In my own four-month experience of intensive group therapy, I was relieved to know after the first session that I was welcome among complete strangers. Not only did I have a place to talk with my psychologist on an individual basis, I also discovered that exploring my struggles in a safe and professional setting with others made recovery feel like something that wasn’t just going to happen one day; it was happening right then and there.
Here are five practical gains you can get from group therapy.
1. You get the best of both worlds.
Individual therapy can be helpful to a patient because of the one-on-one attention they receive. Group therapy can also be helpful when a patient learns something about themselves as they interact with the therapist and other members of the group. Combine individual therapy with group therapy and you’ve got a real chance of making significant headway in recovery in a shorter amount of time.
2. You realize you’re not alone.
The American Psychological Association points out that “many groups are designed to target a specific problem.” Whether you’re faced with an addiction to food, gambling, alcohol, drugs, shopping or sex, group therapy provides a confidential and intimate safe-zone for working through the underlying issues that may have led to your addiction.
3. You’re exposed to different experiences.
Diversity on any number of levels proves to be helpful in group therapy because it sheds light on the power of addiction as a coping mechanism for human pain. In other words, as people of different races, sex, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures come together in group therapy, their work quickly demonstrates the universality of pain, suffering and addiction. It turns out we’re not that different after all.
4. You have accountability.
Accountability can be painful but it’s a must in recovery. As trust is built and relationships are formed within the group so is accountability. The DeLugach Group specializes in the area of sexual addictions and trauma and is very clear about the healing power of accountability: “Accountability is the cornerstone of healing the isolation of addictive disease for addicts and family members. In the normal course of all relationships there exists a natural process of healing and accounting for day-to-day conflicts and power struggles.”
Group therapy eliminates isolation and therefore removes part of the power of addiction. Accountability is easier in a group of people struggling in the same ways you are. Furthermore, specific therapeutic strategies are applied by therapists within the group to boost accountability to one another, i.e. being called on the carpet with compassion and without shame.
When making a decision on whether group therapy is right for you or someone you know, take it from a person who has been through the process extensively—it works.