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As the name suggests, group therapy includes a group of people sitting together with a therapist undergoing a psychotherapy session. In such sessions, people have similar problems that are addressed together as they interact with other participants. The session may be supervised by one or more counselors, psychiatrists or psychologists. It may have 6 to 10 participants depending upon the type of group. Let us understand more about group therapy and various ideas that increase the effectiveness of such mode of treatment.
Group Therapy
A human being is a social animal. He cannot live separately as a complete individual because he is dependent on others. Fulfillment of only the basic biological needs cannot make him happy. His most fundamental desire is to be loved. He is happy when he finds that he is important to someone else. Group life that involves love, affection, dynamic interaction, adjustment and sacrifice promotes healthy development of that individual.
What started as a cost-effective means of treatment was soon found to be very useful for the participants. The first benefit of group therapy is that the participants realize that they are not the only ones with the kind of troubles they have. Also while discussing their experiences, the participants provide solutions to each other’s problems. Such discussions involve a number of personal revelations on the part of the participants. Despite its benefits, many are skeptical about its effectiveness, as it is only the therapist who is legally bound to keep the information confidential which is shared by participants in group therapy sessions. Larger the group, greater the possibility of information of participants being leaked out.
Group therapy for children with emotional and behavioral problems may involve giving psychological rewards to children who helped other group members resolve their problems. Group setting provides the opportunity to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to test newly learned skills. Depression, aggressiveness, drug addiction, loss of loved ones, abandonment, anxiety, separation, financial crisis, loneliness, are some of the major problems that teenagers and adults may have to deal with. Percentage of sexual issues, divorce, domestic violence, self-esteem and trust issues is increasing day by day. Group therapy, which involves collaboration, trust and respect, works great for such problems.
Group Therapy Techniques
Group therapy sessions may be time limited, that is, there are a fixed number of sessions in which individuals meet together and end the session together. However, in case of continuous type of therapy, sessions may stretch on for years with members joining and leaving the group. Regardless of the type, there are ideas that should be carried out for the participants to know and develop trust in each other. Some of the important ideas that will help such sessions in a coordinated manner are:
Although people might want to benefit from group therapy sessions, each individual needs a proper introduction in the group. This is the first step and requires proper icebreakers. For this, the group could be divided into two parts. Five minutes should be given to all the groups together to collect as much information about the other member. Then one member from each group needs to introduce the other in as interesting or innovative way as possible (this could include a poem or a short play). Listening to one distorting information about the other team member could be a good group therapy icebreaker. Another idea is to give a piece of paper to each member assigning a particular animal to every member. Then blindfold every member and give the task to each one to find the other member who has been assigned the same animal type. Blindfolded members find their pair through the animal noises that each individual makes. Or let the members form a circle and let them pass a balloon or a ball. Play music and stop it after a few seconds. Ask the one with the ball in his hands to say something about himself, and then toss the ball on.
Trust Building
Once the members get to know each other the next step is to build trust among them. Although the aim of this idea is to help members build faith in others while they discuss their problems, this can be done through a number of group therapy exercises that may include fun games. This can be done by dividing the group into smaller groups of two members each. Let a member of another group volunteer to draw some object on board. Blindfold one member before the picture of the object is drawn. Then, let the other member of the group describe the object and the blindfolded member guess it. Another option is to create no access zones (say a minefield) within a small area outdoors. An individual has to guide his blindfolded partner through the no access zone holding his hand and using verbal cues.
Once people have got to know each other and the trust is built, it is time for the real therapy to begin. Now comes the group therapy ideas that would help members to share their problems with each other. Through the¬†group therapy activities¬†in this phase, participants get better insight into their problems and have a heightened sense of self-awareness. This could be done by each individual answering certain sociometric questions about themselves that has been prepared by the therapist. Another way is to write each one’s fear in a piece of paper. These pieces of paper should be collected and randomly picked up by participants. Each participant is then, required to read through the ‘fear’ written in the paper and present his own views about it. He may be asked to share his feelings if he was in the position described in the piece of paper and the solutions he might resort to. This helps in fostering better understanding along with developing empathy for each other.
Other than these logically sequenced group therapy techniques, such sessions can include group therapy games that may aim at knowing each other better or may be skillfully devised to let each member share his experiences and the therapist providing a treatment. Role playing or psychodrama is one of the other techniques and themes in which each member is supposed to act out a particular aspect of his life. This provides an opportunity for one to vent his emotions. Many times it also enables one to understand the viewpoint of the other person in his life which he (wrongly) assumes to be the cause of his problems. Group therapy helps change the attitudes of members. The therapy promotes the well-being of members. Members learn social skills through this therapy. They learn how to cope more
effectively with their personal worries, family matters or social problems. Adventurous activities like mountaineering and nature-based experiences like camping can be used to foster psychological healing and growth of teenagers.
The success of group therapy lies in the fact that group members are encouraged to share useful information with one another. The members argue and demand an explanation for another’s ideas. They gain courage to fight as they feel supported by others with similar problems. During the final sessions, group members themselves help (rather force) other members to improve. Whatever the ideas and themes used, the main aim is to address similar or common problems of a group of people. Although there are strong criticisms of this mode of treatment, the fact is that it is an economical way of treatment that has shown results in a number of individuals.