Note: This is the final Part VI of a 6-part series of blog articles. Here I introduce 2 more reasons for reluctance to join a therapy group. In the preceding article, entitled “Misconceptions about Group Therapy, Part V”, I presented 4 other reasons for this reluctance.
16 Misconceptions about Group Therapy
Below, I will address the final 2 unrealistic beliefs about process therapy groups:
15. Sharing my feelings and thoughts about myself and family members violates my cultural values.
This may be true. Some of us may not feel like we fit into the mainstream culture or society in the USA. Some ethnic groups, religions and foreign cultures place high priority on humility, stoicism and privacy. They may forbid disclosing, especially to strangers, any personal information about one’s self or one’s family and its members.
In American culture we generally respect our family members and only speak disparagingly about them if we have been injured by them or they have acted outside the cultural norms or committed crimes. Some Hispanic and Asian cultures frown upon exposing family issues because it is considered to be a violation of privacy.
If this is your situation in the USA, then the process group experience would be difficult and challenging for you. Perhaps individual therapy would be more comfortable for you.
In the confidential group sessions, members disclose many private and secretive experiences, thoughts and feelings about themselves, family members, loved ones, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. Social interactions and memories are encouraged to be spoken about openly, especially if they are disturbing to a member.
In fact, most mental health professionals believe that some types of secrets can be damaging and prolong one’s psychological and emotional pain. Covering-up or protecting some family members within a confidential group setting is deemed to be needlessly self-harming.
If this is your dilemma and you joined a process group, it would be to your advantage to slowly reveal more about your past and current experiences within your family and other groups of people. Sometimes, challenging family and cultural norms can be quite freeing and generate new insight and perspective. This would take courage. Otherwise, the group may not be helpful and you might be causing yourself agony while attending group sessions and preventing yourself from growing or solving problems.
If you cannot join an interactional process group, then consider individual psychotherapy or membership in an ongoing psycho-educational group in which the leaders provide instruction on certain psychological topics and use exercises and assignments to support their members. Although these types of groups ask members to process feelings, thoughts and interactions among the members, it is usually less intense and demanding of participants.
To heal oneself, often cultural taboos and family alliances must be broken within a safe and contained setting with members sworn to confidentiality.
16. If I spend too much time with others who struggle, then I will never get better.
All members of a process group are required to be in some type of internal psychological struggle to heal themselves and live a more gratifying lifestyle. But this does not mean that the members cannot be helpful to you.
In fact, those who struggle with ongoing psychological challenges with their own issues may have more insight and empathy than those who seldom struggle internally. Those who actively struggle and take on challenges to better themselves are usually more open, caring, supportive and genuine types of people. Therefore, they will not hold you back or bog you down from your own growth.
Together, you can help one another develop yourselves, break some chains and release pent-up energy. This is why I refer to group members as “growth buddies”.
The good news is that many of our fears and expectations about group therapy are misconceptions. The track record speaks for itself. Group therapy can be very helpful and effective for some people.
If you’re interested in joining a group, then call me and ask what groups I currently offer and whether I have openings for new members. If I have an opening, I will invite you to meet with me alone for more information. If there are no current openings or groups that match your needs, then I can put you on my “Wait List.”