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How To Facilitate A Great Group Therapy Session?

Among the many different forms of therapy, group therapy may just be one of the most interesting forms. With individual clients, , it becomes easy over time to anticipate the client’s r responses and meet their needs. However, group therapy sessions can be in sizes of 5 to 15 and are usually held by one or more psychotherapists. 

The dynamics definitely shifts with the inclusion of more people. 

If this is an uncharted territory or an area of interest for you, this article will fill you in on the various factors related to group therapy. 

What is group therapy? 

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. These sessions typically last for an hour to two hours and usually take place once a week. 

Most groups are formed to focus on specific problems. These can range from substance abuse and addictions to depression and anxiety. Some groups even help people to deal with grief, stress, low self-esteem, relationship problems, etc. 

Types of group therapies 

Group therapies for depression

In a 2014 study, researchers found that 44% of the clients with depression reported significant improvements after receiving group therapy. On the flip side, the drop rate for group therapy for clients with depression is 1 in 5.  

Group therapies for schizophrenia

For schizophrenic clients, group therapy is usually effective when given alongside individual cognitive behavioural therapy. It should also be held over a longer term for higher efficiency. 

Generally, group therapy sessions are aimed towards  decreasing social anxiety, improving social interaction and overall psychological symptoms but not necessarily to  improve medication compliance. 

Group therapies for psychiatric clients

These group therapies are great to promote social interaction, which is important for psychiatric clients who tend to be withdrawn. It is also a good opportunity to provide access to psychotherapeutic interventions, especially if clients share similar struggles. 

Group therapies for children

Highly effective for children, these sessions will allow therapists to see how the children interact with one another in a group setting and open up opportunities to help them navigate social obstacles. Group therapies can help children in dealing with grief, bullying, anxiety and depression by providing them the required support during interactive sessions. 

Group therapy techniques — Stages 

Created by psychologist Dr. Bruce Tuckman, there are 5 stages in an effective group therapy.  While some stages may seem challenging, even chaotic at times, the results can be very rewarding. 

  • Stage 1: Forming — the orientation phase

The leader(s) of the group take on the most active role and start off by establishing some rules of confidentiality, communication and participation. The time frame and termination of the group is discussed here as well.

  • Stage 2: Storming — the transition phase

There’s bound to be friction and act-outs when more people are involved in the therapy process. During this stage, it is important to create interpersonal dynamics that allows members to freely express themselves.

  • Stage 3: Norming — the cohesiveness phase

The group will begin to agree on group norms and develop a group consensus on things like disapproving late behaviour and extreme levels of anger or conflict. 

  • Stage 4: Working — the performing phase

Members begin to experiment with new ideas or behaviours and see that they are not so different from one another. Individual growth and team productivity increases. 

  • Stage 5: Adjourning — the termination phase

To provide closure for the members, in this stage, discuss and review outcomes, learnings and achievements. Be open to explore feelings of loss and accomplishment and highlight areas to continue working on in the future. 

Benefits of group therapy

As you can see through the stages of group therapy, groups can provide essential peer support and instil accountability. Furthermore, through the sessions, clients also learn to put their own problems into perspective. They glean valuable insights from one another on how they can solve their own problems. 

Expert guidance by therapists during these sessions is of immense value. Not only do clients learn how to grow and progress using scientifically tested strategies, they also understand how to deal with the problems of their group members, which could come in handy in the future.

Keys to facilitate great group therapy  

  • Maintain confidentiality 

Group therapies work best when there is honest and open communication. In order for that to happen, therapists and members must adhere to strict confidentiality and build trust among one another. 

  • Attendance commitment 

Track members attendance and encourage them to be consistently present. As seen from the stages of group therapy, there is typically a build-up over time where the group grows, learns and progresses together. 

If members are constantly missing sessions, they will fall behind the group and may even feel outcast. Eventually, they might not turn up at all.

  • No socialising with group members 

A therapist-client relationship should remain strictly professional, with no personal connection as it may affect the therapy process. There are also many ethical issues with a close relationship outside of the therapist-client boundaries.

  • Communication and participation 

Encourage communication from all members of the group. Take note of the loners and the quieter members and have them speak up or engage in group activities. This will allow all members to see that the group is a safe space to share and be themselves. 

  • Strict non-violence policy 

One of the most important rules to set at the beginning of group therapy is that violence will not be tolerated. If clients show signs of anger and violence, it is best to bring them out of the room, away from the group, in order to calm them down. Have an emergency number to call on your speed dial in case things get ugly. 

  • Be straightforward and direct but unassertive

As the leader of the group, be unafraid to correct the members and direct them to the right mindsets. At the same time, provide space to hear them out and empathise with them so that they know their thoughts are still valuable in the group. You should guide them firmly instead of commanding them coldly. 

  • Make the group fun!

Inject a dose of humour here and there, mix things up occasionally and make the sessions enjoyable. The members will remember the good times and look forward to the next session. 

Conclusion

Finally, while there are many steps and things to look out for when providing group therapy, the results are fruitful for both the therapists as well as the clients. 

Group sessions allow the therapists to help more than one client at a go. The clients on the other side also benefit from the peer-to-peer interactions. At the end of the day, facilitating a great group session is all about putting the clients’ safety and progress first.

 

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