group leader’s skill set, creativity, and the group’s cohesiveness.

In short, groups are a cost-effective way to address needs/issues/concerns common to other group participants in a safe, therapeutic environment. Groups allow others to heal through connection, empathy, shared experiences, constructive feedback, learned knowledge and skills. Through skilled screening and group management, group therapy can be as effective as individual therapy for many issues. Group therapy certainly complements other therapies. Given the increasing demand for mental health services, group therapy may be making its way into becoming a first treatment of choice for some issues.

Think you may be ready to try a group? Wynne is in the process of creating a group for adults who identify as Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. Drop us a line or sign up for our email list to stay posted. We. Can. Not. WAIT!!!


Thank you so much to #teamsoulspring counselor Wynne Stallings for her contributions to the content of this article.


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