How Can I Get The Most Benefit From Group Therapy?

This page provides information on how to get the most from the time you spend in group therapy. Each individual will contribute and take away different things from a group therapy session, but there are some common things everyone should keep in mind in order to maximize the benefits.

How Can I Get The Most Benefit From Group Therapy?

  • Be yourself - Start from where you are, not how you think others want you to be. This might mean asking questions, expressing anger, or communicating confusion and hopelessness.
  • Recognize and respect your pace for getting involved in the group - Some group members will always be ready to disclose their thoughts and feelings; others need more time to gain feelings of trust and security. By respecting your needs you are learning self-acceptance. If you are having a difficult time with how to discuss your problems with the group, then ask the group to help you.
  • Take time for yourself - You have the right to take group time to talk about yourself. Many people feel that other’s issues are more important, while some have a difficult time facing feelings, or have fears of appearing weak. By recognizing what the reluctance means, you begin the growth process.
  • Focus on what is most important to you - Through talking about your concerns the group will help to recognize patterns. With time being limited it is important to try to focus on the main ideas, thoughts and feelings. Focusing on minute details is often a way to avoid dealing with the key issue.
  • Recognize and express reactions and feelings - Pay close attention to what you are feeling as you are sharing or others are sharing. If you are having difficulties recognizing and expressing your thoughts or feelings, ask the group to help.
  • Be aware of censored thoughts and feelings - Learning to express thoughts and feelings, without censorship, enables exploration and resolution of interpersonal conflicts and self-affirmation and assertion. Try and take the risk to let yourself be emotionally available to and vulnerable with others.
  • Give and receive feedback - Giving and receiving feedback can be a major component of your experience in group therapy. The purpose of feedback is to help others identify patterns, personal presentations, unrecognized attitudes, and inconsistencies. Feedback can be one of the most effective ways to deepen any relationship.
  • Tips for giving feedback
    • Feedback needs to be concrete and specific, brief but to the point, and representative of both your feelings and thoughts.
    • Be specific about what you’re responding to (particular remark, gesture).
    • Share both positive and negative feedback.
    • Give feedback as soon as possible.
  • Tips for receiving feedback
    • The best way to get feedback is to request it from specific individuals, those whose impression means the most to you. Find out from others in the group how they perceive you. What role do they see you taking on in the group? What are your blind spots?
    • Seek clarification from the member or verify with other members if the feedback you’ve received matches their perceptions as well.
    • Beware of becoming defensive, but if you feel yourself becoming defensive, it might be a good idea to share it.
  • Avoid giving advice - Sometimes we really want to offer advice to someone who is struggling, but often when we do, we fail to let that person feel heard. Most group members learn that giving advice, suggestions and solutions is seldom helpful. For advice-givers, it takes time to learn how to express personal reactions, communicate understanding, give support, and listen attentively.
  • Ask Questions - If you are wondering about or confused about something that has just been said or has just occurred in the group, then seek clarification from group members or group leaders. It’s likely others may have the same questions that you have.
  • Become aware of distancing behaviors - All of us have ways of behaving which prevent others from getting close to us. Some of these are remaining silent and uninvolved, telling long involved stories, responding to others with intellectual statements, asking content questions, making hostile or indirect comments, and talking only about external events. Keep in mind that distancing behaviors have had a purpose in the past. The question you will face is whether the behavior is preventing you from getting what you want - close relationships with people.
  • Try to be as direct as possible and be open to the responses of others - Telling a story is sometimes a way of being known, but it can also be a way of avoiding dialogue and intimacy. Aim for dialogue that fosters an understanding of your experiences rather than monologue.
  • Remember that how people talk is as important as what they say - Pay attention to the non-verbal behaviors in the group—yours and those of other members. Talk about what you notice.
  • Focus on the relationships you have with the group, other group members and the leader - Put a priority on noticing what is happening inside the group. What is going on that makes you feel closer or more distant towards others? Try and explore with the group what you notice.
  • Work outside the group - In order to get the most from the group experience, you will need to spend time between sessions thinking about yourself, trying out new behaviors, reflecting on what you are learning, reassessing your goals, and paying attention to your feelings and reactions.
  • Take risks - Experiment with different ways of behaving and expressing yourself. By taking risks, you can discover what works for you and what doesn't. This may mean expressing difficult feelings, sharing information you usually keep secret, or confronting someone about something upsetting you.

If You Relate To People ByIn Group, You Might Try
Complying, giving in, being self-effacing Saying "No"

Always talking; filling any silence with words because you feel uncomfortable

Being silent for a minute; getting in touch with uncomfortable feelings; talking about those feelings

Waiting for someone to say something, then reacting Initiating something yourself
Being polite; not showing anger or judgment Being judgmental and angry, frankly and outrageously
Expressing anger easily Checking to see what feelings are underneath the anger
Deflecting praise Accepting praise and agreeing enthusiastically with it
Feeling bored but being too polite to say anything about it Talking about your feelings of boredom
Being afraid and hiding your fear Being openly afraid; letting everyone know it
Trying to get everybody to approve of you Being what you are and not giving a damn what they think
Giving advice Reporting, "I feel like giving you advice", but not doing it
Always helping other people Asking for help, letting yourself be helped
Controlling your feelings and supressing them Experiencing your feelings and exploring them
Keeping things secret Disclosing something about yourself that is hard to say

Follow this link to download more information on How to Get the Most from USO Groups.

Content created by and used with the permission of Maria Aguirre, Ph.D.