1. Question:  Why would anyone need group therapy?

  Answer:   There are several reasons why someone could benefit from a group therapy experience, especially if the group is conducted in a secure frame environment where members are anonymous to each other outside of therapy.  Group is for people with problems with relationships which covers just about everyone.  There are very few people who have never experienced any difficulty with relationships — personal, work,  or school related. Everyone else could benefit from group therapy.  Many people just don’t see how they come across to others.  Group therapy is different than individual therapy because members actually play out their difficulties with relationships in the group setting.   Group can also provide support and it helps to normalize feelings when members learn from other members that they share similar emotions.  Feelings are universal, particularly those that people  may have been ashamed of or thought unique to them.

2. Question: Is group therapy better than individual therapy?

Answer: Individual therapy and group therapy complement each other. They meet different needs and serve different goals.  Patients seek individual therapy when they experience symptoms of anxiety and depression and  because they want attention to help them alleviate these symptoms. The most legitimate goal  of the individual therapy is for the therapist to help the patient to understand the emotions that underlie their life decisions. When a patient understands their feelings they are then in the position to make healthier life choices, if they choose to.  It is the patient’s decision as to what changes, if any, they want to make in their lives.

3.  Question: What about couples’ counseling?

Answer: In my way of thinking, couples’ counseling is similar to group therapy, except that the participants have a close relationship outside of treatment.  Couples often come to treatment seeking a referee.  They want to know who is right in an argument.  It is rarely as simple as that.  There are usually 3 sides to every couples’ argument: his side, her side, and the truth which is often somewhere in the middle.  Most couples don’t know how to fight,to stick to the issues and avoid name calling. The couples’ therapist teaches them how to have a fair fight, where both sides are heard and both are taken seriously.  It has been my experience that couples’ argument  usually fall into 1 of 4 categories, or some combination of the four; 2. Who is in control 3. Whose needs come first 4. How do decisions get made and 4. How emotionally intimate are they, that is what do they reveal to each other about their lives. The couples therapists’ role is to guide them to talk honestly about their feelings around these issues.

4. Question:  I have close friends and family to share feelings with. Why do I have to pay for that in a group?

Answer:   Resources for support, comfort and understanding.  These close relationships complement those relationships formed in group, they don’t replace them. But they provide different things. Friends and family are there 24/7– if need be.  However, it is not possible, or wise, to share all of one’s thoughts and feelings with close friendships and relatives. Doing so can have a de-stabilizing effect.  Personal relationships are not capable of sustaining the full range of emotional experiences that we all can think and say.  The anonymity of a group therapy experience provides a safe environment to do so. In group therapy the agreement is that members will say how they feel toward others in the group and why they feel that way, with one proviso.:—Members are not allow to call each other names nor are they allowed to attack each other’s characters. When people argue in their personal life, they often confuse feelings with thoughts.  The group leader’s job is  to protect members from being emotionally injured from group interactions and to help the group sort out their thoughts from their feelings. There is a big difference between the two.   A skilled group leader is trained to manage all these feelings. This is a  one factor in creating a safe environment. 

5.  Question: How do I find a skilled group therapist?

Answer: If you are already in individual therapy and your therapist doesn’t lead groups, ask them for a referral. The American Group Psychotherapy Association has a website that provides a link to the listing of all qualified group therapists. These are group leaders who have earned the status of CGP (Certified Group Psychotherapist).