Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Group of Questions - Starting with Group Therapy

I guess you could say that I challenged Kahless in the blog Triggers to come up with some more questions for me. And, thankfully, she stepped right up to the plate and sent me a bunch that should keep me blogging for a few posts anyway. I say that kind of tongue in cheek because this first question is easily a post all by itself.

Q: Differences / advantages between group and individual therapy – basically most people do individual, what’s to be had from group?

A: I'm not sure what the professionals would say about this question. I guess to start off it would be that there are situations where group therapy probably would not be appropriate. However, I'm not really sure what those might be. I can see why someone who has little trust might be a good candidate to start individual treatment solely for the purpose of trust building and then move into the group therapy situation or why someone might start in individual to be evaluated for placement in a group.

I think that more people participate in individual therapy because they are worried about what other people might think of them. Victims particularly are ashamed of themselves for some reason or another. The thought of sharing that information with another is terrifying, let alone sharing it with a group of people.

That reason right there is enough for me to think that group therapy is a really good thing. Group helps victims to realize that the world does not see them the way that they see themselves. It opens the door to the possibility that being a victim maybe isn't the victim's fault. I know we all know that in our head but we manage to hang onto this thought that somehow we are different. In the group environment we get the opportunity to see other's we can relate to. Then the difference in that gap between others and ourselves gradually diminishes.

I think the whole concept of group therapy is about having built in support for the issues one might be dealing with. Most victims feel alone and that they don't belong, participating in a group therapy situation gives them a vehicle to challenge those perceptions. I don't think a victim can belong to a group for any length of time and not begin to feel connected in some way. Group therapy is the first place in my life I remember ever feeling like I belonged.

I think part of the reason group works in this manner: it is much harder to discount acceptance by a group of people than it is by one. It is easy for a victim to discount support from a therapist by saying that's what I pay them for. But support from other survivors is not paid for in any way. It is volunteered and really doesn't come with strings attached.

Groups also can make it easier to identify what issues are. While individuals might not even know what they think or feel, being able to see other's reactions to similar abuses gives them a starting point of what to expect their own reactions might be even though buried deeply inside.

I've also seen that work by individual within a group can help identify another individuals issues also. Sometimes body language exhibited by one participant while another is sharing can be a good mirror into what goes on beneath the surface. Triggers also help in this regard. Sooner or later those participating in a group therapy situation find themselves beginning to feel even what has been stuffed down deeply and effectively for years.

I think another advantage of group therapy is being able to have several different people's reaction to our abuse. Many times victims tend to minimize what has happened to them, thinking it's not that bad or it didn't really cause them any problems.

However, in the group therapy setting usually other victims collectively will be appalled at what has happened to us, even when they may not be able to see the issues of their own abuse. That challenge to perspective is most helpful for victims to begin to see that maybe a reaction to what happened is appropriate. Then we can begin to see things differently and view situations as the abuse they really are.

An example of this would be the situation I've always remembered from my childhood that I thought was normal behavior. That was my mother tying and gagging small children as punishment. The gagging was done specifically to teach a child not to cry. Those in my group were ready to lynch my mother when the heard those stories. I had never even realized that this behavior was NOT normal, let alone that someone could go to jail for such behavior.

I was shocked at the reaction of people in my group. I even looked to the therapist to see if their reaction was appropriate. I had no clue that that was abuse. Let along that it was probably the cause of my beginning to dissociate.

I also think that group therapy helps with that lack of trust in the world that is seen is so many victims. Because of our past, we just expect the world is going to be against us.We tend to believe that no one can be trusted. The support of a group who start off to be strangers, sometimes from very different backgrounds, challenges that thought process.

Another dynamic of victimization is believing that we really don't have control in our lives. Hand in hand with that goes the belief that we don't have choices. Group settings are a good place to deal with those concepts and to problem solve possible solutions and choices.

I'm sure that there are many other advantages to group therapy that I have not thought of. Off the top of my head, these were the most obvious to me. I believe that without group therapy I probably would have spent a lot longer in therapy than I did. Even though the experience did not end well for me (see Lunch and a Movie), I still believe that it was an important part of my healing.

Part 2


Enola said...

I'm not doing group therapy but am doing some joint sessions with my husband and his counselor (and me and mine). I talked about my mom getting rid of all my stuff and putting my dogs to sleep. Just said it off the cuff. Like you I didn't see it as a big deal or abuse. Dh's T was horrified and said, "your mom did WHAT?" It threw me. My T said that it is good for me to see someone, especially a male, react like this.

Kahless said...

Thank-you for your thoughts and perspective. Kind of confirmed some stuff I suspected. Obviously both have their place and merits and demerits.
I have considered trying a group but I am not sure there is one in my area. For me I can keep relatively balanced in solitude. It is my interaction with people that can really throw me. So I think a group would throw up triggers for me. Also I am learning about some stuff I think is 'normal' and it is helpful sometimes when I see how people react if it is revealed. I have found this from blogland.
I can empathise with the tying up, blindfolding and gagging. I remember once reacting quite badly. So panicked and not knowing how long it would last. You see my parents would leave me in the care of my brother and sister for long periods whilst they either did church activities or pissed it up the wall. Sometimes whole weekends. My brother and sister were children themselves and I annoyed them.

Thank-you. it has confirmed my ideas on the benefits of group. What are the downsides?

Rising Rainbow said...

enola, that must be interesting to co-ordinate. I agree with your therapist that it's good to see that from others.

kahless, I guess it's a matter of how you look at it with groups. I'm not sure what the downside would be. I guess there wasn't one for me.

A couple of times we had women in our group who turned out to be offenders. Some might say that was a downside but I think it made us all stronger so that was positive.

I'm sorry that you suffered at the hands of your siblings. I can understand why you might think it's best to be alone.

Kahless said...

There were a couple in the group who turned out to be offenders? Did they come to the group because they were trying to work through their own childhood abuse or did they get some kind of kick out of hearing others suffering? How did the group react?

Rising Rainbow said...

kahless,they came to group supposedly work out their childhood issues of abuse. I think they knew all along they didn't belong there but that it gave them a "cover."

Finding out that they were offenders actually made the other group members really angry at them. I think it was useful for some to even get in touch with their anger.

Anonymous said...

ok, this is coming from my perspective and i agree with what was written. i am in group therapy and i am also in individual therapy.
the individual therapy is for us to go more and more into the finer details of all that has happened. for us to be able to talk about the "secrets" and no one else to know.
in group therapy (it is a Dissociative Disorders Group), we all talk about our lives as of now and what we did to cope in the past as a survival technique. also in group we talk about ways to ground ourselfs, how to be in our body, boundaries, respect, trust, and to keep reminding us that we are not alone. that all we have to do is to look around the group room and see all the faces who have an understanding of what is going on and how it feels.
those are my thoughts and some people just canNOT handle groups. and some people do. every one uses different kind of therapy. some might like animal therapy, and others prefer writing therapy or art.

sorry i went on a bit of what i thought and i am sorry to have done that. but thank you for reading ...

Missing In Sight said...

just curious, and it's really not my business, but why do you blog to Kahelss's questions? I know you've answered me publicly, and I even posted once anonymously and you answered me, so I don't think you exclude others. I was just curious if you need others to ask you questions to help you in your therapy. Is that what is going on? Just curious. Thanks, RR.

Rising Rainbow said...

miquiecrew, that's for your input on your group experience.

missing in sight, first off, I am no longer in therapy and haven't been for about twenty years.

I post this blog to help other survivors see they can get to the end of that road. I answer questions because they're asked and I want to help. I appreciate questions because it gives me an idea of the things people need information on.

Anonymous said...

I was in therapy many years ago; individual and group (for a different reason). The group therapy helped because of reasons you stated...therapists rarely show reactions to our disclosures, whereas other victims don't need to maintain professional distance, so I think their reflections of emotion helped me see the reality of the pain I was in but was not showing. ANother way that group therapy helped me is that I began to help others in the group by sharing insights and things that had helped me. Eventually, being in group therapy helped me realize that I didn't need to help everyone; that I could help myself by moving on to my next step.

Ace said...

They say I'm an alter. I've been finding bookmarks to sites like yours talking about therapy and healing. I want to leave a comment...

Stop! It will destroy you! You know it will.

Rising Rainbow said...

Anonymous, it's good you could figure out you didn't need to fix those in group. Groups are about support, not fixing each other.

Ace, I understand your fear, but it is only fear. Therapy doesn't destroy anyone.(unless maybe if the therapist is a quack.) I've done lots of therapy and it has been helpful to all parts of me. The parts that I lost were not from the therapy, they were from the abuse.