If you are suffering from a mental illness or trying to overcome an addiction, your doctor probably told you that group therapy is an essential part of your recovery. Group therapy is meant for you to learn how to use other people’s stories to help yourself cope with whatever is going on with you.
Here are some tips to get the most out of each session you attend.
- Give yourself time to adjust and feel comfortable. If you are like most people, you are probably thinking “What will people think about me?” or “How am I supposed to share my feelings with a group of people that I never met?” and that’s quite normal. Share these concerns with your group at a pace with which you feel comfortable. You will feel better at sharing when you let the others in the group get to know you better.
- Focus on the “here-and-now”. Be present and notice what is going on in the group that exact moment. Try to share your observations, as this provides the members with important information when it comes to the group dynamics.
- Be active and open with your group. Ask and answer questions, talk to others directly and with honesty, even if it’s to tell them that you don’t understand. This will give you a chance to discuss with the other members and try to empathise. It can also help them understand you.
- Be honest and genuine about your feelings. Allow yourself to discuss your true feelings and reactions to others. Being open about your feelings has a greater value than sharing ideas or information. If you feel confused about how you feel or about what’s going on in your mind, tell the group that. It’s okay to let the others see what you usually keep hidden from the world.
- Experiment with new behaviours. The group is a perfect place to try new things without the fear of getting judged. These behaviours could be a suggestion from your group leader, or spontaneous if you feel safe enough in your group to do that.
- Give and learn to accept feedback. One of the benefits of being in group therapy is that you get input from not only a professional but also from a bunch of other people that are going through similar situations. When you give feedback, be supportive, specific, direct and honest. When you get feedback, try to be open, receptive and most importantly, realise that you are not being judged, so don’t jump to your own defence.
- Avoid giving advice. Sometimes, you might feel like you want to give advice to others. This usually comes from a place of empathy and compassion. Try to share that compassion and understanding before giving any advice.
- Don’t make this about yourself. You must realise that in a group, even though everyone gets their own time, every person must accept that there will be a time that they will listen rather than share.
- Be discreet when discussing the group with someone that is not a part of it. You can, of course, talk about your own feelings, experiences, and progress, but try not to reveal the situations or identities of the other members. This is to help you and the others feel safe sharing, without the stress of someone talking about your problems behind your back.
- Focus on your relationship with the group, its members and the leader. Try and get to know the others in the group but also your leader. The more you invest, the more you will benefit from the group.