Note: This is Part II of a 6-part series of blog articles. Here I introduce 3 more reasons for reluctance to join a therapy group. In the preceding article, entitled “Misconceptions about Group Therapy, Part I”, I presented 2 other reasons for this reluctance.
16 Misconceptions about Group Therapy
Below, I will attempt to dispel 3 more of the unrealistic myths about process therapy groups:
3. In group therapy, the leader provides individual therapy in front of the other members.
At the outset, many potential group members believe that the group therapist is in charge of all the communication in the group. However, in a process group, the group leader encourages the members to speak freely and directly to one another. It is basically an open interaction forum.
Some leaders are more verbal and directive than others. Although leaders interact with group members and make some significant comments, interpretations or suggestions, they do not dominate the discussions. All members have the freedom to say whatever they are moved to say. They can engage the other members in their own individual way.
No experienced or well-trained process group therapist ever tries to do individual therapy with a single member while the other members act as a powerless, uninvolved and speechless audience. The leader would not devote an exorbitant amount of time to one member. He/She would encourage the others to actively get involved in all discussions.
The group therapist’s demanding and complex job is to pay attention to: 1) each individual, 2) the interactions between members and 3) the emotional atmosphere of the entire group as a whole.
In the beginning, everyone in the group will feel anxious until they get to know one another better. Then, as they address more sensitive or shameful topics, members become less fearful that others will judge them harshly. Eventually, all participants become more comfortable in talking and sharing openly.
Some group members are shy or more introverted than others. So, it takes them longer to adjust to speaking-up and sharing their opinions, emotions and struggles. Once they feel safer and realize that the other participants are genuinely there to support one another and not judge them, they feel more relaxed and comfortable disclosing sensitive issues.
Although members are not coerced into talking, they will eventually start sharing in order to be a more a transparent participant with their peers. Some members may talk more than others and at times the leader will draw-out the quieter ones or ask dominating members to listen more.
All members need to be patience with one another and gradually build their trust and comfort with their peers. As commonalities emerge among the members, relating to one another becomes easier and less stressful. Shy members often surprise themselves by discovering how much they have to share and how much valuable feedback they receive in group therapy.
5. Joining a therapy group will trigger too much anxiety in me.
Joining a group activates anxiety in all new incoming members. There is no way around this reality because we are all concerned about how people perceive us. We all want to be accepted and liked. But when joining a new group of strangers, we get paranoid and feel we may be disliked, disrespected or not good enough. Usually, this initial anxiety decreases over time after participating and disclosing sensitive experiences.
There are bound to be reactions, topics or memories that you reveal in group that will trigger anxiety. This, too, is natural. Some of these anxious reactions may be very acute and painful but this condition usually subsides to a tolerable level before the close of the group session.
A high spike in anxiety usually does not last too long unless you have a history of suffering with panic attacks, phobias or other anxiety disorders.
To read the next blog article in this 6-part series, “Misconceptions about Group Therapy Part III”, click the link below: