Given the present demand for therapy, group therapy and support groups may be simpler to access if finding an individual therapist proves to be a challenge. Group therapy and support groups can play a significant role in one’s mental health treatment. The pandemic, according to Marla Deibler, PsyD, ABPP, helped extend access to care by increasing telemedicine services and doctors’ ability to operate across state lines, even though Covid put a burden on the mental health industry. Deibler, who founded and serves as executive director of The Centre for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, spoke with ADAA about the advantages and drawbacks of groups as well.
People in similar circumstances come together in support groups and group therapy to focus on enhancing their mental health. What makes a difference, then? And how does one decide which kind of group best suits their requirements?
A group of patients meet for group therapy, a type of psychological care, where they discuss their problems under the guidance of one or more therapists. The interactions among group members are a crucial component of the therapeutic process, offering the ability to learn new ways to relate to people and alter one’s problem-solving strategies.
Therapeutic groups come in many different varieties, which are mostly based on the group’s goals and structure. Groups may be concentrated on a single issue, such as anxiety, or they may include individuals dealing with a variety of issues. Group conversations might be planned so that participants can learn and practise new skills, or they can be more unstructured and process-focused. Groups can be ongoing or time-limited, with a set number of pre-arranged sessions. A membership may be open, allowing anybody to join at any time, or it may be limited, allowing members to sign up only during specific hours.
How Do Sessions Appear?
Sessions can differ depending on the kind of group therapy that is selected. Typically, 4 to 12 patients will participate in a session together with one or more therapists who serve as the group’s leader and facilitator. Typically held once a week, groups can last anywhere from one to two hours. Ongoing attendance is required.
In groups where a specific topic is taught and practised, such as in skills training, therapists may be quite engaged. Additionally, therapists can be rather silent, rarely directing or interjecting in group discussions to keep them on track for therapeutic and beneficial purposes. The majority of groups primarily focus on conversation, although some may also incorporate activities like music, art projects, or even exercise. Members are expected to share at least somewhat during their participation.
Both support groups and group therapy provide support, but the goal of the latter is to help members make change, while the goal of the former is to help participants cope. Support groups typically have a specific focus, like parents of sick children, and everyone who attends has some connection to that focus. Compared to therapeutic groups, they frequently have far less structure. Although there may occasionally be specific presentations on a related subject, the group discussion is mostly centred on helping individuals through their current difficulties.
It’s optional to share privately. Support groups can be very big and are frequently open-ended, with participants dropping in and out as needed. Online support groups are another option, particularly in light of the COVID-19 limits. Although leaders and organisers of support groups are frequently present, they typically lack clinical expertise and serve more as facilitators than as someone who might interfere or offer interpretations.
Benefits of group therapy and support group
For a wide range of disorders, group therapy can be a very effective treatment; nevertheless, each of these issues requires the skill of a clinician. Through the provision of a secure environment for social practise, groups support the development of social skills, self-awareness, learning by observing others succeed, self-esteem as mastery occurs, and social connections.
Skills-based groups can offer the general instruction on a subject that is required, giving an individual therapist more time to customise a patient’s care. People “in the same boat” can find a supportive network through support groups. Aside from offering a lot of helpful advice on how to solve problems, groups can make people feel less alone in their struggles and help them feel more in control of their lives.
Who Can Benefit from Group Therapy?
Depending on the kind and purpose of the group, whether it is “stand-alone” group therapy or a combination of group and individual therapy, many people with a wide range of difficulties can profit from group therapy. To assess if someone would benefit from group therapy in general or from a particular group, proper screening is essential. Prospective group members should anticipate communicating with the group leader in some way to talk about their backgrounds, pressing issues, and objectives for the group as well as the structure, procedures, and expectations of the group. A group leader may then invite that member to join or present alternative possibilities. A patient may determine the group is right for them or may select a different type of therapy.
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