Preparing for Group Therapy
When I first mention group therapy to my clients, they look at me like I’m completely off my rocker. I don’t blame them one bit because it is a scary idea. I’m suggesting they sit in a room full of people they don’t know and share the most vulnerable aspects of their life experience. It doesn’t sound like a good idea but group therapy is a powerful mode of treatment and can be very effective in treating depression and anxiety, not to mention helping folks build strong interpersonal skills and assertiveness. With a skilled group therapist at the helm, the group is a powerful force of self-acceptance, change, understanding, compassion, loving humor, connection, and healing.
Here are some ways to prepare for your first few months in a psychotherapy group.
1. Meet with the group therapist for individual therapy a few times before you join their group. Familiarity with the therapist will help you tolerate the first few months of a group before you have had a chance to get to know the other members.
2. Consider what you might say when group members ask, “why did you decide to join the group?”. It’s natural for other members to want to know a little bit about what brings you to the group. You don’t have to mention all of your reasons. Choose a few things that capture one aspect of your decision. You could say something like, “My therapist suggested that I join a group to work on assertiveness” or, “I hope group might help me build a better support system in my life outside of group”.
3. In the first few months, set measurable and attainable goals for each meeting.
If one of your treatment goals is to boost self-awareness, your goal might be to silently check in with yourself at least twice during group and notice your physical and emotional state. Or, your goal might be to share something about your family history and notice how you feel after you share that information. These goals might sound simple, but they can provide some focus when you feel overwhelmed. Simple is good.
4. Talk about your urge to leave instead of acting on it.
Many people have the urge to quit in the first few months (and beyond). To benefit from the group, you have to be IN the group. Instead of acting on those thoughts, talk about them in the group. Say something like, “I keep having the thought that I should quit the group but I wanted to let you know instead of acting on it”. Get help from the other members because they have been through it and probably have some experience that will help you understand all the factors in your particular experience. It’s also just powerful to be honest instead of hiding your thoughts and feelings.
5. For obvious reasons, find a well-trained Group Therapist.
It’s courageous to join a therapy group. Give yourself credit for even considering the idea!
Check out these websites if you want more information about the group.
Take good care,