Forever Growing: Group Work as A Healing Support

As a university professor that teaches graduate level group therapy courses for counselors in training, I explicitly know how important group therapy is as an adjunct for individual healing and growth.

It’s theoretically obvious how powerful and life-changing therapeutic groups can be for those who are ready to take their growth to the next level as I see both my students and clients that I work with, grow as they face the dynamics that come up in group work .

I know this professionally, but most importantly, I know this on a personal level as well.

For as long back as I can remember, I’ve participated in a group of some kind or another. Although in the beginning, I found it excruciating to join a group and be present, over time, I find myself *missing* the group whenever it’s on hiatus.

I have grown to know group work as such an integral part of my growth process that I can even feel it’s absence when we’re not meeting.

This past year, during COVID, it was difficult because everything was virtual, and so the in-person contact that I had gotten used to had to change. I was pleasantly surprised, though, at how much I did get out of the virtual groups that we ran instead.

In some cases, I found myself able to open up with certain issues that I may not have broached had we been in person. I was excited to learn this about myself, as being able to attend group therapy virtually, opens up a whole range of possibilities for more support.

Although there are many, many wonderful benefits that participating in a therapeutic group offers, here are five powerful reasons why you should join a therapeutic group:

  1. Groups provide support and connection. Hearing from others who have similar issues helps you realize (as an experience, not just cognitively) that you’re not alone. Sometimes this sense of connection alone brings great relief. How many times have you thought that you were the “only one” feeling like this? Groups provide an immediate and safe community of peers. In groups, you have an opportunity to expand your support network and stay connected in an ongoing way with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Groups not only help you ease the sense of isolation you might be feeling in your life, they also give you the opportunity to re-experience belonging to a “family” group in which you are valued for your unique experiences, perspective and self.

2. Groups provide an immediate sounding board. Groups provide immediate feedback in a safe and supportive environment. Talk about immediate. Sometimes, this is the most helpful way to draw attention to the unconscious ways we navigate our world. When it’s just us offering ourselves feedback, we miss a lot. Being a part of a group in which we are regarded as important in order for the group to function, you are given the opportunity to grow immediately. Group work is a powerful way to learn about yourself. Therapy groups are immediate mirrors for you about your energy as well as your impact in the world and on other people. Groups help you become immediately aware of places where you might be unconscious or have blind spots. Growth comes FAST!

3. Groups provide an opportunity to learn modeling and helpful imitative behaviors. Through watching and listening to others grow and process their lives, groups often provide you with immediate learning examples for some of your greatest struggles. How many of you read stories and learn from the characters? Only drawback to this is that it’s often fiction, which isn’t real. Group therapy is real. It’s a real-time, in the moment experience that can be profoundly moving.

4. Groups can help you move forward in your life, especially if you’re feeling stuck. Hearing how others have worked through similar struggles as well as how they create and develop support in their life can often stimulate growth in your own individual therapy and life. On top of all this, you have a built-in group of cheerleaders who not only understand why you need to do what you need to do, but also root for you to get what you want.

5. Group therapy enhances individual therapy. Some people believe that because it’s a “group setting” and the focus is not on the individual, that group work is not as powerful as individual therapy. Or because group therapy can cost less than individual therapy, many people believe it is not as effective as individual work, that they won’t get as much out of their group work as they would in individual therapy. Neither of these beliefs are true about therapeutic group work. Group therapy, in and of itself, is an incredibly powerful growth experience in its own right. You have to experience this to fully understand just how powerful and life-changing this experience can be.

Having run therapeutic groups now for a while, I want to say how excited I am at all the wonderful feedback I have been getting from the folks who participate in these therapy groups and classes. Whether you’re new to the world of therapy or a seasoned veteran, group work will absolutely impact you in a profound way. I guarantee it.

Because therapy groups are so powerful, I have created a therapeutic group program for you. There are a variety of choices you can choose from, ranging from intensively therapeutic to “just getting started” therapeutic. I keep my groups intentionally small, in order to create an emotionally safe environment in which we can get to know each other in really safe and intimate kinds of ways.

I think that one of the most powerful things about group work is that they are safe ways for people new to the world of therapy, to dip their toes into the water and see what it’s all about. Although it might feel intimidating to even consider joining a group of people and sharing about your feelings, groups allow the focus to be spread around so that the therapist is not always focused on you. For some people, this might be a useful way to begin their own therapeutic process.

Whatever your experiences are, I believe that therapeutic group work is an invaluable tool and resource for emotional growth and healing. If you’re interested in learning more about the group programs that I offer, you can check them out here.

And if you’re one of those people who just knows that group work is not for you, so be it. I trust you to know what’s best for you at any given moment in time.

Either way, I wish you all the best in your process and in your life.

XO Kate