Is it just like a Quaker meeting for crazy folk?
June 15, 2011 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever attended group psychotherapy? Was it useful? How did it work?

I've been offered group psychotherapy, on the NHS. They feel this would be beneficial to me, so I was happy to give it a go. However, I have reservations on how useful it will be - it seems that a group of people meet, with no agenda other than whatever anyone wishes to discuss, anf the psychotherapist is only there to facilitate rather than lead. I have an image of people sitting in a room not meeting each other's eyes for an hour!

I'd appreciate any experiences, particularly if you undertook it because of social anxiety, difficulty with low self-esteem or issues with past experiences - I have all three of these and this makes me wonder how a group setting will work for me. Throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I did this a year and a half ago, because it was offered free by my school. I had issues with social anxiety. It was a great experience!

it seems that a group of people meet, with no agenda other than whatever anyone wishes to discuss, anf the psychotherapist is only there to facilitate rather than lead. I have an image of people sitting in a room not meeting each other's eyes for an hour!

Not at all. The therapist does lead, just not in a forceful way. They help by drawing people out and getting them to respond to each other.

To me, the greatest benefit of this type of therapy was realizing that a) EVERYONE has issues, even the people who seem totally together, and b) other people, normal real people who are not being paid to comfort me, are totally willing to give me their sympathy, support and congratulations. You just can't get that from one-on-one therapy- I've done that too and gotten a lot out of it, but I never really believed that my therapist sympathized with me on a human-to-human level. Group therapy made me much more willing to put myself out there before other people, because I really felt like they would support me and not judge me for being who I am.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:51 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I haven't tried group therapy, exactly, but in other group therapeutic experiences one of the things that was so useful was just getting the vocabulary to talk about emotional stuff. You'd think someone who grew up in California would have absorbed it, but I didn't, or only did in a Couch Trip-esque parody ("What I hear you saying is that you think I should fuck off and die. Is that about accurate?"). Oddly enough, an unexpected side effect is that it's also slightly alleviated my public speaking phobia. Speaking in a very safe environment even in front of a small group was enough to help that, apparently.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:59 PM on June 15, 2011

I did this 18 months ago (in the UK, but not on the NHS) and while I definitely was pleasantly surprised by the experience (it was more useful to talk to other "sufferers" than I thought), I'll say that most of what I've taken away came from the counsellors.

But yeah, I also agree with showbiz_liz that the counsellors were still quite involved. Altho we had moments where they did sit back and insist we actually open our mouths, generally there would be feedback from them.

PS my primary issue was sth else, but I do also suffer from mild social anxiety and (not mild) low self esteem and these things were discussed. At length.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2011

I enjoyed group therapy, though I will admit it's not so much help when it comes to your own issues so much as it is a "learning from others" experience. I think given your issues, it might help you and others with those issues to deal with talking to others better, see that you're not alone, etc.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2011

As a teenager, I was part of a weekly group psychotherapy session for several bright young women dealing with depression. While it was helpful, it wasn't my main source of therapy - I had a psychiatrist I met with individually every couple weeks. I don't think I could have gotten enough out of the group sessions alone to help me manage what I was dealing with at the time.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:27 PM on June 15, 2011

Note that if you have existing issues with pushing away your own feelings in order to nurture/"fix" others, group therapy may not be the best bet for you. A really good facilitator might help alleviate it, but still, not always great.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Much like liketitanic, I joined a DBT group thinking that basically it wouldn't be helpful at all and pretty much just doing it to shut my therapist up. (And yes, I thought I would be smarter than the therapy.) However, not only was the DBT supremely helpful, I actually ended up doing two more group therapies of differing modalities after the DBT group ended.

And no, the therapist isn't just a facilitator; they actively guide and steer the group, at least in the therapies I did.

I agree with jocelmeow that I don't think group therapy should be your ONLY therapeutic recourse. It's great in conjunction with individual therapy.
posted by saveyoursanity at 8:30 PM on June 15, 2011

I'm with liketitanic. It's tremendously illuminating to learn you're not always the smartest person in the room, at least not on some particular topic. If you can hang onto that humility, this alone is a gigantic and useful benefit.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:01 PM on June 16, 2011

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