Your Group Therapy Experience
Make the most of your group therapy experience by following these suggestions:
- Attend regularly. In joining the group, you have made a commitment to the other group members as well as to yourself.
- Make the group part of your life. Don’t think of group therapy as something that happens once a week and forget about it when you’re not there. Between sessions, think about what happened in group and about how you felt during and after group; try to figure out why you had those feelings.
- Take responsibility for your group. It’s your group, so if it is not moving in the direction you want, say so.
- Participate actively. You will make more progress if you get actively involved in the group discussions.
- Experiment with new forms of behavior. Until you begin to act differently, you won’t change.
- Take emotional risks. Group therapy is structured to be safe and supportive so you can.
- Be as honest and open as possible. Allow other group members to get to know who you really are.
- Speak in the first person. This makes what you say much more personal and powerful.
- Accept responsibility for your own experience, and allow others to be responsible for theirs. Don’t foster dependency by assuming responsibility for others in the group.
- Listen attentively. If you are formulating your response while someone else is speaking, you are not really hearing what is being said.
- Differentiate between thoughts and feelings. When you say “I feel that…”, or “I feel like…”, you are moving away from expressing feelings to expressing thoughts.
- Speak directly to individuals in the group rather than about them to others. Be honest and direct with your feelings in the present moment, especially your feelings toward other group members and the therapists.
- Be spontaneous. Often we wait our turn to speak, try to be polite, or think about what we want to say for so long that the moment to say it has passed.
- Avoid giving advice and suggestions, trying to solve other member’s problems for them, or blaming and judging others.
- Be respectful, even when you don’t agree with a person’s position or behavior.
- Ask for feedback when you need it. Seek clarification and avoid becoming defensive or making excuses.
All groups are private and confidential; that is, what members disclose in sessions is not shared outside of the group. The meaning and importance of confidentiality are reviewed with group members at the first meeting and every time a new member joins the group. Please note, too, that no one will force you to do anything in group therapy. You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. You do not have to share what you are not ready to disclose. Just listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you can be helpful. When you feel safe enough to share what is troubling you, a group will likely be very helpful and affirming.