Introducing Group Therapy I

Group of 5 people sharing and smiling

Educational and Skills Therapy Groups

The first time I entered a group therapy room as a participant, I felt a strong feeling of anxiety. My palms immediately began to sweat, my stomach did somersaults, and my mind raced. Why, I asked myself, am I so nervous?

I had been in groups throughout my life, from family to classes, teams, clubs, workshops, and meetings of all sorts. I know myself to thrive on new and novel things.

Why did this thing called “group therapy” feel so uniquely activating?

Group Therapy Introduction

There are many types of groups in our society. You have undoubtedly participated in numerous groups in your life. Perhaps you have been in or know of 12-Step groups, support groups, peer-run community groups, faith-based churches or groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, groups for new parents, support groups, mindfulness or meditation groups, etc. Groups that meet around a shared hobby, interest, or activity also come to mind, as do families, groups of coworkers, student peers, and wider social and cultural groups that link us together in shared identities or experiences.

Group therapy is a form of therapy that acts as a mirror and an experimental practice ground for the groups and relationships we encounter in our lives. Group therapy is when three or more people gather at the same time in an effort towards personal development in the presence of a counselor or therapist. While there are likely as many types of groups as there are therapists, many groups can fall into one of three major categories of groups: educational/skills groups, support groups, or process groups. This article is part of a three-part series serving as an introduction to some core elements of groups generally, and providing information on these three categories of groups, starting with educational and skills groups.

Educational & Skills Group

Educational groups focus on teaching new, practical, and relevant information based on the topic or theme of the group.

Therapists run a wide range of educational groups. Examples include diagnosis-based psychoeducational groups about anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health diagnoses. Educational groups may be for individuals, partners and family members of people affected by mental illness or addiction, abuse or trauma, health problems such as diabetes, cognitive disease, or other medical conditions and more. Educational groups may focus on phase of life issues such as pregnancy, birth, parenting, care for elders/aging parents, or bereavement. The focus of educational groups is on increasing knowledge and preparing people with needed information for particular changes or challenges in their lives.

Educational groups may be most helpful for people that are facing a diagnosis, life event, or new obstacle in their lives and could benefit from increased understanding of their new context and from connections to others facing similar circumstances.

What is the benefit of learning this information in a therapy group rather than reading a book or consulting with an expert individually?

Educational groups offer a few unique advantages:

  • an opportunity to learn alongside others who are absorbing the same information, asking questions you may be afraid to ask or not think to ask, and sharing in the learning process in a way that can help new knowledge and understanding stick.
  • a way to meet others who share your struggle or a related struggle, and can also decrease the isolation or shame of facing this new challenge.
  • a way to be of help to others in supporting their learning with your questions or by learning to explain the material in your own words.

Skills groups are also an increasingly popular form of group therapy. Here, people have an opportunity to learn skills such as mindfulness, conflict resolution, parenting, life skills, social skills, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills, and other sorts of skills that can be applied to increase effectiveness and satisfaction in life and relationships. Skills groups are most helpful when you can either identify an area in your life where you could benefit from increasing your skills or when working with a therapist or counselor who can suggest skills groups that may be most helpful for your unique situation.

Learning new skills in a therapeutic group has numerous benefits:

  • Accountability. Learning with others can provide an opportunity to both practice new skills and to check in with peers about how practice or implementation of new skills is going.
  • Increased understanding. Similar to educational groups, learning a skill with others allows you to benefit from witnessing their learning process, hearing their questions, and getting support from peers when facing challenges while using new skills.
  • Support others and yourself. Being in a skills group can also offer you the opportunity to learn by teaching and supporting others with the same skill, providing an opportunity to be of help to others.

A well-run, engaging, and relevant educational or skills group provides a wonderful opportunity to deeply engage with and internalize the information or skills you are seeking. It is a particular irony that at a time when there is more information than ever available to people via the Internet, we sometimes struggle to actually learn the information or skills that may be most helpful to us. The availability of information is not the same as the absorption and application. Educational and Skills therapy groups offer a way to absorb and apply what one learns, with a dedicated time, space, community of peers, and the dedicated attention of a counselor or therapist to support you in the process.

If you are interested in finding an educational or skills group to suit your needs, Soul Centric Collective is here to help you find the group offering that is just right for you. Click here to connect with our directory, which has your needs in mind.

The next blog will explore a second broad category of group therapy: support groups.

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