Human beings are created as social creatures and, therefore, one of our primary needs is to love and belong. Group therapy acts as one way in which these relationships can be developed and maintained. This research paper looks at issues that are unique to group therapy. The paper looks at the issues, which are comparable to those that are involved in individual counseling.
Most of the personal problems that people experience are interpersonal in nature. In most cases, they come out of our relationships or from the pattern by which we relate. Group therapy provides the opportunity for exploration and understanding how one relates to others and gets the feed back of how other people react to you. Group therapy is diverse in nature. Psychologists who have different theoretical trainings will utilize group therapy for various types of psychological problems. Group therapy is categorized in two ways. One of the ways is the time limit that is set on the time the groups exist, and the other way is by focus of the group and the way that the group members are selected.
Group therapy just like individual counseling can be offered on continuously or for a certain number of sessions. In a group, that is ongoing, ones the group start it continuous indefinitely. Some members of the group complete the treatment, and leave the group and there are other, members who join the group on the way, as there are usually openings in the group. Most of the group therapies are comprised of six to twelve members with the psychologist included. There are cases where a psychologist may have a group running for ten years or more. There are groups that are time limited this is whereby a group has specific duration of time that is supposed to run. This usually does not refer to the length, which the sessions take, but it refers to the number of sessions the group will run. Group therapies that are time limited have distinct beginning, middle and end. After they have held, some few sessions they reach a point whereby they do not add any new member. The duration, which the groups run, depends on the aims of the group and the membership of the group. The groups are usually structured in a way that, by the end of the specified duration, the group will have attained its objectives (Bernard, 1994).
The focus of the group is another way that the group therapy is categorized. There are groups, which are more general in their focus. He groups have goals, which are related to the improvement of the overall life satisfaction and effective life functioning mostly in the area of interpersonal relationships. The groups are heterogeneous in nature. This means that the group members have varying backgrounds and different issue in psychology, which they bring to the treatment group. In such cases, the psychologist usually selects group members who are likely to interact ways which will help the all the members of the group. The groups have characteristics of being open ended due to the nature of the group therapy (Bernard, 1994).
The other types of therapy groups are the focused or the topical therapy groups. This is where the members of the groups tend to have the same problems. These groups have focus on specific problem area or on a specific topic. For example, the group may have its focus on depression, adult children of alcoholics and other specific areas. Some of the focus therapy groups are skill development groups, which have an emphasis on learning new coping skills or bringing change to maladaptive behavior. There are therapy groups, which help people to develop stress management skills, parenting skills, anger management skills among others. These groups are time limited (Simon, 2000). Therapy groups, which have a, focus on a single issue, are usually open minded, or they may go for a specified duration. According to research, group therapy benefits people in many ways, which could not be addressed in individual psychotherapy. Despite these extra benefits, the studies also show that some individuals do not benefit much from the group therapies. In group therapy, one learns he or she is not alone in experiencing the psychological problems. It gives people chance to experiment with trying to relate to people in a different manner in a safe environment. Group therapy also allows one to learn from the experiences of other people who are faced with the same problems. This group helps one to understand how people who are different from oneself view the world and interact with people. This makes people feel anxious to participate in-group therapies because they might not have any other people who can understand their problem and due to the confidentiality that is encouraged in group therapies (Bevilacqua, 2001).
There are also survivor issues in group therapy. Survivors, for example, of sexual abuse often experience feelings of isolation. They also develop a feeling that they are exceptional in being subjected to trauma of abuse and other associated neglect. They also loss trust and develop loss of esteem. This makes the survivors have post trauma symptoms of depression and anxiety. This makes them have difficulty in maintaining a personal relationship. In such circumstances, group therapies, which bring the victims of psychological problems together in a structured, supportive and confidential group, help the victims normalize their experiences and post trauma experiences to their sources of psychological problems. Groups act as powerful therapeutic tools for people, who have psychological problems (Earley, 2000). The tasks of the group therapies gives an allowance for identification and understanding of post trauma symptoms, development of personal core self, socialization and provides a practice arena in which new emotions, thoughts and actions are tested. The influence of the peers’ group members who have the same kind of psychological problems helps the members to join around their common secrets and shame (Corey & Callanan, 2007).
The members of the group are helped to develop goals upon which they are supposed to focus as they work within the groups. This is a process, which is handled in a supportive and confidential manner. Each of the members is given a chance to write down all areas of his or her concerns. The notes written down are collected and then read without disclosure of the person who has written that note. This is process, which enable the members of the group to have open and free participation without disclosure of their personal experiences. This helps to avoid anxieties associated with direct, personal disclosure. In the discussion, process members are allowed to move towards a consensus of group goals. The tasks that are agreed and shared are necessary in the establishment of an agenda for the therapeutic work of the group. This allows the members of the group experience a sense of relief.
Group therapies also help the members to define their personal recovery goals and recurrent themes that encompass the stages that one passes in the healing process. The process of healing involves the development of self-esteem, power, trust and intimacy, which form the basis of the victim life. The group therapies also help the victims of psychological problems to have an experience of relationships that are reflective, validating and caring. The absence of caring relationships usually complicates how victims of psychological problems view themselves. This makes the problems of development of self-esteem and self worth to intensity (Fehr, 2003).
Understanding the dynamics of the problems that the groups members are experiencing helps the victims build confidence and self-care skills, which are necessary for recovery. It becomes difficult for a member of the group to develop a sense of positive feeling about himself or herself. The problems usually show the victims that they cannot control what happens in heir lives and show them that their life is worthless. Group therapies assist the members to rediscover their self worth and try to build a positive mentality bout their lives. Group therapies helps the members develop their self-esteem, independence and care. The feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are closely examined at the root and then the feelings are challenged during the process of group therapy. Group therapies take the victims through the appropriate developmental stages in order to rediscover their personal growth. The members are given trained on how to reach genuine understanding of their problems. Sharing of the problems among the members of the groups allow members to find identification with others as well as to have emotional release (Corey & Callanan, 2007). The disclosures assist in dispelling the feelings of shame about the experiences that the members have passed. Members of a therapy group are trained on how to take care of others more than themselves. The members are given a chance to learn how to take control of their own life, which is one of the major goals of group therapies. The therapist usually gives encouragement for the members to learn from each other and also to give feedback on what they learn.
During the group, testing the ways in which they can discover and experience boundaries in their personal are learned. Group members support and encourage changing of behaviors. They develop ways in which to remain safe while at the same time becoming more effective in relationships, which lead to letting, go of their past experiences. As the group members move, together through the process of healing trust is developed in the groups. The individual members learn that it is right to be self-caring. There is the definition of internal and external boundaries in the relationships. The most important thing about this is that members of the therapy group learn how to trust themselves and to trust their inner voices. Group therapies also help the members to discover and experience boundaries in their personal lives. These ways are shared and tested in-group settings during the group therapies. During the group therapies, the members are also encouraged to identify their needs for others. This acts as means towards recovering the self from the problems being experienced (Christner & Freeman, 2007).
Members are allowed through the group therapies to have a number of relationships in a more controlled, limited way, which enhances gentle exploration and self-expression. They are given opportunities of trying to try out new ways of life. The establishment of patterns of avoidance and non-confrontational patterns are challenged in the group therapies. Members feel encouraged to build some basic trust in themselves and in others. The learning and modeling group therapies allows the members of the therapy groups to learn from each other. The positive experiences allows for a generalization from the group to specific relationships and then from the specific relationships to the larger context.
Most of the times people who have psychological problems split into public and private selves. They learn to present an image designed to protect the true self fro m hurt and abandonment. This defense, which develops as a means of protection usually, becomes a barrier to closeness during the process of healing (Corey & Callanan, 2007). It becomes difficult to form an intimate relationship or emotional bond as a result of the barriers of the false self. The group therapy helps in the removal of this mask through which the survivors able to unveil some parts of themselves in a way that is honest while at the same time having their sense of safety. Therapists who undertake group therapies are familiar with dissociate disorders and defense mechanisms, which affect most people (DeLucia-Waack, 2004). The members of a group therapy learn how to develop the strategy of splitting their minds from their feelings. As a result of efficiency of dissociation, survivors often face hard time in the identification and in voicing their feelings. The strategy is important as most people who have psychological problems find it difficult to build a connection between thinking and feelings. This problem of lack of building connection which occurs can lead to crisis for the individual. It may lead to sadness, guilt, grief or disappointment.
Therapy groups offer a safe environment in which these intense feelings can be expressed without loss of security and love. The ability of other members of the therapy group to identify with and accept the intense emotions enhance the individual survivors’ experience. The expression of highly charged contents allows the group members to work through the cognitive and emotional elements of their lives by bringing together the minds and feelings facilities integration. As the healing process, continuous in the group therapy, the negative and strong emotions, become less threatening. There is the creation of a more moderate level after a period of intense, effective expression. The moderations of intense feelings allow the creation for greater intimacy and attachment with others (Rebraca, 2007). The task of the healing process is accomplished as members of the therapy groups gain control over their personal and emotional lives. This helps in the establishment of boundaries and also bonds in relation to the other people. Group therapies enhance the process of healing by providing a safe and supportive environment in which members at all stages of healing learn from each other and help each other.
However, group therapy is better that individual counseling when it comes to development of new behaviors that clearly communicates their needs and help in attainment of fulfillment in the reality. Group therapy puts more consideration on the key elements of what the group is looking for and what will lead to the improvement of their lives. The group therapy focuses on what the group members will do in order to attain their goals and objective as a group. They also focus on alternative options available in the improvement of their lives in order to come up with a common plan (Gabriel, 2007). The group therapy also gives the members of the group opportunities to learn with and to learn from other people. It also creates a way of to understand ones own patterns of behaviors and thoughts, and also those of other people. The groups also act as a chance of receiving genuine support, and useful alternatives from other members of the group.
Group therapies enable members to try and work and also to make improvement in attitudes and provide ways of coping with stress. The group also helps individuals with relationships concerns and general difficulties that an individual may be having in dealing with other people. Group therapy acts as a microcosm of an individual, interpersonal world. There are interpersonal difficulties, which emerge in the relationship with others in the group. Through group participation, one is able to understand how the interpersonal difficulties become a barrier in the establishment of closeness with others. Group therapy also acts as an interpersonal learning environment. Members of the group help each other in developing effective communication styles and healthy behavior (Bernard, 1994). More effective patterns of communication and of interacting with other s are learned. This makes group members receive more positive feedbacks from others in the group. These positive feedbacks enhance development of self-esteem. The group therapy also helps people who may have had painful and difficult experience before joining the group to become part of a community or a healthy family. The group provides an opportunity to experience positive and healing relationships. Group psychotherapy helps the group members to learn to handle relationships and on how to handle conflicts successfully. This enhances intimacy, closeness and commitment that exist among many people. It also gives an opportunity to learn about trusting peers and building community spirit (Rebraca, 2007).
However, there are issues that arise in group therapies that may lead the process becoming ineffective. One there may be insufficient group member movement and involvement. This is where during the process of group therapy, some members get less involved in the tasks that are supposed to be performed in the process. This makes the group progress slowly hence, it may fail to attain its objectives. Those members who do not attain standards of the group may also make some other members receive complete healing. The therapist may also fail to use creative techniques that are able to get and hold the attention of the group members. The therapist may make thee group not to attain the desired goals if he or she fails to understand the group members well. There is a need for the therapist to understand all the members of the group so that he is abler to employ techniques that will interest all the members of the group. By doing this, the group is able to attain its goals and the healing process of the members will be effective (Earley, 2000).
Some ethical issues are necessary in group therapy in order for the group to attain its objectives. One the leaders of the group should demonstrate honesty and respect. He or she is supposed to provide information about the group in the initial session. The information should include a clears statements which shows the mail goals of the group, ground rules, which needs to be followed, and should address issues of confidentiality, responsibilities and rights of the group members. It also involves putting clear information on the responsibilities of the group members, which include, regularity, punctuality, being open to talks about individual life experiences, giving feedback to others and maintaining confidentiality. Confidentiality is one of the key issues that should be considered in the group therapies. This issue should be explained by the therapist to all members and situations where confidentiality can be broken in certain cases should be explained in the initial session of group therapy (DeLucia-Waack, 2004).
Therefore, as can be seen from the paper there are various issues that arise in group therapies that are comparable to those of individual counseling. Group therapy and individual counseling aims at making people change their patterns of thought so that they have a positive look in their minds. So it becomes necessary for a therapist to understand the clients he or she is handling so that he can employ good therapeutic techniques in handling them. This also enhances the process of healing to group members or to the individual person.