By Christa Banister
Back in the 17th century, English poet John Donne famously wrote that “no man is an island.” While the world has changed considerably since Donne’s treatise against isolationism, the importance of being surrounded by a community, rather than sojourning alone, has never been more on point.
For those who struggle with addiction or mental health challenges or are working through a major life transition — or just looking for continued support on the road to healing — group therapy has proven to be as helpful as one-on-one therapy. In some cases, there are advantages of group therapy over individual therapy, including a greater degree of success because of our inherent need for meaningful social interaction, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Telling your stories – the successes, the challenges, and everything in between – has proven to be empowering.
In group therapy, a therapist or team of therapists will work alongside a small group of five to 15 people who are facing similar challenges in their lives or have identified specific areas they wish to improve upon. With an approach that’s anything but one-size-fits-all, group therapy is widely available, flexible, and often part of a comprehensive treatment plan with long-lasting advantages.
Benefits of Group Therapy
Wondering if group therapy may be right for you? Here are the top five benefits to consider:
1. Confirmation That You’re Not Alone
When you are navigating a particularly challenging struggle or season of life, feeling overwhelmed and alone is common. You may even feel embarrassed, which can fuel the tendency to turn inward.
In group therapy however, there is a pervasive sense that we’re all in this together. Your emotions, your shame, even your circumstances are shared by many. And telling your stories — the successes, the challenges, and everything in between — has proven to be empowering.
When a member of the group takes an important step forward, having peers rally around you with encouragement, celebrate your success, and give you an overall sense of belonging is a big net positive. It can even boost your health because when you feel good about helping someone else, your brain releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical messenger, into your body.
2. A Boost in Social Skills
The gift of listening. Being respectful and gracious. The subtle art of give and take. These are all crucial social muscles that are flexed regularly in group therapy.
In a safe space guided by your therapist(s) and your new support system, you are free to express your thoughts and feelings to help form an authentic connection. With trust building from week to week, it’s possible to relate to others in much healthier ways.
3. Finding Your Own Voice
With an outlet for your thoughts and feelings among a trusted, judgment-free community, group therapy allows you to find your voice, especially if you’ve never really felt you’ve had one.
By learning to become aware of your own feelings and needs, you can become better connected to how you feel while interacting with others throughout the sessions. Rather than hiding or constantly apologizing, you learn how to communicate most effectively in a group settling and speak up for yourself.
Sometimes a singular aha moment can unlock the key to something substantial for a healthier life moving forward.
4. Gaining Positive Perspective
Whether you’re looking for accountability as you learn to approach the day-to-day with new coping mechanisms, or extra support, encouragement, or camaraderie during a difficult season, group therapy promotes a herd mentality where you and the group have a positive influence on one another.
5. Learning from Your Peers
In terms of life experience, every human being brings something unique to the table. By listening to each other’s stories, there’s the possibility for insights you may have never expected or considered otherwise. The same goes for those leading the group. Sometimes a singular aha moment can unlock the key to something substantial for a healthier life moving forward.