group therapy

How Does Group Therapy Work?

Published on November 14, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

For those who have never sought mental health or addiction treatment, talk therapy can be intimidating and stressful. This may be especially true when a client is presented with an opportunity to participate in group therapy. Group therapy involves a therapist and a group of individuals discussing how they can improve their lives. In a group setting, people can learn from and provide support for one another. Some people may feel reluctant to share their personal histories with a room full of strangers. They might wonder how therapy can be useful when it isn’t one-on-one. However, group therapy is incredibly successful when used to treat mental health disorders, addictions, and family conflict.  

The Benefit of Shared Experience

It might be uncomfortable to open up to a room full of people you don’t know very well. It’s even more challenging when discussing personal issues such as mental health and addiction. Still, hearing other people’s stories and experiences can be incredibly cathartic. Addiction and mental illness have a way of making the afflicted individual feel isolated and alone. Group therapy is one way that people and their loved ones can foster connections with others dealing with similar problems. Additionally, people with similar experiences can often offer a different perspective when someone is struggling with a specific issue. For example, someone who is further along in their recovery from addiction may be able to help someone newly sober. The experienced person can help the newcomer develop coping skills and tools for a sober lifestyle. In this way, group therapy has many of the benefits of a support group, with the added advantage of a trained therapist’s guidance.

An Opportunity for Compassion

This kind of therapy also allows the individual to be awakened to the suffering of others in similar circumstances. In this setting, they can offer compassion and cultivate gratitude. While one-on-one counseling sessions can be beneficial, group therapy creates a dynamic that combats self-centeredness while simultaneously improving self-esteem. An individual in group therapy may come into the experience feeling like they have nothing to offer. With time, however, they find that they can help someone else by providing knowledge, participating in the act of service, or merely listening without judgment. Group therapy also helps each person foster gratitude for the things they have and the aspects of their life that are going well. Compassion and gratitude are both powerful emotions that have been shown to boost confidence and promote overall wellbeing.

Encouraging Vulnerability

Talking about emotional pain or past trauma can be a complicated process. Often, talk therapy scenarios require many sessions before the client is willing to open up about difficult topics. For some people, group therapy can speed up this process. Group therapy facilitates conversations where many issues and circumstances are brought up in a short amount of time. Each individual feels more inclined to share their own story after they have heard something similar from another participant. Therapists are not encouraged to share their personal emotional trauma with the client, which can make therapy sessions seem one-sided. However, in a group therapy setting, many individuals are being encouraged to talk about their most painful experiences and troubling truths. This environment can be much less intimidating when it comes to talking about pain and trauma.  

Common Structures

Group therapy has quite a bit of room for flexibility. Still, there are some common structural characteristics among most group therapy settings. Most sessions consist of between eight and twelve individuals, although they can be as small as three or four people. These groups usually meet once or twice a week, and the sessions may last between one and two hours. Some therapy groups are closed, meaning that they begin and end with the same group of people. Other groups are open to new additions at every meeting. Typically, the group members sit in a circle and share with each other one at a time, with each person’s voice being heard and respected by the group. The therapist may play several roles within a group therapy dynamic, including a moderator, conversation director, and teacher. Group therapy sessions typically work with a common goal in mind. Goals can be anything from overcoming an addiction to improving relationships. For first responders in addiction treatment, group therapy has additional advantages. Men and women can enjoy the support of individuals who understand their unique experiences and job-related obstacles to recovery.

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.

At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.