Group therapy, also known as group psychotherapy involves the treatment of more than one patient or client at the same time. The sessions may be led by one or more therapists. The form of therapy may vary, but as long as it is done in a group setting, the term group therapy still applies.
The main idea behind group therapy is that individuals can share their feelings with others who may be experiencing similar situations. For example, an individual who is dealing with feelings of alienation may be more open with others who are struggling with those same issues. The group offers a support structure many of these individuals would not have outside of therapy. As the treatment progresses, the hope is that each patient will be able to take the lessons in the sessions, and apply them to their everyday life.
This is the first part of the process and seeks to introduce everyone involved in the sessions and make persons more comfortable. In order to do this, the therapist tries to find interesting and creative ways to get each member to open up. This serves to put everyone at ease from the start, though this is not always achieved right away. The main goal is to help each person feel less inhibited so that they will be more willing to share as the program progresses.
Building Trust in Group Therapy
This aspect of group therapy is quite challenging. It means devising ways to get those involved in the sessions to begin the process trusting each other. Given that most often, these clients start out as perfect strangers, the therapist must carefully break down the defenses of each person. This way the therapist allows them to bond through the sharing of common experiences.
As the name implies, this has to do with each member telling the others about his or her life and experiences. This is a vital follow up to the trust building exercise, since trust has to be established before most members of the group will open up. Conversely, a group member who had previously been reluctant to share may do so after hearing the others do so. This is especially true if that individual sees some commonality in their lives and backgrounds.
Group Therapy Games
Simple games are fun and effective ways to get members of the group to feel comfortable sharing. It is up to the therapist to decide how to go about this, and often this means coming up with ideas right on the spot.
Role-playing or Psychodrama
This is a challenging aspect of group therapy, and involves getting each person to act out certain aspects of their lives. There is a conscious effort to adopt the role of another person or to vent their feelings to someone filling the role of someone significant in their lives.
While group therapy is widely practiced, there are many therapists who consider it less effective than individual therapy. An analysis of studies on group therapy suggested that it does produce results. War veterans treated in this manner have also been shown to respond well.
Often families may undergo group therapy at the request of a therapist who is treating one family member. This is specifically referred to as family therapy although it is done in a group setting. The therapist in this case is usually a family therapist. The success of group therapy depends on the skill of the therapist, and his or her ability to draw each person out of their shell. Like any other therapy, its effectiveness depends on the commitment of all involved.
January 24th, 2009
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