By Sandy Plone Ph.D.
Clients in individual therapy often ask me that question, for after a period of healing within the safe environment of individual therapy, they reach a level of growth that prepares them to face new challenges. As clients interactive strengths increase, they find it easier to take risks and they may also feel a wish to "practice." However, they may fear taking steps toward closer relationships.
Group therapy can be an ideal next step, a place to experiment with new skills in a safe environment under the supportive, watchful eye of a well-trained group therapist. Many group therapists have witnessed dramatic changes in optimism among members who have made at least a six-month commitment to a group. The optimism is shared and becomes contagious.
Another benefit of group is universality-that powerful sense of relief when we realize that others share concerns similar to our own, that we are not alone with a particular issue. Groups can also reduce social isolation because they provide a setting in which members experience the joy of feeling connected and understood.
Groups can be educational because members or the therapist impart information to others. As participants seek and offer support, the self-esteem of both recipients and nurturers rises. In addition, group therapy can foster the development of improved social skills, while ground rules that encourage open and honest interaction enhance communication.
Group therapy may not be for everyone, but the benefits of feeling acceptance, positive regard and a sense of connectedness may be reason enough to explore group psychotherapy as an option.
©copyright by Sandy Plone, Ph.D. 1998
Dr. Plone is a psychologist in West Los Angeles. She is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network.
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