The Power of Group: Interpersonal Process Groups as a Treatment of Choice
What are Interpersonal Process Groups? Interpersonal process groups provide a powerful opportunity to learn more about ourselves and other people in a safe and supportive environment. The group serves as a microcosm, such that members’ interpersonal issues are reflected in interactions between group members. Thus, addressing member-to-member interactions will also benefit the members’ relational problems outside of group. In particular, members have opportunities to receive direct, honest, and respectful feedback from each other and the group facilitator, and they can experiment with different ways of interacting with people. Through exploration and feedback, members can gain greater insight into how and why they react the way they do in interpersonal situations. Also, by learning to become more open and emotionally expressive, group members can learn to connect with others in a more authentic way.
Process groups have a unstructured format and involve collaborative effort from the group facilitator and members. Members are encouraged to share their issues, feelings, thoughts, and reactions as openly as possible with the group. By sharing their feelings and experiences, members are able to relate to one another which helps them to feel connected, validated, supported, and understood.
Is Group Therapy as Effective as Individual Therapy? Some may be concerned that group therapy is not as effective as individual therapy because they receive less one-on-one attention from the therapist. However, research indicates that group therapy is as effective and sometimes even more effective than individual therapy (Paturel, 2012). In fact, it may be considered the treatment of choice for concerns such as interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, loneliness, grief, low self-esteem, and trauma. For example, since individual therapy relies on clients’ self-report, group therapy can be more effective in addressing interpersonal issues because problematic interpersonal behavior can unfold during group and be addressed in real time. Moreover, participants of group therapy are likely to feel less isolated and more optimistic because they will have an opportunity to receive support, acceptance, and validation from multiple people who can relate to them.
Unlike individual therapy in which the primary benefits are derived from the client’s interaction with the therapist, group members benefit from interactions with each other. As such, growth and change comes from members sharing their experiences and learning how they affect one another. The role of the group facilitator is to create a safe and supportive environment in which the members can share their feelings and experiences, experiment with new ways of interacting with others, reflect and process their experiences in the group, and learn from such experiences. Also, group members contribute and benefit from being in the group by talking as well as listening.
Common Concerns about Group Therapy It is not uncommon and quite natural for new members to feel apprehensive about joining a group. They may feel anxious about other people’s opinions of them or have concerns about not fitting in with the group. However, these are great reasons to join, and members are encouraged to share these concerns with the group because they will most likely find that others can relate to these feelings. Moreover, good candidates for group therapy have difficulties in their relationships with peers, friends, family members, and/or romantic partners so it is understandable that they may have difficulties trusting groups. Over time, as members share more of their experiences with each other, they feel more connected with the group and trust develops.
Some members may have concerns about having enough time to discuss their issues in a group format or others may be concerned that they will be forced to talk. Alternatively, group members with low self-esteem may have concerns that they do not have anything valuable to contribute. Such members would also be encouraged to share these concerns with the group, and they may ask the group to help them to bring up issues to discuss. Importantly, members are in control of information they choose to disclose to the group and they may proceed at their own pace.
Why Choose Group Therapy? Group therapy is a excellent tool for personal growth, deepening self-awareness, and learning to develop more meaningful and fulfilling relationships. It allows members to gain greater insight and make significant changes in order to improve their quality of life. It is a great way to improve interpersonal skills such as communication, emotional expression, dealing with conflict, intimacy, trust, and assertiveness. The group provides an environment where members can feel supported, learn more effective ways to address their issues, and they may realize that they are “not alone.” Lastly, group therapy is a more affordable option to individual therapy.
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