Frequently Asked Questions
01. Which is better, individual or group therapy?
Certainly, there are many times that individual therapy is the treatment of choice. However, there is a large amount of research which shows in many cases group therapy is more effective than individual therapy, especially when a person’s alienation, isolation and lack of support exacerbates their symptoms of depression or anxiety. Group therapy is also the format that is best suited when you want to learn more about developing satisfying and rewarding relationships.
02. When is a group helpful?
All of us are raised in group environments (ie., family, school, peer groups) in which we grow and develop. It was our job to learn to survive or thrive in these groups of people. We managed many complex relationships and developed patterns in doing so. Group therapy allows us an opportunity to learn about how to enrich our relationships. We may want more intimacy with others. We may want to understand the interpersonal patterns that have been painful or unsatisfying. We may want to learn how to be more fully ourselves in our relationships with others.
Group therapy offers an opportunity to:
- Receive and offer support and honest feedback
- Improve interpersonal relationships and communications
- Experiment with new interpersonal behaviors
- Talk honestly and directly about feelings
- Gain insight and understanding into one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by looking at relationship patterns both inside and outside the group
- Gain understanding of other peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors
- Improve self-confidence, self-image and self-esteem
- Undergo personal change inside the group with the expectations of carrying that learning over into one’s outside life
03. How do groups work?
Many of the issues that bring people to psychotherapy are connected to relationships. We are social beings. Group therapy will address and offer opportunities to change the ineffective, ingrained patterns of our relationships and the way we relate to others. An effective group will allow for the creation of a person’s social microcosm, where the patterns of people’s relationships outside of group are recreated inside the group. Group members are allowed the opportunity to witness how their behavior impacts others and how, in turn, they are impacted by others. Within the “here-and-now” interaction of the group, members are given the opportunity to learn new skills in relating to others, which also allows those skills to be generalized to the “real world” outside of group.
04. What do I do in group?
There will not be a prescribed agenda for each session. Members are encouraged to talk about any personal or relationship issues relevant to the problems and goals that led them to therapy. Much emphasis will be placed on examining the relations between members – the “here-and-now.” Members will often be asked to share their impressions of one another – their thoughts, fears, and positive feelings.
Thus, your primary task in the therapy group is to explore fully your relationships with each and every member of the group. At first, that may seem puzzling or unrelated to the reasons you sought therapy. Yet it begins to make sense when you consider the fact that the group is a social microcosm – that is, the problems you experience in your social life will emerge also in your relationships within the group. Therefore, by exploring and understanding all aspects of your relationships with other members and then transferring this knowledge to your outside life you begin the process of developing more satisfying relationships.
05. How will the group help me?
Effective group therapy is about the relationships that group members develop with each other and how these relationships trigger past relational patterns, both helpful and ineffective. Group becomes a vehicle for people to identify and deal with their own emotional blocks and limitations.
As you present your life and yourself to the group at increasingly deeper levels, the material you present can be divided into three categories. The ideal response of the group depends on the category. The first category consists of beliefs and behaviors that you can change in order to reduce your suffering. The group confronts and contains you so that you can find the courage and the insight to make such changes. The second category consists of suffering over which you have no control, and in this case the group’s job is simply to bear witness to your suffering, to be supportive and to refrain from trying to talk you out of it or collude with you to avoid it. The third category consists of the miracles in your life, and the group’s job again is primarily to bear witness, although sometimes it must first struggle to get you to notice these.
06. How long will it take before I see the benefits of group therapy?
This depends on the nature and extent of your problems as well as on your motivation and capacity for self-examination. Working on one’s personality and ways of relating is not easy and in fact is potentially very stressful and painful. Every member must understand that group therapy may involve this pain as a necessary condition for positive results. I ask that anyone joining the group make an initial commitment to attend a minimum of 12 sessions (3 months). By this time you will have a clearer sense of the potential helpfulness of the group.
Typically, the average length of stay for open-ended, ongoing psychotherapy groups is one to two years. Group therapy does not generally show immediate positive benefit to its participants. A basic aim of group is personal change. Since behaviors, attitudes and beliefs have been years in the making, it is important to recognize that the process of change will also take time.
07. How do I join one of your groups?
Schedule an initial interview appointment. I will help you determine if group therapy is the best fit by meeting with you individually to learn about your interpersonal history and goals for therapy. This is also an opportunity to interview me as well. Groups are limited to six to eight people and meet weekly or bi-weekly for an hour and a half.