WHAT MAKES GROUP THERAPY TREATMENT WORK? *
Dr. Susan B. Alexander
1145-C Executive Circle, Cary, NC 27511
1. INSTILLATION OF HOPE
- Seeing the growth and improvements in others is inspiring. It gives me hope for my own growth and development. “I CAN learn how to this better!”
2. UNIVERSALITY: “I am not ALONE”
- Awareness that many good people struggle with similar issues. People experience a powerful sense of relief as they discover that they are not ALONE. They begin to see their problems as universal and shared by other group members.
- By its very structure, the therapy group gets you outside of yourself and into understanding and helping others.
- Helping and supporting other people feels good, and these feelings tend to persist over time.
- Group members can be enormously helpful to one another by (1) sharing similar problems, and (2) offering each other support, reassurance, suggestions, and insights.
- For the person who feels that s/he has nothing of value to offer anyone, the realization that s/he has helped another member of the group is very rewarding. S/He begins to re-evaluate and re-define himself in positive ways, which enhances self-esteem and confidence.
4. DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL SKILLS
- Group members learn about skillful, unskillful, and maladaptive social behaviors from the honest feedback they offer each other. For example, a person may learn that their whispery voice, poor eye contact, or arms folded across the chest hinders communication and may undermine social relationships.
5. IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
- Members benefit from observing the therapy behaviors of other members with similar problems. They use each other as role models for new behaviors (i.e., a lonely, introverted person may imitate another person in group who earned positive feedback for being open and honest in group).
6. VENTING FEELINGS
- Expressing strong thoughts and/or feelings verbally to other safe, engaged people provides emotional relief. Lasting change occurs when this expression of feelings is met with acceptance from other group members. The acceptance process leads to forgiveness of self and others.
7. CORRECTING OLD PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR LEARNED IN THE FAMILY OF ORIGIN
- People tend to interact with others as they once interacted with parents and siblings.
- The group leader explores and challenges behaviors from the past, and continually encourage members to PRACTICE NEW BEHAVIORS.
- The group experience provides an opportunity for the client to “grow up again emotionally” in the corrective “family” experience of the group.
8. GROUP COHESIVENESS
- Group cohesiveness creates a sense of acceptance, belonging, and understanding.
- It encourages self-disclosure, risk-taking, and the constructive expression of conflict and confrontation.
- Many people do not have a history of “belonging”, and the successful negotiation of a group therapy experience is CURATIVE.
- Social behaviors required for members to be esteemed by a cohesive group are transferable to social life outside of the group.
9. BEHAVIORAL CHANGE
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: Lasting change takes time and effort. It is very easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior, and you are not going to change 40 years of programming in a few weeks or months. You need to work every day to solidify new thought patterns and stop negative, catastrophic thinking. This creates a new sense of mastery, competence, and self-esteem.
*A Concise Guide to Group Therapy by Irvin Yalom, MD and Sophia Vinogradove, MD. American Psychiatric Publishing, 1989.
*Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th Edition), by Irvin Yalom, MD. Basic Books, 2005