Why Are People Reluctant to Join Group Therapy? Part IV

Note: This is Part IV of a four-part series of blog articles. Here I introduce the 2 final reasons for reluctance to join a therapy group. In the 3 preceding articles, entitled “Why Are People Reluctant to Join Group Therapy? Part I, Part II and Part III”, I presented the other 6 reasons for this reluctance.

8 Reasons Why People Are Reluctant to Join a Therapy Group

Below are the last 2 reasons why people are reluctant to join a therapy group:

      7. Fear that the group leader will abandon or not protect them

Some group participants have a fear that the group leader will ignore them and not come to their aid if they get attacked or have an emotional catharsis. They may not trust the leader due to past negative or abandoning experiences with their parents or some past adult in their childhood. They may expect some sort of re-enactment of the past painful experience.

In reality, most group therapists are very sensitive to and supportive of the members in their groups. They try to be helpful and constantly observe how each member is re-enacting during the group process time. At times they will reach out to participants if they feel the member is having a negative reaction to activity within the group.

If a leader does not notice that a member is having a negative reaction during a group session, the member can always reach out to the leader and other members to get support. Group leaders re human and fallible. They do not always recognize if a member is suffering or take the right action to support a hurting member. Plus, they may expect too much of the group leader.

It is the responsibility of each member to reach out for help or reassurance when needed. Like parents, group facilitators also have flaws and make mistakes.

      8. Fear they will become dependent on the group and the leader

When considering whether or not to join a therapy group, some potential participants may fear that there might become too dependent on the group leader or the group itself. They may feel anxious that they will lose their identity in the group or become too reliant on the group and/or the leader for direction in their life.

Fear of being sucked into an unhealthy group that will dominate and take control of us. That it may become like an over-powering adult to us. This is a fear of enmeshment or the loss of boundaries and one’s own individual personal identity and unique sense of self. This may be based on hearing negative stories about how groups or cults strip members of their individuality, values and beliefs. So, they have little faith in the healing powers within the therapy group. This potential dependency causes uncomfortable anxiety. So, some potential candidates for a group choose not to join or they join but hold back from merging into the group.

In actuality, the vast majority of group therapy leaders want their members to grow into self-sufficient and self-reliant individuals and not to become followers or “groupies”. An important goal in groups is for each member to become more individuated or unique and to like who they are as an individual and to act from their individual values and beliefs.


Fear Causes Reluctance to Join Therapy Groups

As you can see from my explanation above, people are reluctant to join group therapy because of fear. They are dominated by a fear that disallows them to join or they use it as an excuse not to join, have a therapeutic experience and make wanted changes. They use their fear to resist change and taking risks. They fear being bold and courageous.

So, they either never get involved in a group or they seek out the privacy, comfort and safety of individual therapy. Or, they do nothing to help themselves and just stay the same. They allow the distortions about therapy they have heard and the stigma placed on groups to determine the direction in their lives.


Joining a Group Takes Guts

From my perspective as a psychologist with over 30 years of experience trying to help others, it takes nerve and determination to talk one-on-one with a counselor. However, because of the higher intensity of fear in joining a group, it takes even more courage to openly share your personal life with other participants who are also there to improve their lives.

Bearing one’s soul in a room full of strangers is much more challenging than sharing your life experiences with a single therapist. It takes guts and faith to overcome this fear however wrestling with that fear is a very strong healing element in group therapy. It forces a person to go against stigma. Do you have the guts?


You can read my other blog articles about “Group Therapy” by clicking the link below:


To learn more about my “Group Therapy” services, click on this link:



If you are interested in joining a therapy group, please call me for an initial phone consult – 805-448-5053.


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