Some people see groups as the poor cousin of one-to-one therapy, including some therapists. However, this is a very short-sighted perspective.
While it’s true that groups are generally cheaper than personal therapy, this in no way relates to their quality, or what they bring to the individual. In fact, some people may benefit more from a group than from private sessions.
Why is that?
One thing that a group brings is a sense of community. This can be particularly important for you if you feel isolated. Perhaps because you do not get the adult contact you would like: hi there, fellow work-from-home folks. Or it could be because your issue isolates you, such as anxiety and depression, or anything seen as embarassing or shameful.
Meeting a group of people who are in the same boat can be really eye-opening. You no longer need to feel isolated. And you can learn and share with others in similar situations.
Maybe one person has tried something they found really helpful, which might work for you, too. Or you can just commiserate together: there are good psychological reasons for the truism ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Sharing with someone who really understands what you are talking about can be very freeing, especially compared to trying to talk to someone who looks at you like a freak (or who you fear will look at you that way).
In a group, everyone is in this together. The group is not just about the facilitator. Each member brings something of value. Each person takes responsibility for their part in the group.
You have something to share, something to contribute, and you have a wealth of knowledge about your situation. You are not just receiving, you are also able to give. And you are not just being talked at, you are adding your tuppenceworth. In this sense, it is a far more balanced situation, and one where you take ownership of your own participation.
3) Improved Communication
There are certainly challenges to getting along with a group of people. You are called on to communicate clearly and empathetically. And you may come face-to-face with some of your less appealing patterns of behaviour.
All this gives you the opportunity to find better ways to communicate. What does better mean in this context? You get your needs met more!
You can become clearer, better able to ask for what you want, better able to give others what they need. Your relationships outside of the group are likely to improve, too.
There are plenty of studies highlighting the importance of accountability. When you say publicly that you are going to do something, you are far more likely to actually do it.
As part of a group, you can encourage and support one another, and also check in on one another. This makes achieving the changes you want much more manageable. It can help you feel good about what you are doing, rather than feeling stressed about what you should be doing.
5) Reinforce benefits
Any benefits that you gain from the sessions will be reinforced. Partly through feedback from others, and partly through actually putting new behaviours into practice in the group setting.
The group is a safe place to try out new ways of being and of feeling, before taking them into your everyday. And if those new ways don’t work out, you’ll get immediate feedback, so that you can adjust what you’re doing. All in a safe and friendly context.
You will also reinforce any new skills you learn, by practising them, rather than just talking about them. As they say: practice makes perfect.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, you have to find what works best for you. Groups may not work for everyone.
Still, a group can also be a great way to give something a go, if you’re not sure a particular approach or technique will suit you. If you end up loving what you’ve tried, you can always dive deeper, in the group or elsewhere. And if you don’t, you may still have made a new friend or two!