22 Mar The Power of Groups: Changing Your Life Through Process
Recently, I heard this statement during a group process, “I grew up in group.” A client talked about her transformation during a group process, starting in a place of anger and resentment to a place of release and search for passion. Prior to entering group this client talked about being highly reactive to others and after a few months of group process, she felt she was able to communicate with others in an effective manner. The group can act as a collective conscious when you’re unable to see the truths about your behavior.
Group creates a more efficient and effective change than other treatment modalities. Clients who attend group and individual therapy tend to achieve their goals much faster than clients who are in individual therapy alone. I think group clients change faster because they are often able to release shame and other negative emotions head-on. Members of group are able to see they are not alone and they develop skills to manage, tolerate and reduce intense emotions.
Group helps you see yourself from an external point-of-view. You often live in your own thoughts and perceptions. This view is shaped from your personal experiences and history from a subjective lens, often causing you to see the world from a distorted place. You may not want to admit to yourself you can see the world in distortion. It’s true…we all can.
We are social beings and in the face of others we can change in a profound way. You are able to be validated, and heard from others, no longer feeling alone. You’re able to see, you are not the only one that thinks the thoughts you’ve had. There is a collective consciousness that is universal. You aren’t as unique or different as you might have thought. When connecting with others in a group setting you no longer experience isolation and depression. You see you’re not alone.
You have the ability to develop skills to manage anxiety by being exposed to others. The best method to learn how to manage and tolerate anxiety is by being exposed to experiences that make you anxious. You are able to practice skills to manage these emotions within a safe environment. Exposure to a group process will allow you to master skills to manage anxiety when exposed to real world experiences.
You get to see how you affect others. Seeing how you impact others through your actions and words. You may want to experience positive outcomes that you don’t seem to get on your own. Group allows you to develop and practice skills to get the results you want. You will learn methods to modify and “round the edges,” without coming across as offensive or defensive.
Group is a spiritual experience. You develop skills to let go and trust the group process, which is something bigger than yourself, the group collective. It feels good not to be alone. To be a part of something. Something that will bring great change to your life.
How does group work?
What is the behavior you wish to change? This is a question often asked in the first assessment. You will change, but what type of change do you want? I think it’s important to develop a vision of what you want your life to look like after group.
After group members have been carefully screened and informed about the group process, they are given guidelines and agreements to participate in the group process. Group has boundaries that are set by the group facilitator and agreed upon by it’s members. Some of these guidelines include confidentiality, to create a safe place to have freedom and playfulness in the group process. This allows the group to have boundaries in order to be playful. Guidelines include other important ways to interact with others, such as putting feelings into words.
Once group members are presented with the guidelines and agreed to them. He or she will enter group and begin to develop rapport. Group members seek to find similarities and evaluate their place in group. You’re encouraged to practice being aware of your internal experience when faced with others. Do you get annoyed easily? Do you feel overwhelmed with anxiety? Do you feel withdrawn from others? You begin to become aware of why you do what you do and you are able to learn ways to manage uncomfortable feelings. You will begin to identify triggers and develop skills to get the outcome you’re looking for.
Group members identify and share goals with one another. This is helpful because group members will assist each other with achieving these goals and allowing practice to occur in the group process. Group members hold each other accountable and encourage each other.
Some examples of goals can be:
– Learn to stay mindful and attentive during communication, versus spending time in thought when interacting with others (letting go of worry thoughts).
– Learn how to navigate conflict in a healthy way by disagreeing with someone without avoiding or exploding.
– Understand why you have certain reactions and develop skills to manage the feelings that come up.
– Learn to be vulnerable with others increasing intimacy and closeness.
– Work through grief and loss.
– Develop skills to trust others and overcome betrayal.
– Develop skills to set boundaries and be authentic with others.
– Learn healthy ways to communicate emotions without sexualizing or acting them out.
– Learn how to be yourself and not completely rely on “other esteem” to feel a since of value or worth.