Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy meant for a small group of people, who meet, interact, and solve their common problems, guided by a qualified therapist. The therapist uses many group therapy exercises to achieve positive results.
The concept of group therapy was developed in the first half of the twentieth century, as a form of psychotherapy in the United States of America by Joseph H. Pratt, Paul Schilder and Trigant Burrow. Since then, this form of therapy has undergone many changes to encompass diverse groups of people and their problems. Healing together as a family or a community is an old concept. This concept has been derived from problem-solving approach used in homes, and put forth with a clinical approach to help people collectively solve their problems, despite being unrelated to each other.
The therapy is based on the premise of helping people emotionally and psychologically to deal with personal problems, utilizing the collective power of the group and with assistance of a therapist who leads the entire process. Exercise techniques and duration are determined by group needs, and are mostly decided by the therapist in coordination with the family of the individuals in the group. Most therapists develop their own exercises, however, the ones listed below are some of the generic activities usually followed in most group therapy sessions.
In a group therapy session, participants are mostly strangers, who need to get comfortable with each other in order to help each other emotionally. This is essential because a session dealing with an emotional feeling, comes with a rider of shame, guilt and fear. If these issues have to be dealt, the feeling of being surrounded by strangers needs to diminished. Icebreakers do just that; break the ice and reduce the level of formality among people in the group.
Simple games like passing the parcel, musical chair, or even sharing jokes and a few light moments usually does the trick.
Need for Therapy
Here the role of the therapist is predominant. While most individuals know why they are a part of the session, a vocal acknowledgment always helps, whether dealing with addiction or depression. As this exercise is about focusing on the key problems, many individuals within the group start suggesting tips for understanding the situation and overcoming it. These ideas should be encouraged, as it is a sign of people coming forward to help each other.
Educating the group about the approach of tackling issues can be done through a lecture, interactive session, or through leaflets.
Trust and Support Building
This is important, as most people in the group deal with problems like addiction, depression, health issues, etc., and trusting anyone does not come naturally under such circumstances. These sessions help the group by encouraging them to keep trying to accomplish the task, by being supportive of each other. This affirms trust, support, and unity within the group.
For this exercise, mostly pairs or a team of four are made, with one or two people blindfolded. The blindfolded person’s hand is held by the seeing partner, and they perform activities such as crossing the street or some pre-placed hurdles, etc. To build support in a team of three or four, one person is blindfolded, another’s arm is tied back, and one plays mute. They are given simple tasks as cooking up a salad, planting a few saplings, or even shopping.
Confessions and Acceptance
People in the group are asked to open up by confessing and accepting their problems. As every person in the group is struggling with the same problem, these stories of struggle and disappointment become a part of their journey towards better mental health. This activity is carried out either by talking directly to all, or just reading out an earlier written confession. Some counselors also invite families of individuals or sponsors to celebrate victories of each individual in the group.
Group therapy exercises have helped many to overcome a difficult phase in their lives. Many organizations, such as alcoholics anonymous, weight watchers, abuse victims, etc., work towards building a better and stronger community where the power of collective approach definitely helps.