While sharing your innermost feelings with relative strangers may seem counter intuitive, sometimes it may be just the ticket to work on specific or recurring challenges you may face. Particularly for skills-based groups, where you are learning specific tools and tactics, the group offers a chance to practice those skills in real-time. This is why Group Therapy may be an option for people with depression, bipolar, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Why Choose Group Therapy?
Group therapy helps you realize you are not alone
Sharing your story and in a supportive, non-judgmental setting can be very meaningful and healing. Just as you may feel relief hearing something so similar from another, your words can help others as they resonates with them. It’s easy as thoughts ruminate in your mind to think that you are alone, the only one who feels this way. Finding out that others share similar thoughts or face similar challenges in and of itself can provide a sense of release and connectedness.
Group therapy facilities giving and receiving support
Not only does group therapy facilitate giving and receiving support, but it provides a safe and nurturing environment to better your skills at it. The group facilitator is trained to moderate discussion, ensuring that those who are ready to share have the time and space to do it. In the group you are able to hear others positive affirmation of your experience, while also providing comfort in return. “Often the most powerful interaction is what happens between the participants,” says Mariann Smith, LCPC, LMFT, CADC, who will be starting and leading a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills group at The Juniper Center this fall. “The participants learn so much from one another.”
Group therapy helps you find your “voice”
Of course there may be days when you don’t feel like talking, and that’s fine. But the more you contribute, the more you will build your skill at being able to express yourself. “Expressing your feelings out loud is a wonderful step on the way to owning and acknowledging who you are,” says Smith. “When we think we are alone, we may feel ashamed by our feelings and reactions. But as you share and get feedback in the group, it helps your voice and confidence grow.”
Group therapy helps you relate to others and yourself in healthier ways
Your inner voice may sound meaner than you intended when you say it out loud. In fact, once your inner voice is out in the open, it often loses power over you. Others feedback can guide you in reframing your thoughts and in separating feelings about yourself from what is happening in front of you. And, just as this happens for you, you are able to provide that same support for others (which in turn empowers you even more!)
Group therapy provides a safety net.
The group dynamic provides a space to practice skills and get helpful, supportive feedback. “Participants may work on general areas of need, but we often encourage them to think of specific interactions or upcoming events to prepare,” says Smith. “You can practice and prepare in the group one week, and then report back the next week on how things went and how you applied your new skills. It is very affirming for the whole group to see your self-management grow over the course of the group.”
DBT Group Starting this Fall at The Juniper Center
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan. It is an effective, empirically supported, cognitive-therapy based intervention system for teaching skills that will help in coping with sudden, intense surges of emotion. It is also valuable to help individuals dealing with depression, social anxiety and life transitions.
There are four skills that are the focus of DBT: Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.
“Mindfulness is a state of present awareness. It is a relaxed state of mind, in which we are conscious of our experience,” says Margaret Berger, LCSW, Certified Yoga Instructor. “This includes sensations, thoughts and feelings, breathing, and surroundings. Mindfulness approaches all with an attitude of non-resistance, peace and acceptance.” Mindfulness skills help you access this state of being more readily, to stay grounded and focused in the present.
Mindfulness is connected to distress tolerance, which is skills used to help you cope during a crisis. “Distress tolerance skills concentrate on how to accept the current situation and find ways to survive and tolerate the moment without engaging in problematic behavior,” says Smith.
“With Emotion Regulation we teach clients to manage negative and sometimes overwhelming emotions. The DBT skills groups helps participants understand their emotions and learn how to increase their positive experiences,” says Smith.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills train how to balance priorities, attend to relationships and balance the ‘wants’ versus the ‘shoulds.’ “An important part of interpersonal effectiveness starts with valuing and respecting yourself,” says Smith, “allowing you to be more successful when interacting with others.” Coping with conflict also is addressed here.
Because DBT is skills focused, there is often homework and group sharing to help one another and put new skills into practice within the group setting.