We get a lot of questions and concerns from students about group therapy but here are the top ten we hear the most.
1. “I do not feel comfortable talking in a group or sharing my problems with people I do not know.”
Although it’s common to feel uncomfortable when sharing with people you don’t know, most students find that their level of comfort and willingness to talk increases as the group progresses. In fact, students who have been attending group sessions start to look forward to them because they feel connected to other members, and they start to feel a sense of pride and confidence as they build new skills. Being able to learn to express yourself in any setting, when you choose to, is empowering and liberating.
“Group therapy sounded impossible for me at first… But I really became comfortable with the people in my group and was able to open up…more than I expected. It might seem scary but it was really worth it and I was sad when it was over.”
2. “If I am in group, I will not get enough attention or may not get my needs met.”
Most therapy groups only have 7-9 members. Group members are often surprised by the material they can cover in group or how their concerns are being addressed even when others are speaking. Recognizing how your own experiences may be related or how you can connect with another member can also help you to learn from others and to facilitate personal growth.
“It is absolutely one of the best experiences I’ve had as a student. I only wish I did it sooner.”
3. “What about confidentiality?”
Confidentiality is mandatory for all group participants. You commit to upholding confidentiality by not discussing any group members and their experiences outside of the group. Everything that happens in group, stays in group.
“I always feel confident that my problems and ideas will remain confidential.”
4. “In group am I expected to disclose my secrets or share things I dont want to?”
Members will be encouraged to share at a level that feels comfortable for them. The group leader or other members may invite you to discuss your reactions or personal concerns, but you will never be forced to do or share something you do not want to. While many group members have reported feeling relief or an increased sense of understanding and acceptance after disclosing, it is accomplished within their personal time frame.
“Being vulnerable and seeing others vulnerable and willing to share, helped increase my willingness to put myself out there and relate.”
5. “What if another member of the group is my friend or classmate?”
You are not asked to be in a group with someone that you already know or are not comfortable with. The facilitators can help you explore the extent of the relationship and make adjustments as needed. We will work with you to find the best fit and solution for your level of safety and comfort.
6. “My problems are not as bad as others or are worse than others – so I won’t fit in or benefit.”
Elie Wiesel, author and concentration camp survivor, stated “We all lose when we compare suffering.” Group may provide a place for you to experience compassion for yourself and others, without having to decide who went through the worst experience. Relief can come when we recognize that we are not alone in our struggles.
“I am someone who struggles with self-confidence, connecting to others and opening up… by the end I felt like I have improved a lot and I am even more caring and less quick to judge others. I feel more comfortable with myself and consequently with others.”
7. “The group will look like the ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ groups I have seen on TV.”
Students report that groups and workshops look very different when compared to how they are portrayed on TV. The group and workshop facilitators strive to be dynamic, creative, and respectful. Students do not need a diagnosis or label to participate. The CWC encourages students to view themselves as unique, multifaceted individuals, and are thus not asked to define or view themselves in any particular way.
“Do it! It sounds a lot scarier than it actually is, it’s a life changing experience.”
8. “Will this be another place for me to be judged?”
People who have found a social group or organization to be painful or harmful in the past may find this is to be a great opportunity to heal from these experiences. Many have used the group as a way to create more positive experiences and have benefited from the opportunity to feel valued, accepted, and validated by others. Group members frequently report an increased sense of understanding and acceptance, and find that other group members can often relate to them about concerns they felt were uniquely their own.
“It was helpful for me to understand that I was in an environment that was unbiased and safe from judgment.”
9. “Hearing other member’s problems will make me feel or get worse.”
Group members report gaining satisfaction, meaning, and a sense of connection by hearing others struggles and successes. Participating in group can help you learn to sit with others who are suffering, as well as increase tolerance of your own suffering, in a way that is compassionate and helpful. Hearing other’s experience can also be uplifting, provide hope and inspiration, and provide relief as you recognize that you are not alone.
10. “What if I don’t feel group is helping me?”
We ask that you commit to attending at least six sessions to give the group experience chance and time to work for you. We encourage you to discuss your concerns in the group – namely things that are or are not working. Having these discussions can often be a turning point in the group where you can more effective work to improve your experience. If you continue to feel your needs are not being met, we can work with you to explore other options.
While there may be a lot of myths and anxieties around sharing your experience in a group setting studies have shown that group therapy is just as effective (and in some cases more effective) as traditional therapy.