What's group therapy like?
June 19, 2005 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering joining group therapy - what experiences have people had?

I just read the excellent Group and realized that oftentimes I've been frugal with the truth in one-to-one therapy, something I imagine would be more difficult to do in group because of responsibility issues to the group members, especially since I'm not paying them.

So I found a local shrink who has a group starting in a few weeks, and he's offered me a place. And now I'm having doubts - can anyone help me with any of these questions...?

1) I'm sure most feel that 50 mins isn't enough time for one-on-one, so how does it feel when you have to share your session with others?

2) What happens if you don't like the people in your group - like there's whiny people who don't want to help themselves for example?

3) What if a few weeks down the line I, or indeed another group member, decides group isn't for me/ them - sure I/ they are not contractually bound to stay, but how does leaving impact/ upset the dynamic?

This last point is something that I'd like to discuss in group - how easily I walk away from relationships - so obviously I'm feeling a little apprehensive about consciously putting myself in a situation which I couldn't easily walk away from (because of responsibility again - dammit!).
posted by forallmankind to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
to be short and to the point, YMMV.

1. the 90-minute sessions i had always seemed rushed. but there were also like 10-15 people in my group.

2. there are whiny people in all walks of life. you can either ignore them (which is counterproductive to GT), or you show them some tough love and let them know why you think they're a whiny self-made victim of their own choosing. coddling/ignoring drama queens (for example) doesn't help them realize their faults. OTOH, being too judgmental on people is not helpful either, because harsh judgment is probably what drove them to GT in the first place.

in any case, you'll only get out of group therapy whatever you put into it.

3. people come and go from GT all the time. if someone wants to leave, the group will probably live on without them. when an individual moves out of your neighborhood, does the community collapse? if GT relies on select individuals so heavily that its dynamic is upset upon their absence, it's not a very effective group.

this is not to say you're not important, and you shouldn't bother going. without active participation from everybody involved, GT eventually fails. GT is supposed to provide a diverse support group; by not showing up or not putting in any effort, you do hurt the group in that they have one less viewpoint to interpret things from.

i strongly recommend you go, stick with it, and be open and honest--skirting around the truth only cheats yourself, and most people (including your shrink) can probably see through the bullshit anyway.
the great thing about GT is it's kinda like a localized version of ask mefi in that you'll present your situation to all sorts of people, some of whom may share or have been through the same problems themselves, and you'll get feedback accordingly.

hope it helps.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 8:02 PM on June 19, 2005

IF the group is for a purpose that matches your needs (the more specific, the more useful), and not too many people (again, the more targeted, the larger the group can be without becoming a problem). Also the quality of the mediation in the group is important. And then there is YOU. Some people hate groups, others benefit. Sometimes its the group (too often, sadly) sometimes its the individual.

The last time I tried a group it was specifically targeted for dealing with bereavement. It was huge, poorly mediated, and totally sucked. But I should have been in individual therapy for that situation, I was a basket case at the time (having had my heart ripped from my body one New Year's Eve).
posted by Goofyy at 8:31 PM on June 19, 2005

A lot depends on what kind of group it is. Yalom, who wrote a seminal book on group therapy wrote about process groups -- the point of a process-oriented group is NOT that you just do small slices of individual therapy session for each group member in turn. But rather that the essence of the group is for people to get and receive real-time feedback from other members of the group about what they said, how they said it, how they come across, etc. In this kind of group, whiny people are wonderful, because, if the group is properly facilitated, the whiners get feedback about their self-defeating habits, and the others get to understand their own reactions and where they come from, they get to learn about their stereotyping, and they also get to meet the people underneath the whinyness.

The deal about feeling responsible for the survival of the group is a very common issue, and it's one that is best explored in the group. It's where you can learn about your own "co-dependency," i.e., how you may feel you have to shortchange yourself to provide help for someone (in this case the therapist) who really needs to be responsible for themselves. Being able to process your own reactions and understand how difficult it is to walk away, even though you know it may be the right thing for you, can be an incredible growth experience.
posted by jasper411 at 9:50 AM on June 20, 2005

I don't know your age and situation, but: When I was a teenager, I was in group therapy for a while. To me, it seemed like a lot of one-up-manship and a lot of "war" stories that weren't very useful to my development or healing. This went on through a couple of different therapists, but may have been driven by a few long-term vets of the system that were in my group. In short, I think that individual therapy was much more effective for me. I suppose that it could be better with a more experienced facilitator, but my experience was not all that helpful for my problem, which at the time was mostly depression.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:21 PM on June 20, 2005

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