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The Benefits of Group Therapy

Have you ever wondered what group therapy is, or what the point of group treatment would be for you? Depending on the issue, joining a group can be a helpful choice for making positive life changes.
Group therapy is a form of therapy where a small, selected group of people meet with a therapist, usually weekly. The purpose of group therapy is to help each person with emotional growth and problem solving. Sometimes a person can do both individual and group therapy, while others may only do a group.
According to Dr. Irvin Yalom in his book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy identified 11 curative factors that are the “primary agents of change” in group therapy:

1. Installation of Hope: People come to a group to improve their lives. Each person in the group is at a different place in their emotional growth and can offer hope and inspiration to others by showing what they have learned and overcome.

2. Universality: Many who begin group therapy may feel isolated and alone. Being part of a group can help people feel understood and have a sense of belonging. Especially if you are apart of a small niche population such as sex work.

3. Information Giving: A big part of many therapy groups is increasing knowledge of a common problem. This helps members help themselves and others with the same or similar problems.

4. Altruism: The ability to help others in the group is a source of self esteem and increases self worth, especially in those that do not think they have anything to offer others.

5. Corrective recapitulation of the primary family: Some people in group therapy may have stress or conflict in their family. The group can become a form of a family that can offer support and acceptance.

6. Improved Social Skills: Social learning, or the development of social skills, is something that occurs in therapy groups. Members offer feedback to each other about their behavior in ways that can improve relationships both in and outside of group.

7. Imitative Behavior: The therapist models appropriate prosocial behaviors such as active listening, non-judgemental feedback, and support. Over the course of the group the members can pick up on these behaviors and integrate them into their own behaviors. This can lead to improved social skills and self esteem.

8. Interpersonal Learning: Being a group can be an opportunity for members to work on their ability to relate to others and improve relationships.

9. Group cohesiveness: Wanting to belong to a group a main motivation for human behavior. Group therapy can help people feel accepted and valued. This is an important healing factor if members have felt isolated.

10. Catharsis: The release of conscious or unconscious feelings gives members a great sense of relief. Yalom states that it is a type of emotional learning, as opposed to intellectual understanding, that can lead to immediate and long lasting change.

11. Existential Factors: Groups can explore and process issues such as death, isolation, and meaninglessness and help them accept difficult realities.

Joining a group of strangers can seem intimidating at first, however, joining a group can provide benefits that individual therapy alone may not, such as providing a support network. Other group members can help formulate solutions and hold each member accountable for change. Also talking with and listening to others can help put problems in perspective. Others may share similar struggles and give each member the experience that they are not alone. Diverse feedback is another benefit of participating in a group. Each members’ personality and background can help examine problems in different ways. Members can learn many different strategies for tackling issues.

By Nicki Line LMHC, LAPC, CST

The list of Pineapple Support support groups can be found by clicking here

Why am I doing this, it’s driving me crazy!

Jasmine was adopted into a family that she stated treated her well and loved her like their own. She said that nothing bad had happened to her as a child.  Her family always stood by her and treated her with patience and respect, but sometimes she felt like she was a burden to them. She spent a lot of time with her family growing up when her adopted siblings would be out with their friends she would be at home.

She began dating as a teen and found that she would put her boyfriends on a pedestal, holding onto every word they said, writing them letters, making them mixtapes, wanting to talk on the phone all the time. Deep down she worried that she was not good enough for them and would start to be mean to them. “I guess I wanted them to prove that they really liked me.” If they responded in kind she would break up with them and then she would be miserable. “They said I was smothering them. Even my friends would sometimes say that I was too intense or needy.”

“It felt like my world came crashing down with every breakup. I didn’t know why I was doing the things I did. I just knew I was miserable. After that if anyone would show the slightest interest in me I threw myself at them.” She used to date “nice boys,” but they started to shun her so she moved on to a different crowd.

“I got in with the wild kids. The kids that would drink during school and do drugs. It was bad.” When she was in college she passed out at a frat party and was assaulted. “After that I really started to feel like I was no good and life was dangerous, like there was no one I could trust.”

Jasmine managed to stay in school and complete her degree, but she stayed to herself. If she wasn’t in class or working she stayed in her room. “I felt I couldn’t control anything outside of my room and leaving it caused me to have panic attacks.”

Jasmine came to me when she was in her late 20s and she hadn’t dated for almost ten years and she was lonely. She knew that she needed to work on her need for control and to open herself up to other people again. She was scared and feared that she would go back to old patterns.  It took some time for her to feel that she could trust me.

Through our work together Jasmine realized that she had low self-esteem as she could not accept that her birth parents did not want her.  We discussed how she expected people to leave her like her biological parents did and how she often left them before they could leave her. “Thank God I had the stability of my real parents to show me that not everyone would reject me.”

Jasmine began using affirmations to get the negative thoughts out of her head that made her believe people would leave her because there was something wrong with her. It took some time, but today Jennifer reports that she has the friendships that she wants and is dating. “My boundaries have improved as my self-esteem has improved and I don’t feel hurt like I used to.  I know that there are people who love me and I feel good loving them back. I don’t think that I have to make people like me anymore. Oh yeah, and the panic attacks have stopped.”

Not everyone responds as quickly to therapy as Jasmine did, she was very motivated to begin what she called, “My new life.” She worked hard and the progress she saw motivated her to keep going. In what area/s of your life would you like to see some change?  Call me and let’s get started on it!

 

Finding A Therapist

Therapy! Why do I need to go to a complete stranger and open up my deepest darkest secrets? Why would I want to remember the sad or bad things that have happened to me when I’ve worked so hard to keep them tucked away in a box? What if I try it and it doesn’t work? What if I try it and I feel worse? What if I meet a therapist and they judge me?

Some of us may have had the unfortunate experience of going to a therapist and being judged or not understood and coming out with a feeling of mistrust for therapists. We may not know what questions to ask to find the right counselor. That’s why I was so excited to hear about PinappleSupport.com. A place where you know that you will find someone who understands and doesn’t judge. A safe place.

Deciding to go into therapy is not an easy task. It takes a lot of courage to admit that we have a problem that we may need help to deal with. Maybe we’re angry that we’ve been in therapy before and things we thought we had successfully dealt with keep popping back up. Being in therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken. It means you’re healing. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means that you’re strong enough to open up and grow.

Here are some things you may want to ask a therapist to decide if they are the right fit for you:
Have you counseled people with this problem before?
Are you comfortable helping me with this issue?
How much experience do you have in helping others with this/these issues?
What things do you do to help clients with my issues?
Can we go at my pace?
Do you give advice, teach coping strategies or just listen?

Remember, ever therapist is not a fit for every person and that’s ok. You may need to try several before you find one that clicks or makes you feel comfortable or heard. If the therapist you try isn’t a good fit, try not to feel bad about yourself or your chances of finding a therapist that’s right for you. Don’t give up on yourself or the process.

Wishing you much happiness, love and laughter!

Mechele Evans, LCSW