Group Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

How effective is group therapy?

Group therapy has been proven effective in helping individuals deal with a broad range of issues It has been shown to be as effective as individual therapy, and for some issues, it can be even more effective than individual therapy. My groups start with a five-week educational component (The Relationship Workshops: The Essentials) which can increase the skill level of group participants in dealing with issues of intimacy, but in effectively getting what they want from group therapy.

How can group therapy be as effective as individual therapy?

Group therapy is typically just as effective as individual therapy for various reasons. First, most members identify with issues other members share and find they are helping themselves just by being present and processing the issues vicariously. Second, by listening, giving feedback, and engaging other group members about their concerns, they practice new ways of interacting. Group members get to put into actual practice what they are learning. It becomes a safe place to try out new behaviors. Third, group therapy offers the opportunity to get multiple perspectives

What kind of people join therapy groups?

Anyone who is struggling to make sense of their lives, wants more intimacy with themselves and others, and wants a community of like-minded individuals will benefit from both the group and The Relationship Workshops.
Some examples of the types of personal issues that members bring to group are:

  • Discomfort in social situations
  • Lack of intimacy in relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Family of origin problems
  • Dissatisfaction with their friendships or romantic relationships
  • Poor self-esteem and lack of self confidence
What does a typical group session look like?
My psychotherapy groups are typically unstructured. There isn’t a specific topic for each group session, but some of the groups may be targeted to specific groups of individuals (e.g., women, men, or graduate students, etc.). I provide an opportunity for a brief check-in at the start of the group, but after this check-in, it is the group members’ responsibility to bring any issues to the group that they feel are important, and a primary focus of therapy in the group is on the interactions among group members. Members are encouraged to give support and feedback to others, and to work with the reactions and responses that other members’ contributions bring up for them.
How does group psychotherapy differ from a self-help group?
The first and most important difference is that support and self-help groups are not led by professionals trained in group psychotherapy. If there is someone leading a support or self-help group, it is usually another group member designated for that role, but they are most often not a trained professional. Secondly, support and self-help groups have different purposes. Support and self-help groups are most often to give support and education around either specific life challenges, or specific symptoms (drug or alcohol abuse, for example). Psychotherapy groups aim at something much broader and deeper – the transformation of the inner life of the individual toward healthier relationships. My particular interest is in moving people toward increased intimacy with themselves and others as I strongly believe that this is the way to make one’s life more meaningful and happier, no matter how you define those two words.
What is my role as the group therapist?
As the group therapist, I use my knowledge and experience to facilitate, promote, and monitor transformation of the group, as well as its members. During the initial sessions, I will focus on establishing norms and creating an atmosphere of trust and safety so that group members feel safe to self-disclosure. As the group proceeds, I may direct the therapy as necessary, provide feedback and support, and help group members identify relational themes which are being recreated in the group. To increase interpersonal growth, I will also share my observations regarding relational dynamics, group dynamics, communication patterns, and share unexpressed feelings and meanings behind issues being dealt with or avoided. I will also work to strike a balance within the group so that no one is dominating, and no one goes unheard. I encourage you to request my assistance as needed during group sessions, and to openly share your reactions and thoughts concerning my role and interventions during group.
Do I need to receive individual therapy in addition to group therapy?
Sometimes group therapy is used as the main or only treatment approach. Sometimes it’s used along with individual therapy. Often people find that working simultaneously in both group and individual therapy stimulates growth in mutually complementary ways. Also, clients may see two different therapists for individual and group therapies.
What if I’m uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?
It’s not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most patients find that group therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk with others who are experiencing similar problems — in a private, confidential setting. Most new members find that the group process quickly draws them in and they begin sharing in ways they had not expected. As the group therapist, I will help facilitate conversations and can help process whatever anxiety the group may be feeling.
Do I have to reveal all my deepest fears and feelings to the group?
No, you do not. You alone decide how much you want to share, and no one can force you to reveal your secrets or feelings. Most group members tend to share more about themselves when they feel safe in the group. While I recognize that sharing can sometimes be uncomfortable, I also know that many members report getting more out of group when they decide to share more personal aspects of themselves. I encourage you to be aware of your pace for group involvement and to share when you feel comfortable doing so.
What kind of commitment do I need to make?
My groups are long-term, open-ended process groups. Each member commits to participate in the group for a minimum of 10 sessions. This agreement assures that the group process will not be disrupted by new members dropping in for one or two sessions and then not returning. This agreement also ensures that you will make enough of a commitment to benefit from the group.