Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves a facilitator conducting a therapy session with more than one patient. It creates an environment of empathy and common struggle that may make a person more likely to share their own experience. However, every session of group therapy is different, and a therapist must remain flexible in order to cultivate the most welcoming and constructive environment for their patients to share. Read more about how group therapy can be used to its greatest potential.
Create a Safe Environment
Group facilitator’s goal is to create empathy by sharing emotions. What this means is that the people who participate in group commit to being open and holding space for their other peers who are struggling.
You can think about how you can relate to the experiences that other people share during group – this allows both the speaker and the other members of group to feel a part of a community and less alone with their own thoughts. People in group may not feel comfortable to share day one, or maybe they won’t open up for weeks, but over time they can develop connections and commonalities that allow them to feel confident in sharing their story.
Cultivate Healthy Conversation
Good group therapy is when the facilitator isn’t talking. The facilitator is there to create structure and establish a foundation for other participants to discuss and open up about. Once a seed is planted, participants of group can direct the conversation as they please, the facilitator only chimes in when necessary. It is important to make sure every client feels like they have the ability to talk, this is group therapy – not individual therapy. There should be space for everyone.
Clients can tell when a facilitator lacks preparation. There is a fine line between coming in with too much of an agenda that doesn’t allow for natural conversation to occur and coming in with no plan at all. Come in with a plan, but allow for flexibility.
Vulnerability is Strength
In group, a participants should know that it’s okay to not feel ready, but understand that this is a safe, judgement-free environment. Group therapy is a place for growth – one client who once felt that they couldn’t share can be a support system for someone who currently feels they are not ready to share. Nobody is expected to be able to share everything they have been through on day one, and nobody should be forced to. Forcing someone to share reinforces their feeling of being powerless. However, after observing other share and being able to relate to the other members of group allows for them to open up over time.
Incorporate Alternative Therapy
As previously mentioned, group does not always go as planned. Maybe a group session is taking place right after lunch and the participants are full and sleepy, or they are digesting their afternoon medications. This is when you need a backup plan to boost the morale and mood of those participating. It is important to be creative when thinking of how to increase the energy in group. Maybe you have everyone stand up and strike a power pose to boost confidence and lighten the mood. Maybe you turn on some music and have the group express themselves through movement. It is important to meet the clients where they are at and not come in with a rigid agenda with no room for change or modification.
Besides the actual success of a group session, it is important to check in with the staff that is facilitating group. After a session that took a dark turn, check in with one another. Communicate how groups go and make sure it isn’t always heavy – both for the wellbeing of the clients as well as the facilitators. It is easy to take on the pain and stress of others, which is why it is so important to be open about how you are feeling from both sides of the clipboard.
The Bottom Line
Group therapy is a useful tool during rehab to allow for community to form. People can come together to share their unique experiences as well as create a common space for shared experiences or feelings.
Destination Hope has various group therapy sessions such as recovery groups, self-esteem groups, medication groups, mindfulness groups, process groups, gender specific groups, etc. Our goal is to provide a safe space for all of our clients to feel comfortable opening up and sharing with one another to help progress in their road to recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or co-occurring disorders, do not hesitate to give us a call today. Destination Hope strives to provide a personalized treatment plan for every client to ensure successful recovery.