Individual therapy is when you meet with a therapist one on one. The sessions typically last between 45-60 minutes and can take place 1-3 times a week initially and then decrease as the crisis subsides. The session time is spend exploring what brought you into therapy. Individual therapy is often more intense and in depth than group therapy. In individual therapy you have the therapist undivided attention for the entire session and it is your opportunity to work on what brought you in.
It is imperative that you remain open and honest with yourself and your therapist. Discovering things we don’t like about ourselves or remembering unpleasant events is never easy but if you truly wish to make progress toward your goals and break out of those old patterns than honesty is the best policy. Remember that you are in control! This is your treatment. If you are not ready to address something it is okay. If is better to say “I’m not ready” then to be dishonest.
Always talk with your therapist about what is the right therapy for you before starting treatment.
You may be wondering if couples therapy is right for you. Why would you want to engage in relationship therapy instead of individual therapy? Therapists help partners by supporting the goals set by the couple and help each partner to communicate his or her needs, thoughts, and emotions more clearly and to listen to the other partner more carefully. This is not about blaming or shaming each other but rather working through a problem in an open, honest way.
Participation in relationship therapy will give you skills to use throughout your relationship and strengthen the bond that you share. Each couple enters therapy for a different reason. For this type of therapy to be successful each partner must be willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution. Most relationship problems are manageable, but when concerns are left unaddressed, tension mounts, distance between partners gets wider, resentments develop, and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.
What is group therapy?
Group therapy is led by a qualified therapist who focuses on a specific treatment issue. For example, an individual might want to address substance addiction and he or she attends a group specifically for people who are dealing with this issue. Group treatment is designed to be short term usually lasting between 8-12 weeks. Depending on the type of group you have selected, in consultation with your therapist groups can meet anywhere from 1-5 days a week and can last anywhere between 1-3 hours. Group sizes vary but on average participants range from 10-15.
Each session is structured by the individual therapist but typically includes a topic relating to the type of group, group discussion and collaboration, and a focus on using the new skills. Some therapists will give a structured homework assignment designed to further the understanding of the activity or group topic. Each group member is encouraged to share however not everyone is ready right away. There is no rule stating that you must share or tell the group everything during your first session or even your 10th. You decide when and if the time is right to share. This often makes group therapy the ideal therapy as you can listen and learn from others even if you are still uneasy about sharing with people you don’t know.
Group therapy is a place where you can find help and support not only from the therapist but from other group members. One of the most common complaints of people seeking therapy is they feel alone and no one else is experiencing what they are experiencing. In a group setting, you will likely find several people who have had similar experiences and understand. Often times, your peers have solutions you haven’t thought of or can just be there as a support and someone who knows what you are experiencing.
Another common question about group therapy is “can’t I just go to a support group”. The answer is that you could. Support groups are different. They are designed to offer support but not to make cognitive or emotional changes. There is a focus on supporting individuals through a crisis or ongoing problem and allowing them to share their feelings. This is valuable and for some a lifeline but it is not therapy. Therapy is used to breakdown negative patterns that continues to engage in negative behavior such as substance use, self harm, criminal behavior, co-dependency, etc.
The Principles of Group Therapy
In The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin D. Yalom outlines the key therapeutic principles that have been derived from self-reports from individuals who have been involved in the group therapy process:
1. The instillation of hope: The group contains members at different stages of the treatment process. Seeing people who are coping or recovering gives hope to those at the beginning of the process.
2. Universality: Being part of a group of people who have the same experiences helps people see that what they are going through is universal and that they are not alone.
3. Imparting information: Group members can help each other by sharing information.
4. Altruism: Group members can share their strengths and help others in the group, which can boost self-esteemand confidence.
5. The corrective recapitulation of the primary family group: The therapy groupis much like a family in some ways. Within the group, each member can explore how childhood experiences contributed to personality and behaviors. They can also learn to avoid behaviors that are destructive or unhelpful in real life.
6. Development of socialization techniques: The group setting is a great place to practice new behaviors. The setting is safe and supportive, allowing group members to experiment without the fear of failure.
7. Imitative behavior: Individuals can model the behavior of other members of the group or observe and imitate the behavior of the therapist.
8. Interpersonal learning: By interacting with other people and receiving feedback from the group and the therapist, members of the group can gain a greater understanding of themselves.
9. Group cohesiveness: Because the group is united in a common goal, members gain a sense of belonging and acceptance.
10. Catharsis: Sharing feelings and experiences with a group of people can help relieve pain, guilt, or stress.
11. Existential factors: While working within a group offers support and guidance, group therapy helps member realize that they are responsible for their own lives, actions, and choices.