Group therapy is often the primary modality for providing service to clients involved in court-ordered treatment. Although many clients need individual therapy to target very specific issues, group therapy has extremely high success rates, and some studies are pointing to group therapy being as effective as individual therapy at reducing symptoms and facilitating long-term behavior change. So, what makes groups so successful?
Groups are a microcosm of people’s worlds. When clients come into group, they bring their patterns, ways of relating, ways of being, and beliefs about the world. How cool is that?! We now have a safe space to work on all these things in a way that clients can practice new ways of being, receive feedback, and try these new skills in the world. I frequently tell clients during intake that in group they will meet people who remind them of folks in their lives who they love. How cool is that? They will also meet people who remind of those they struggle with in life. What an exciting opportunity, because they can practice skills and work through things in a safe environment that might give them the ability to manage better in their worlds.
Clients support each other. Positive peer interactions are so powerful. Of course, as a facilitator we need to watch for, and stop, any negative peer commentary or support. This includes unhelpful or antisocial conversations in group (leave a comment if you would like more info on managing antisocial conversations in group). Steering the conversations toward allowing clients to support each other, help each other problem-solve, and challenge each other’s thinking allows the power of peer culture to shine through.
Any work supports everyone. In group, even when a couple of people improve or get better, or learn skills, it improves the whole group. Anything that happens in group impacts the whole group. When two clients are actively working through issues between each other, I often say that the work they are doing is not just for them, it’s for all of us in group, because we are all affected.
Groups are fun! And that’s probably what I love the most about group. There can be so much energy and power and support when we bring humans together. And so, as a facilitator, I feel the responsibility to keeping people engaged and helping them show up fully to work and learn in group. I hope this blog helps you do just that!