IS GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY?
psychotherapy, like individual psychotherapy, is intended to help people
who would like to improve their ability to cope with difficulties and
problems in their lives. But, while in individual therapy the patient
meets with only one person (the therapist), in group therapy the meeting
is with a whole group and one or two therapists. Group therapy focuses
on interpersonal interactions, so relationship problems are addressed
well in groups.
The aim of group
psychotherapy is to help with solving the emotional difficulties and to
encourage the personal development of the participants in the group. The
therapist (called conductor, leader or facilitator) chooses as
candidates for the group people who can benefit from this kind of
therapy and those who may have a useful influence on other members in
DOES GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY WORK?
of the group share with others personal issues which they are facing. A
participant can talk about events s/he was involved in during the week,
her/his responses to these events, problems s/he had tackled, etc. The
participant can share his/her feelings and thoughts about what happened
in previous sessions, and relate to issues raised by other members or to
the leader's words. Other participants can react to her/his words, give
her/him feedback, encourage, give support or criticism, or share their
thoughts and feelings following his/her words. The subjects for
discussion are not determined by the leader but rise spontaneously from
the group. The member in the group feels that (s)he is not alone with
her/his problem and that there are others who feel the same. The group
can become a source of support and strength in times of stress for the
participant. The feedback (s)he gets from others on her/his behavior in
the group can make her/him become aware to maladaptive patterns of
behavior, change her/his point of view and help him/her adopt more
constructive and effective reactions. It can become a laboratory for
practicing new behaviors.
people you meet in the group represent others in your past or current
life with whom you have difficulty. In group therapy you have the
opportunity to work through these situations.
CAN BENEFIT FROM GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY?
psychotherapy is suitable for a large variety of problems and
difficulties, beginning with people who would like to develop their
interpersonal skills and ending with people with emotional problems like
anxiety, depression, etc. There are support groups for people in the
same situation or crisis (e.g. groups for bereaved parents, groups for
sexually abused women), but usually the recommendation for the
therapeutic group is to be as heterogeneous as possible and represent a
micro-cosmos. For that reason in building the group, the leader will try
to include men and women, young and old people, married and singles,
etc. The group is especially effective for people with interpersonal
difficulties and problems in relations. Whether these difficulties are
in social, working, couple or even sexual relations, the participant can
benefit a lot in these areas.
ideally suited to people who are struggling with relationship issues
like intimacy, trust, self-esteem. The group interactions help the
participants to identify, get feedback, and change the patterns that are
sabotaging the relations. The great advantage of group psychotherapy is
working on these patterns in the "here and now" - in a group
situation more similar to reality and close to the interpersonal events.
ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF GROUPS?
many kinds of groups in the group-psychotherapy field. The
techniques used in group therapy can be verbal, expressive,
psychodramatic etc. The approaches can vary from psychoanalytic to
behavioral, Gestalt or encounter groups. Groups vary from classic
psychotherapy groups, where process is emphasized, to psychoeducational,
which are closer to a class. Psychoeducational groups usually focus on
the most common areas of concern, notably relationships, anger,
stress-management etc. They are frequently more time-limited (10 to 15
sessions) and thus very appealing in a managed care environment. Each
approach has its advantages and drawbacks, and the participant should
consult the expert which technique matches her/his unique personality.
TO CHOOSE A GROUP-PSYCHOTHERAPIST
choosing a group psychotherapist you should look for a well-trained,
reliable, and ethical professional. If you are in individual therapy you
should consult your therapist and be sure that your group and individual
therapists can collaborate. Reputable group psychotherapists usually
belong to professional associations. In the U.S.A, for example,
membership in AGPA (the American Group Psychotherapy Association), and
certification as a Group Psychotherapist by AGPA assures some degree of
expertise. An experienced group therapist will usually interview you
before your entering the group and will answer your questions about the
group and his/her experience without being uneasy. You can also ask the
prospective therapist how many years experience (s)he has in the
particular modality and as a therapist generally. Make sure you clarify
fees (including costs for missed sessions). Above all, trust your
feelings: If you do not feel you can trust the therapist, find another.
IS EXPECTED OF THE PARTICIPANT?
participant in the group is expected to be present each week and come on
time. It is required that the information brought up by members of the
group and their names be kept confidential by all the group members. In
some groups, the participant is asked to commit for a specified length
of time at the beginning of the group. The usual commitment is
between 3 to 6 months. This facilitates getting a sense of how the group
works. When participating in a group, you will not be required to talk,
or reveal intimate issues when you do not want to. However, it is clear
that the more you can participate, be open and talk about yourself, your
feelings and thoughts - the more you can gain from this experience.
there are between 8 to 12 members in the group. Above 15 members, it is
impossible to create a therapeutic atmosphere and have enough time for
each member to work personally. The length of every session can be from
an hour and a half to three hours (this does not include workshops and
marathon groups). The frequency can be once to twice a week. The
duration of the group depends on many components such as the severity of
the problems and the targets sought. It can be from a few months to a
few years. You should allow 4 to 6 months to pass in order to feel the
effect of the group.