Why Groups Work:
by Wendy Fennell, MFT
The Benefits of Support Group Psychotherapy
One of my very favorite parts of my therapy practice is leading groups. I have given much thought as to why this is so.
Why I Love Support Group Psychotherapy
I joined my first women's group shortly after moving to Santa Rosa in 1984. What was it about that group that I immediately loved? This was my first experience with having a structured and safe place to connect with other women in such an honest and intimate way. We were able to take off our social masks and reveal all parts of ourselves; the good, the bad and the ugly. What was most amazing to me was the discovery that in spite of our differences, there were many ways in which we were so much alike.
I was hooked. Since that first group, I have been in countless other short term and long term groups. I loved the experience so much I decided to lead groups myself, and share with others the tremendous growth, healing and sense of connection I had discovered in being part of a group.
I have since sought out many teachers and mentors, always attempting to learn from "the best in the field". It has been a rich and interesting journey. With all that I have learned, my best training as a group leader has come from my own experience of being a group member.
For those that don't know much about therapy in a group setting the following information may be useful.
What Is Support Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a special form of therapy that has been widely used for over 50 years. A group of people (usually between five and ten participants) meets with a professionally trained therapist to help themselves and one another. Group therapy helps people learn about themselves and improve interpersonal relationships. It addresses feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety, and helps people make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives. Some groups are short term, usually 8-12 weeks, and other groups can last for many years. Some groups have a common focus such as depression, anxiety, addiction, etc. Other groups have people who are all working on different types of issues.
The Benefits of Group Therapy
In studies comparing group psychotherapy to individual therapy, group therapy has been shown to be as effective and sometimes even more effective.
One of the benefits of being in a group is realizing that although people have many different issues and varied ways of coping, there are basic struggles we all share that are intrinsic to being human. This simple but powerful concept helps to reduce our sense of isolation and aloneness.
We are able to feel both supported and challenged in a group experience. As the group bonds and trust develops, people feel safer to speak honestly with each other. In groups we can both get and give. Both feel good. The experience of past loss, damage or trauma (whether from our family or from other relationships), may have profoundly affected our self- concept. A group can become a "family" that responds to us very differently, and can give us a corrective experience that impacts us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. We can also learn that conflict is part of being in relationship, and can be tolerated and worked through. We can't rationalize our negative feelings away, but I believe we can slowly heal as we learn to take in the love and acceptance that emerges in a group.
Wounding happens to us in the context of relationship. It makes sense that healing is achieved in this context also. A group can provide this opportunity. If you have never been in this type of group you might want to give it a try!
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©2006-2015 Wendy Fennell, MFT
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