The Catholic University of America

 

Busting Group Therapy Myths

Even if you have participated in a therapy group before, it is normal to feel nervous about the experience. It can be helpful to discuss your concerns with the group therapists and have the opportunities to dispel various myths and worries.

"I am scared group members will talk about what I said outside the group."

Each group member agrees to the confidentiality of the information shared in the group prior to joining the group. What is said in groups must remain among the members of the group in order for all members to feel safe and trusting in the group. It is not appropriate for a group member to disclose events of the group to an outside person or other group members outside of group meetings. While the group leaders cannot guarantee that members will maintain confidentiality outside the group, this is thoroughly discussed and agreed upon with each member prior to joining the group.

"Group therapy will take longer because I will have to share the time with others."

Actually, group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group by listening carefully to others and their experiences. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, and, as they work on a concern, you can learn more about yourself. Secondly, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but that you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.

"Group therapy is second-best to individual therapy."

Group therapy offers many benefits that are not as available with individual therapy. One reason for this is that groups are composed of various personalities, experiences, and coping strategies. The strengths of each individual group member can serve as a model for other group members who are still learning about those skills and strengths.

In everyday life it is often difficult to get useful and reliable information about yourself from others. People seldom take the time to carefully observe others as well as themselves, and the social constraints against giving others honest feedback inhibits the sharing of observations that could be helpful and instructive. By contrast, group members do take the time to observe and share impressions in honest and caring ways.

"I have so much trouble talking to people; I'll never be able to share in a group."

Most people are anxious about being able to talk in group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people find that they do begin to talk in the group. The other group members understand what it is like to be new to the group, so you will most likely get a lot of support for beginning to talk in the group, particularly from the group leaders.

"I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group."

Just like in individual therapy, you control what, how much, and when you share with the group. Most people find that when they feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. Group members and leaders may invite you to share your fear of opening up to the group, but will also respect your decision not to share. We encourage you only to disclose what you are comfortable discussing. However, you can also be helped by listening to others and reflecting on how what they’ve shared may apply to you as well. As the group continues to develop and build safety, most people find themselves more comfortable to communicate openly.

"I am afraid I will be judged or criticized by the leaders or other group members."

It is very important that members feel safe in the group. Group leaders are there to help develop a safe environment and will work to maintain a constructive and caring atmosphere. We understand that feedback from others may at times be difficult to hear. A benefit of group therapy is receiving feedback from others who are trying to help, while also having a trained group leader present to facilitate the conversation. Group may be one of the only places in which you can receive honest and supportive feedback about how you might be behaving in ways that are hurtful to yourself or others. Group leaders will help members give feedback in a way that is respectful, thoughtful, and constructive.