What is group therapy?

Group therapy is very similar to a gym. In this gym (the group), we come to exercise how to experience emotions and cope with them in a healthy way. We also exercise interacting with other people, and we have the chance to observe and think about what happens in these interactions. It is an experience of interacting with others that allows us to understand our inner emotional and mental experiences, and to correct distorted representations of self (how I think about myself) and others (how I think about other people) and replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones. In other words, I learn in the interaction with others, to take care of my emotional needs in a healthy way.


Is group therapy effective and how does it work?

There is lot of research that shows that group psychotherapy is a very powerful psychotherapeutic intervention. Researchers have identified that some of the core factors that allow group psychotherapy to be such an incredibly powerful intervention are:

  • Universality: getting to know others that are struggling with similar issues.
  • Imparting information: learning about schemas and modes, ways to overcome them
  • Altruism: receive through giving: learning that you may have something valuable to offer to others. By getting out of morbid self-absorption and offering help, support, understanding, compassion, authenticity, insight, reassurance, acceptance, etc., you may also discover a new source of meaning in your life.
  • Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group: the great majority of people who enter the group have a background of a highly unsatisfactory experience in their first and most important group: the primary family. The therapy group resembles a family in many aspects and allows early familial conflicts to be relived in a corrective manner.
  • Development of socializing techniques: in other words, social learning, or the development of important basic social skills such as how to be helpfully responsive to others, conflict resolution, assertiveness, expressing and experiencing accurate empathy, effective communication, etc.
  • Imitative behaviour: this refers to the modelling of certain behaviours, for example, self-disclosure, support, assertiveness, healthy boundaries, etc. when performed by someone else; but it also refers to observing the therapy of someone else with similar problems and how the group helps that person with those problems.
  • Interpersonal learning: three concepts are crucial for this: understanding the importance and implications of interpersonal relationships; living and understanding the corrective emotional experience the group can offer; understanding the group as a social microcosm.
  • Group cohesiveness: experience the group as YOUR group, as a WE.
  • Catharsis: the open expression of intense affect plus some form of cognitive learning can be an extremely liberating experience.
  • Existential factors: everyone in the group shares the 4 existential givens: death, responsibility, existential loneliness, and meaning.

Is group therapy for me?

It depends on what are you struggling with, what your personals and interpersonal goals are and how much you are willing to commit to achieve these goals. Let’s be clear, this is not an easy therapy. And you can easily find thousands of reasons not to do it. Like you can find thousands of reasons not to go to the gym…right? So, it just depends on what it is that you want to change in your life and how much effort you are willing to make to achieve this. Discuss carefully with your therapist why group therapy may be adequate for your goals and assess conscientiously if you are willing and can make the commitment that it requires. Once you have committed to the group, allow yourself to experience the group for at least 3 months, to have the chance to overcome the usual initial difficulties in adapting to a new group. If after this time, and after having talked about it with the rest of the group members you are totally convinced this is not for you, together with the group you can make a well-informed decision of whether to continue in the group or look for something else.

What can I expect from the group?

1. The group is there for you and is your group: No matter what, you know that every week there is this group of people to which you become an important part of. They are there for you and you are there for them. There is belonging. The group becomes your place.

2. Safety: the group offers you a safe space to speak up your mind. The group will encourage you to do that and will help you when you find it difficult. Everything that happens in the group remains in the group.

3. The opportunity to explore: the group offers you the possibility to explore many things about yourself and others. For example you may have certain ideas about how others see you and think about you, or if it is “right or wrong” to feel certain emotions or think certain things, whether the way you communicate your needs and react to the needs of others are helpful or not, if the way you behave is effective in satisfying your emotional needs and build up deeper relationships or if, on the contrary, it actually leaves your emotional needs unfulfilled and that you push people away.

4. Repair and deepen relationships: In all types of relationship there will be conflict. Avoiding conflict is most of the times detrimental. The group will offer you the opportunity to learn that conflict is healthy if handled properly and it is an important tool to deeper relationships.

5. Support in developing important interpersonal skills: There are many interpersonal skills you can learn from the group. Think for example of being assertive instead of passive or aggressive, or learning how to manage interpersonal conflict in a healthy way. The list of interpersonal skills is long, maybe you already have in mind some you would like to improve, maybe you will discover that you are already 

Group Contract

1. Commitment: This means mainly that you need to be present, physically, and mentally in every session.

2. Punctuality: The group starts on time and ends on time. Coming in after the door is closed and the group has started can be very disruptive for the session dynamics, and you may also miss important aspects of it. Therefore, the group expects you to be there on time and leave the room only after the session has finished.

3. Confidentiality: What happens in the group remains in the group.

4. Self-disclosure: The group will only function if each member tries to share their inner experience with the rest of the members, what they are thinking and/or feeling. The group expects you to speak your mind. You cannot come to the group and not say anything; this constitutes sabotaging your own treatment and affects the treatment of the rest of the members of the group. So, once you have agreed to take part of the group, you commit yourself to sharing your inner world with the group. If for some reason during a session you don’t feel like sharing, then you will have to work with the group to explore why this is happening and how the group can help you to overcome this difficulty.

Practical information

The psychotherapy group is organised by Apanta-GGZ, location Eindhoven. The group is being supervised by 2 psychologists and is organised on a weekly basis with meetings of 1 ½ hour. It is an ongoing group to which clients commit themselves for a minimum of ½ year with a possible extension to one year.

More information and registration

If you are interested in the group, please discuss this with your therapist. Your therapist can register you for this group therapy For practical information please contact us on : groepen@verwijder-dit.apanta-ggz.nl

Read more information about Apanta (in English) on our International-page. 

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