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.
multiple personality disorder MPD dissociative Identity disorder did group therapy