Inspirational Articles

An Inside Look at Group Therapy

An Inside Look at Group Therapy

by Michelle DesRoches, BA, Senior Spiritual Psychotherapist

One of my therapy groups wrapped up this week and it's left me feeling reflective about the whole group process. As a therapist I have loved working one-on-one with my clients, helping them see into themselves, offering shifts in perspective, encouraging and supporting self-acceptance. I have experienced feeling both brilliant and lackluster in this role -- the latter being a scary feeling when you have someone sitting across from you, relying on your inspiration.

Group therapy is a whole other dynamic. Of course, my leadership and effectiveness is still important but the participants bring their own energy to the circle and that plays a much larger role in the overall picture. It's amazing to watch a group of strangers inspire, challenge and support one another in their growth. In many ways, I'm coming to believe that what happens in these circles is far more significant than anything that transpires in individual therapy.

I have had the opportunity to be on both sides of this fence. I also belong to a group where I continue to do my own work. Not only does this keep me on my own growing edge, but it also helps me stay connected to the work my clients are doing. This reinforces what I've always believed -- anyone considering a future as a group therapist must first take the risk to do his or her work in front of others. Gone is the safety of only revealing yourself to the person you pay to keep your secrets and not judge you. Group, albeit confidential, is much more vulnerable. You are relying on intimacy and relationship to get you through your shame. As therapists, we can't expect clients to do this if we haven't been willing to go there ourselves.

Group therapy as part of your practice
Having variety in your work is always energizing. Group provides a wonderful balance to all the hours of one-on-one therapy you may be conducting already. It's exciting and dynamic because you are not only working with individuals; the group itself is a living being. It has needs, vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses that you will always need to consider. The relationship you develop with the group will teach you a lot about yourself and your leadership style.

Group therapy as part of your healing journey
Group therapy is an excellent choice for developing social skills, learning how to give and receive open and honest feedback, and healing shame. In this setting you will hear how others perceive you and will be encouraged to expand your own self-concept. As other group members take risks, you'll be motivated to do the same. Group offers an opportunity to experiment with confrontation, conflict resolution and challenge. If you allow yourself to fully participate, these benefits last a lifetime.