If I asked you to describe group therapy, what would you describe?
If you’re a certain age, when you think of group therapy you might think of Bob Newhart calmly explaining basic social skills to a room of oddballs.
You might also think of an addict who has recently hit bottom, standing up in a diverse crowd in a conference room and announcing, “Hi, I’m John, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Or you might think of a group of veterans sitting in circle, sharing their most difficult memories of combat.
You’d be right in all counts. All of these are variations on group therapy.
Group therapy can seem daunting based on the strange and dramatic scenes we see in movies and television. The idea of stepping into a room full of strangers and sharing intimate details of your feelings and experiences can be more than just intimidating – it can be terrifying.
As trust between the facilitators and participants grows, group therapy can become a place where your most difficult issues can be shared and worked through, where you can receive feedback from trusted individuals, and where you can discover yourself through a community where vulnerability and honesty are valued.
Types of Groups
Support Groups – Most people are familiar with the concept of support groups. Support groups are usually focused on an experience that group members may have in common and are meant to provide a supportive, normalizing environment in which resources may be shared. Support group topics vary widely and may include grief, a medical diagnosis, parenting, unemployment, or trauma.
12-Step Groups – The original and most well-known 12-Step group is Alcoholics Anonymous. 12-Step groups are a part of working a larger program in which 12 specific steps are followed in order to achieve and maintain a goal (such as sobriety and personal growth). Meetings vary in style and format but are run by 12-Step program veterans who follow specific templates meant to support program work. Groups and meetings are the core of 12-Step work.
Psychoeducational or Skills Groups – These groups are usually time-limited, structured, informational, and instruction-based. They follow a formal curriculum and may even include homework. Topics can range widely, but almost always around a mental health issue or symptom, or expansion of skills and coping mechanisms, such as parenting, mindfulness, anger management, managing stress/anxiety, skills groups, and many more. These groups can be extremely helpful to people who are encountering an issue for the first time or need to learn new skills.
Process Groups – Process groups are typically facilitated by mental health clinicians and, like support groups, may be focused on a common experience or mental health issue, but they can also be general. Process groups are focused, as their name suggests, on the “group process,” which involves the interpersonal interactions and dynamics of the groups members and the reactions that members have to each other and the facilitator(s). The goals of process groups are varied, but often include improving a person’s intrapersonal emotional regulation as well as interpersonal skills through dynamic interactions and reflection. The facilitator is tasked with maintaining the safety and containment of the group. Process groups can be open (always taking in new members) or closed (not taking new members or taking new members at very specific points of time), time limited or ongoing, or some mix of the above.
Other Groups – There are also blended groups (psychoeducation plus process groups or support plus process groups, for example), couples groups (groups made up of different couples working on their relationships), family groups (groups made up of diverse families working on improving their communication and dynamics), leaderless groups (no facilitators), and work groups (groups made up of coworkers), to name just a few. Most groups contain some element of process, regardless of their format or structure.
Is Group Therapy for Me?
It depends. Groups therapy can be an adjunct to individual therapy or be undertaken on its own. Some people find that their individual work is enlivened and enhanced by participating in a group. Support groups can be life savers for people struggling with a specific trauma or a new role or a new medical condition. Psychoeducational or skills groups can be done in addition to individual therapy or done on their own, too. If you’re currently in individual therapy, it may be worth discussing group therapy with your therapist and get their input.
Just like finding a therapist is a process unique to every person, so is finding a group that works for you. You may have difficulty finding a group that seems to fit – or addresses an issue specific to you. This is not uncommon. For this reason, in 12-Step circles, for example, people are encouraged to keep going to different meetings until they find one that fits.
Groups at WILA
WILA currently offers a number of groups with the goals of reducing isolation, increasing relatedness and supporting personal growth. Below are brief descriptions about our groups. For more information, please visit our website: https://wila.org/affordable-psychotherapy/group-therapy/
Trauma Groups for Women/Voices of Warriors (VOW) – Sharing a traumatic experience with others can restore a sense of connectedness, meaning, and understanding. The goal of VOW is to provide a corrective emotional experience in which the dynamics of self-blaming, silencing, and disbelief of sexual trauma survivors are shared and then worked through with women who have gone through similar experiences.
Safe Space – Women in Film has partnered with WILA to launch an entertainment industry-specific support group for survivors of sexual harassment. Together, we’re ensuring women at all levels of the industry are supported.
Medical Patients Support Group – The shock of becoming medically ill or having chronic pain is a catastrophic event for many people. Learning that many others have similar struggles and hearing about their experiences can expand one’s outlook and relationship with their medical condition. This group will help you find out more about yourself in this new (or chronic) context and ways in which you can improve your daily life and functioning.
Emotion Regulation Group (SRP) – Many people have difficulties with emotional regulation, including a tendency to experience stormy interpersonal relationships, intense emotions, unstable moods, struggle with impulsivity, self-harm, and confusion. New skills learned in this group will help participants regulate emotions, better tolerate distress, and support personal growth in relationships.
Growing Mommies – We believe that there needs to be lots of nurturance and attention paid to our new mommies. When a baby is born, a mother is also born. When we grow babies, we are also growing mommies!
If you’re interested in any of the above groups, please contact us at 424-371-5191.
WILA develops our group therapies based on what our community needs. If you don’t see a group at WILA that appeals to you, reach out and let us know what your need is!