Benefits Of Group Work
If you have an emotional problem or concern, perhaps you are wondering what benefits group work offers. After all, a group may not give individuals the help or privacy that individual therapy does. As a counselor working in individual and group therapy, my opinion is that both modalities are good but often there is a magic in group work that cannot be duplicated in individual counseling. Group work is often less expensive, too. So what are some of the specific benefits of group work? I’ve listed just a few.
In groups, you hear other people’s stories and begin to understand that you are not alone in the universe. Just like you, others are fighting deeply emotional and tender concerns. Because the very nature of your problem has isolated you from friends and activities in the past, interacting with group members is often an extremely validating experience.
As you hear how others learn to cope and manage, you get insights into your own situation and a particle of hope begins to grow. You gain confidence that you can overcome your challenges.
The group also serves as a monitor or conscience for the members. You may receive direct feedback about your behavior in areas you hadn’t previously considered. For example, all members in a group “Women with Spouses Addicted to Porn” may feel like victims. But if your comments reflect a “pity me” mentality, the group members may call you out on your disabling attitude. This type of feedback is easier to absorb from your peers than it is from a therapist, family member or friend.
Part of the magic that happens in group therapy is that we focus on others in the group instead of solely on our own problems. Irvin D. Yalom, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, quoting Victor Frankl said, “A sense of life meaning ensues . . . when we have transcended ourselves, when we have forgotten ourselves and become absorbed in someone (or something) outside ourselves.”
Often in a cohesive group, members offer to help or phone each other during the week or members stand in the parking lot chatting long after the group is dismissed. Group members care about each other. An excerpt from Yalom’s book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, illustrates the value of group support:
Nourish Each Other
“There is an old Hasidic story of a rabbi who had a conversation with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. “I will show you Hell,” said the Lord, and led the rabbi into a room containing a group of famished, desperate people sitting around a large, circular table. In the center of the table rested an enormous pot of stew, more than enough for everyone. The smell of the stew was delicious and made the rabbi’s mouth water. Yet no one ate. Each diner at the table held a very long-handled spoon—long enough to reach the pot and scoop up a spoonful of stew, but too long to get the food into one’s mouth. The rabbi saw that their suffering was indeed terrible and bowed his head in compassion.
“Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they entered another room, identical to the first—same large, round table, same enormous pot of stew, same long-handled spoons. Yet there was gaiety in the air; everyone appeared well nourished, plump, and exuberant.
The rabbi could not understand and looked to the Lord. “It is simple,” said the Lord, “but it requires a certain skill. You see, the people in this room have learned to feed each other!” Group work is about feeding each other.
A few former clients gave permission for me to quote them regarding their experience in group.
“I was surprised (and somewhat relieved) to discover that others were struggling with the same challenge. I was heartened to see their strengths and took courage from their examples. I truly appreciated having a skilled therapist such as Camille on hand at those meetings to provide additional insight and support. It was a safe place to express anger, hurt and humor–very healing.” C.W.
“I have really enjoyed the group and believe it has been the most important thing I have done in this (the therapy) process. Being in a place where you can share your feelings and work through them and not be judged meant a lot.” C.B
“I have enjoyed being in the group. It has been helpful to see things through the eyes of another. Thank you for your help.” L.M.
If you are interested in participating in a group, check with your local therapist, hospital, or doctor’s office or contact me.
I also offering groups for parents: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/parenting-classes-a-helpful-way-to-increase-every-parents-effectiveness/
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