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Misconceptions About Group Therapy

A General Misconception

Some people believe that group therapy is cheap therapy and is not as effective as individual counseling because they must share time with others. The truth is that group has been proven to be just as effective as individual therapy for some issues, and is the most effective treatment for other issues. Group [therapy] offers something which individual therapy cannot – other people with whom you are in a relationship, and a safe place to examine your patterns within that relationship.

Procedural Misconceptions and [Unfounded] Fears

The fear of having to reveal yourself to other people. You are expected to reveal some things about yourself but you are also expected to do this at your own rate. People have different rates of developing trust and may reveal information about themselves when they are ready. Consider your group as a forum for risk-taking, when you trust the group enough try new types of behavior.

The fear of having to confess shameful behavior.You may, as trust is developed, choose to reveal intimate aspects of yourself; but group [therapy] is not a forced confessional.

The fear of being criticized or made fun of.This is highly unlikely in an established group. However if this were to happen the therapist is there to help you learn how to resolve it with the offending person.

The fear of being made sicker by other group member's problems or illness. Sometimes expressed as, "How can the blind lead the blind?" Quite simply, this is projecting one's own self-contempt onto others. It has no basis in reality. Further, it is common for members to learn from others' experiences and issues as they arise in the group.

The fear that what is said will be gossiped about to others outside the group, or that members will discuss you behind your back.The group has a clear rule about confidentiality: What is said in the group remains in the group. You can share your own experiences in the group to anyone you wish, but you may not share anything about another's experience or issues. Nothing about another member may be revealed to anyone, not even their names. Furthermore, if members discuss another member when s/he is not present they are encouraged to share their discussion in the very next meeting that the absent member attends.

Perceived goal incompatibility: the group goal vs. the individual member's goal (usually related to the relief of personal suffering). Each group member manifests their problems differently but each has a basic difficulty in common: the establishment and maintenance of close and gratifying relationships.

For instance at some point in the past, many of us have wanted to clarify a difficult relationship. We may have been really honest about both our positive and negative feelings with that person and we may have wanted to receive honest feedback in return. However, the general structure of our society does not generally allow totally open communication between people. When we try feelings are hurt, relationships are fractured, misunderstandings arise, and eventually communication ceases. Most of us wish to learn how to address relationship problems in a constructive way so that the relationship can get better instead of worse. This is one of the primary functions of group [therapy] .

Group [therapy] is a social laboratory in which honest interpersonal exploration is not only allowed but is actively encouraged. It is a unique opportunity to learn valuable things about oneself. Working on relationships directly with other members is not an easy task and it creates increased stress. However, it is crucial to persist. If members can understand and work out relationship issues with other members it carries over outside the group and helps build satisfying relationships.

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