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The idea behind group therapy is pretty simple: it’s therapy with a group of people who share similar issues and experiences.
A more detailed definition comes from the American Psychological Association and defines group therapy as involving “one or more psychologists who lead a group of roughly five to 15 patients…Many groups are designed to target a specific problem, such as depression, obesity, panic disorder, social anxiety, chronic pain, or substance abuse. Other groups focus more generally on improving social skills, or helping people deal with a range of issues such as anger, shyness, loneliness, and low self esteem.”
Yes, the concept might be simple, but there’s a lot more to group therapy than a bunch of people sitting around and talking. Good group therapy is lead by specially trained and certified therapists who have experience in helping people make significant changes within a group setting.
If you’re here, you’ve probably been considering whether or not group therapy is right for you and whether or not it will help you feel better. In fact, you might even be weighing group therapy against individual therapy.
But before we get to the advantages and disadvantages of group therapy, and how it differs from individual therapy, first let’s take a look at what exactly group therapy is and how it got started.
A Brief History of Group Therapy
According to the American Mental Health Foundation, the first official group therapy session took place in Boston in 1906. Dr. J.H. Pratt provided group instruction about home care to tuberculosis patients who could not afford institutional help. He noticed the “beneficial emotional side effects” that the group instruction had for his patients.
Between 1906 and 1956 psychotherapy came of age and doctors all around the world were treating patients in a group setting. But it wasn’t until the Second World War that group therapy became a widely accepted form of treatment – especially for war veterans. In 1944 the U.S. Army issued a training bulletin that noted patients responded well to treatment in groups, and recommended the widespread adoption of the group method.
Today, group therapy has become a well-known practice and is used to treat a variety of mental health issues: addiction, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and much more. Studies have been showing that group therapy, when properly applied, can be just as effective as individual therapy.
The Many Advantages of Group Therapy
While there is broad consensus about the benefits of group therapy, that does not mean that this form of therapy is better, or worse, than another form of therapy. Good therapy, be it group, individual, couples, family, art, no matter the format, will help you make positive changes and feel better. But there are distinct advantages to group therapy.
You’re Not Alone
Groups are made up of people who are experiencing the same or comparable issues. When you’ve experienced trauma or other intense emotional situations, it can feel like you’re alone and the only one who has these feelings. Take a look to these speech pathology assistants job opportunities.
As part of a group, you see and hear first-hand from people who’ve felt those emotions or had similar experiences. This can reduce the sting of loneliness feelings of isolation.
A Sense of Belonging
In a group session, you’re surrounded by people who know what you’re going through because they’re going through it themselves. You don’t have to feel like an outsider because everyone in the group knows exactly where you’re coming from.
A Network of Support
People who have been through the same situations have a different perspective than those who haven’t. You can get advice and support from others who have been in your shoes without the fear of being judged by someone who doesn’t understand.
When you listen to other people talk about their struggles and problems, it can help you gain a little bit of perspective about your own struggles. That kind of connection can help you feel understood and can also help you see that there’s hope because other people have gone through the same circumstance and survived.
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