What is Licensed Group Therapy?
Licensed group therapy is a type of counseling that involves multiple participants, sometimes involving more than one mental health practitioner guiding sessions. In group therapy, everyone takes turns listening, sharing and giving thoughtful feedback. It encourages everyone to share their own experience, freely and without hesitation. When each individual does this, it can result in connectedness, bravery and honesty in all members.
Types of Licensed Group Therapy: Open and Closed Groups
Group therapy can be open or closed. For example, if a group therapy session were to last twelve-weeks, open groups may have new people joining at various times. Membership is open to anyone and there are few (if any) barriers to join. Open groups are beneficial mainly but especially for drug or alcohol abusers. They can hear others’ experiences and may feel empowered to start or resume treatment. The downside is that it can be hard for individuals to open up or feel safe with the constant changing nature of the group.
Closed groups work with certain members from start to finish. A negative aspect for closed groups is that potential participants would have to wait for the twelve-week phase to be over before being able to join. However, closed groups are beneficial for people struggling with grief or loss. A closed group creates a sense of intimacy and trust over time. Additionally, it will encourage those who have been isolating themselves to reconnect and find meaning in others’ experiences and in their own lives.
Addressing Specific Concerns
Group therapy is beneficial for those struggling with addiction because of the access to a trusted peer support system. Additionally, there is an emphasis placed on personal accountability.
However, there are types of groups that address specific concerns in their sessions. There are groups specifically for recovering gambling, food, shopping, or drug or alcohol addicts. Additionally, licensed group therapy may organize sessions for specific traumas, grief counseling, divorce, or the loss of child. Group therapy has also been proven to be beneficial for domestic violence survivors and other abuse victims.
7 Reasons to Try Group Therapy
1. Multiple Perspectives
One of the greatest benefits of group therapy is learning about varying perspectives from others. You learn about others’ experiences and views on issues that everyone has in common, whether it is drug abuse, loss, or unmanageable grief.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Regularly talking and listening to others also helps you put your own problems in perspective. Many people experience mental health difficulties, but few speak openly about them to people they don't know well…It can be a relief to hear others discuss what they're going through…”
2. Support System
Licensed group therapy is a support system. Building a healthy network can help people work through a variety of issues. Support is felt by relief, information learned, and understanding. Fellow members may be influential figures in others’ healing.
With a strong support system, people suffering from loss or grief will feel the care and understanding of a community. Anyone struggling with painful issues like depression, loss, or grief will be stronger in battling those corrosive emotions with people around them who understand.
3. The Chance To Be Heard
In group therapy, everyone gets a chance to be heard. Skilled therapists moderate sessions to provide the opportunity for everyone to participate. For those suffering from grief or loss, this can be helpful in making sure that no one remains silent or isolated. Group therapy builds a community through listening and sharing.
4. Social Skills
Group therapy provides a trusted and safe social environment, which can soften and minimize isolation. One of the most dangerous aspects of grief or loss is the connection to dangerous mental health illnesses like major depressive disorder. Group therapy creates a sense of comfort and openness, which encourages people to work on social skills and develop trust.
5. Mutual Understanding
Meetings convene to address a common problem that everyone in the group has experienced, whether it is loss of a loved one or struggles with alcohol consumption. While it can be nerve-wracking to share your thoughts and feelings in front of strangers, attempt to take a risk, even though you may feel scared. The people who make up the group have endured similar encounters and setbacks. Through mutual understanding, you may realize that members share similar painful experiences and current difficulties, and feel vulnerable as well.
For people suffering from grief or loss, peer support can help people work through dark feelings faster. Studies report that group therapy can lead people to more successful rates of recovery. It holds people accountable in numerous ways. Communicating past experiences and making sure people are not isolating themselves or regressing back to destructive patterns (like suppressing or avoiding feelings), are common goals of group therapy.
Members are encouraged to ask questions and share thoughts with others as a way to relay understanding and support. Group therapy, like individual therapy, is work that requires active participation, thoughtfulness and analysis. Support through accountability can encourage people to make necessary change.
Mental health professionals and peers in group therapy provide the support and tools participants need to begin to heal. Group therapy offers a safe, protected, open forum without judgment, where members can empathize with their persistent pain. A group setting makes it easier for people to confront unmanageable sources of distress or unhealthy coping strategies.
Group Therapy and Lasting Healing
Many people would rather drown their sorrows and avoid their pain for as long as possible, and many do. The problem is that unmanaged feelings can lead to additional problems like excessive drinking, anxiety, or more serious issues. Sweeping things under the rug only makes matters worse.
Group therapy deals with the effects of avoidance and educates group members that mental health issues like, anxiety, anger, grief, or depression are expected reactions to traumatic life events. In group therapy, the healing begins through emotional support. Participants will learn to avoid turning to unhealthy methods to escape. Instead, group therapy provides support and healing, and encourages members to adopt healthy alternatives for managing pain.