Note: This is Part I of a four-part series of blog articles. Here I will introduce 2 of the reasons for reluctance to join a therapy group. In the 3 follow-up articles, entitled “Why Are People Reluctant to Join Group Therapy? Part II, Part III and Part IV”, I will present the remaining 6 reasons for this reluctance.
Everyone draws their own line in the sand and sets their own personal limits. We are controlled by our own strong opinions and personal values and judgments. For most people, group therapy lies on the other side of the line in the “forbidden zone”. Plus, many people have a strong bias or prejudice against psychotherapy in general.
Usually these opinions and beliefs are based on fear, little knowledge and no direct experience. Many of their fears, opinions and beliefs may be faulty and they certainly limit their own experiences and lives. It is sad to know that people limit themselves so much and by doing so they often prolong their pain and problems.
Group Psychotherapy vs Individual Psychotherapy
Group therapy is a bonafide psychological method of psychotherapy and years of research has proven that for many clients group therapy can be as or more effective than individual therapy.
Although many clients prefer individual therapy sessions over group sessions and believe that individual counseling is a superior method of therapy, many group members get positive results from their participation in group sessions. They benefit and overcome nagging problems and persistent complaints. Groups can be very powerful in getting desired results.
Even though group members earn positive outcomes and the fears associated to group therapy are usually exaggerated and unrealistic, why are people so reluctant to join a therapy group?
8 Reasons Why People Are Reluctant to Join a Psychotherapy Group
Of course, everyone has their own set of reasons why they are leery and refuse to join a group. Below are the first 2 common reasons why people are reluctant to join:
In psychotherapy groups, members need to reveal why they are in group, what brought them there. It is imperative that participants are open and honest and disclose to one another what they are struggling with and what their group goals are. They present their background history, their current status and why they believe they are challenged. How can each participant, the group leader or the other members ever provide help or determine if they have made progress in therapy if they don’t reveal this information?
And yes, sharing includes their shameful behaviors, thoughts and feelings. It also includes revealing their embarrassing prejudicial beliefs and opinions. How can the individuals in the group make significant progress if they are not being genuine and open with one another?
Most men and women are afraid of being judged and criticized, shunned or disliked because of their past and present experiences, behaviors and values. Most early entrants into group therapy want to impress and be liked by the other members. But groups are not like typical social meetings. Members are purposefully there to expose themselves and to be vulnerable, not to cover-up, pretend, look good and fool the other participants.
Taking risks and being courageous enough to be seen and heard are the best and fastest ways to grow and change. Challenging and confronting our fears stimulates self-development and personal freedom. Getting their shameful past behaviors and experiences out into the open with others is our highway to health and change.
So, sharing shameful experiences and biased beliefs is exactly what is wanted in a group of members committed to their own psychological development. Without this exposure and courage, they will not grow.
Convinced that other members will not accept or support them
Most new men and women members in a therapy group assume that the other members will reject them and withdraw from them if they ever knew how awful they have been and how despicable their beliefs are. This expectation is common. During their life time, they have learned what not to share because they have received negative feedback in the past.
However, in a serious therapy group, members are encouraged to be vulnerable and to risk being rejected and criticized, to test whether or not they will be accepted and supported.
Usually, in the group therapy environment, members reveal ugly, distorted and embarrassing things about themselves but seldom do they get rejected or criticized as they had feared. They are usually supported, acknowledged and admired by the other members for their courage in exposing themselves. After testing their fear a few times, they appreciate the other group members and develop a safe place to go where they can be more authentic and feel nurtured by other wounded souls.
Men and women group participants fear that they will expose their real thoughts and feelings, like superficiality, fear, anger, guilt, defenselessness, depression, confusion, paranoia, humiliation, aggression, inability to trust that we deem to be inadequacies in us. Most new members also fear exposing their feelings of loneliness, alienation and inability to find supportive allies in the group.
Many members get angry easily and express their intolerance outside of the group meetings. They often fear allowing others to see this because they judge anger and negative emotions as weaknesses that are shameful. We fear that we will not fit or be accepted into the “club”.
You can read Part II of “Why are People Reluctant to Join Group Therapy?” by clicking the link below: http://www.drrevelmiller.com/2019/12/why-are-people-reluctant-to-join-group-therapy-part-ii/
You can read my other blog articles about “Group Therapy” by clicking the link below:
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